8.12.2009

Celtics Win a Yawner

Celtics Improve to 59-17
1981-82 Boston Celtics

Hey, Rangers, thanks. Thanks to you, nobody had an evening spoiled.

Imagine waiting around all day for this game. It would be like scheduling your tax audit for 8 p.m. Atrocities like this game belong on the X-rated cable channel at 3 a.m. The best that could be arranged was 2 p.m., however, and at least that gave the 11,916 patrons something to look forward to.

This, uh, basketball game was switched to the afternoon when the Rangers happened into the NHL playoffs and bargained for an evening faceoff, which replaced what would have been the Knicks-Celtics regularly scheduled 8 p.m. tipoff.

In the end, this turned out to be a four-point game with the Celtics in control throughout, and everybody knew it. That the final score happened to be Boston 110, New York 106, was the product of the fact that very few Celtics were in need of a shower when the game was over.

At least one of them had the decency to admit that this game had all the zip of an Oct. 15 exhibition clash in Utica. "This game," said M. L. Carr, "was similar to a game between the Spirits of St. Louis and the New York Nets about seven years ago. There weren't many fans and the emotion wasn't there. You could look in guys' eyes and see there wasn't any gung-ho feeling."

The Knicks, who are now officially eliminated from NBA playoff consideration, did lead once in the second half - for exactly 10 seconds. A Marvin Webster layup emanating from a nice Paul Westphal feed gave the Knicks, who had trailed by as many as 10 (37-27) in the second quarter, a 71-69 lead with 6:08 remaining in the quarter. But Tiny Archibald immediately went end to end with the basketball for two, tying the game at 5:58. An Archibald jumper broke the game's 14th tie 42 seconds later. A pretty Cedric Maxwell hook capped a 6-0 spurt and the Celtics would maintain that six-point bulge heading into the final period.

There was one more significant juncture. A Toby Knight jumper and a Maurice Lucas baseline pop had brought the Knicks within four with 9:23 remaining. But when Michael Ray Richardson's flat open 20-footer bounced to the middle of the lane, Larry Bird flashed to the ball to launch an instant 3- on-1 fast break that resulted in his taking a return feed from Carr for an easy two.

On the ensuing New York possession, Carr stole a Westphal pass and tossed a superb outlet to a streaking Gerald Henderson for a lighning bucket. Red Holzman called the perfunctory timeout, but the damage was done. New York would never seriously threaten again.

The final period consisted mainly of free throws and New York follow-up baskets. After failing to do anything on the offensive boards in the first three periods, the Knicks picked up an astounding 18 points on second shots in the fourth quarter. All the Celtics had to do at their end was make free throws. Archibald sank six of eight in the final 48 seconds to ensure the team's 59th seasonal triumph, its 27th on the road.

The Cetics might have put this baby away earlier had Robert Parish not gotten into foul trouble. When Parish went to the bench with 1:36 remaining in the opening quarter, he already had 14 points (6 for 6) and 10 rebounds. Parish never returned in the first half and, as a result, the Celtics had only a 57-53 advantage entering the locker room.

Of course, Parish is hardly the only major frontcourt weapon at Bill Fitch's disposal: Maxwell knifed the Knicks with 22 sneaky points on 9-for-12 shooting, for example, while both Bird (22 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) and Kevin McHale (19 points, 3 blocks) further annoyed the New Yorkers. Bird's shooting was off (6 for 17), but his passing and rebounding still made him a major team asset. He had three touchdown passes on transitions, including one first-half sequence in which he ripped the ball away from Webster and, as he was falling out of bounds, threw a 60-foot strike to Maxwell.

Pity the poor neutral who may have wandered in off the streets of Manhattan to see such weird happenings as a Bill Cartwright free-throw hat trick (there was a lane violation, and he missed the third try, too) and the sight of the Knicks receiving the basketball with 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter following a Bird turnover and failing to get a shot off in time.

The major plus coming out of this game was that everyone had plenty of time to eat dinner before settling down to watch "Hill Street Blues."

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