Celtics Improve to 49-15
1981-82 Boston Celtics
It was just a simple case of the "You Gottas," as in you gotta have heart, you gotta have hope, you gotta have skill and, most of all, you gotta have luck if you wanna pull out a game such as last night's 98-97 Celtics' overtime triumph over the Washington Bullets.
It was the Celtics' 12th in a row.
The game ended with Bullets' owner Abe Pollin in a maniacal mood. The gentlemanly Washington chieftain paid what he claimed was his first visit to the officials' room in 18 years in order to let Jack Madden and Dick Bavetta know what he thought of their efforts. The Washington camp was irate because Madden had quickly ejected center Ricky Mahorn in the second period after the young pivotman had scored 14 points (7 for 9) and was in the process of making Robert Parish look like Connie Dierking. But such was the shift in mood during this long, long evening of basketball that Parish would last long enough to be a Celtics' hero, even as Mahorn languished in the locker room.
Boston didn't really deserve to win this game, and neither did the Bullets. The Celtics had stunk out the filled-up (19,035) joint with an atrocious display of offense in the first half, completing a dismal 15-point second period by scoring two points in the final 3:48. The Bullets, leading, 80-71, with 6:42 remaining and in control of the game, then turned the ball over three consecutive times, leading to seven unanswered Boston points, and suddenly there was a game.
It's about time to mention the name of Danny Ainge, for without him there would have been no overtime and no heartbroken drivers heading onto the Beltway. With three seconds left in the fourth period, and the Bullets leading, 86-84, Ainge swished a 20-foot right-baseline fallaway. That wasn't luck, but try this out: Larry Bird had just unintentionally missed the second of two foul shots with 11 seconds to play, but the rebound went out of bounds and was awarded to Boston. Boston called for a 20-second time out with seven seconds left, and when play resumed an in-bounds play designed to benefit Ainge or Gerry Henderson, with Bird as the bail-out, resulted in the clutch Ainge basket.
The overtime featured the best pure basketball of the night. Bird, who never came out after entering the game seven minutes into the first quarter and whose 31 points and 21 rebounds tell about one-tenth of his story, put the Celtics ahead at 90-88, 92-90 and, finally, 94-92, only to see Greg Ballard score twice (both on hustling followups of his own misses) and Kevin Grevey once in response. It was left for Parish, a frustrated (6-for-20) shooter most of the evening, to provide the last big hoop, a patented 17-foot looper from the right with 23 seconds to play.
Washington's last hopes for a much-needed victory were ruined with 11 seconds left when Cedric Maxwell intercepted a Jeff Rulands in-bounds pass from underneath the Bullets' basket and cleared the ball upcourt. Bird was fouled with one second to play, and his two foul shots offset a Kevin Grevey buzzer-beating three-pointer.
The Celtics had an excellent chance to put the game away in regulation, but with Boston leading, 83-82, Parish missed two free throws (2:08 left). A Spencer Haywood jumper regained the lead for the Bullets at the 1:52 mark, and there it stood as Tiny Archibald strode to the line with 24 seconds to play after driving baseline to pick up a foul on Frank Johnson. Tiny likewise clanked up a pair, and 10 seconds later Haywood (24) sank two (the first a lucky up-and-in job), giving Washington an 86-83 lead.
Boston's next break came when Bird was met by Ruland along the baseline and a foul was called. "There was very little contact," argued a saddened Gene Shue, "and what there was Bird initiated." Larry sank the first, but missed the second, setting in motion the events that culminated in Ainge's first career gamer.
The rhetoric was flowing like wine at an Italian wedding in the Boston locker room, but the fact is that defense in the fourth quarter (Kevin McHale assuming the status of a human backboard in one dazzling stretch) and the aura of having BEEN THERE BEFORE ("it was like the Philly games," said M.L. Carr, who ate Kevin Grevey all night) accounted for this one.
The Bullets, of course, wouldn't quite agree, but that's show biz.