Green Improves to 27-5
1990-91 Boston Celtics
No Larry? No problem.
The loose, confident Celtics showed up at Madison Square Garden last night without Larry Bird. The trash-talking, completely clueless Knicks looked them in the eye all night and couldn't stop blinking.
The result? A karma-boosting 101-87 Celtics triumph that only widened the increasing gap between these two teams.
Bird was home with a bad back, the first regular to miss a game this season. That might have been enough, but there was more. Joe Kleine, destined to get minutes, saw only 7 before taking a Patrick Ewing follow-through on his nose, which may be broken. Reggie Lewis was ice cold (5 for 20) and then took a five-stitch cut over the right eye. And Robert Parish was limited to 28 minutes because of foul trouble.
Not to worry. The Knicks played themselves to perfection. They looked hopelessly lost on offense to the point of not even knowing the plays. Ewing did score 25 points; he needed a 10-of-26 night to do it. He also bricked 7 free throws. Kiki Vandeweghe didn't make a shot from outside 3 feet all night and Mark Jackson giveth (5 turnovers) as much as taketh away (13 points, 6 assists).
"Our guys have confidence in their game," said coach Chris Ford, who has the distinction of owning the best record of any Celtics coach after 32 games (27-5). "This is a team that works hard."
The Knicks are a team working hard for a mandatory team transplant. New York had made this game into a combination of Dunkirk and San Juan Hill. They had been embarrassed in Boston last week and wanted payback. They might as well have gone to the Bank of New England to collect.
Charles Oakley talked of putting bodies on the floor.
Such insolence amused many of the Boston elders, especially Kevin McHale, who was so intimidated he went out and scored 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked 3 shots in a season-high 43 minutes.
"They were spouting stuff," McHale said. "You don't want to hear that kind of crap. What does he think, that this was the first game we've ever played? That might work in college, but in the pros, all you say is, 'Let's go.' We were ready."
What about it, Charles?
"It was important," said Oakley, who shook off a bad back to play. "And we didn't get over the hump. I really don't know why things are going the way they are. This would have been a motivational game for us. I don't what we're going to do, but we have to do something."
It appeared the Knicks, now a brutal 7-10 at home, might be on their way to the much-desired result. An 11-2 run to open the second quarter, with bookend 3-pointers by Jackson, gave the hosts a 36-25 lead. However, Jackson turned it over on the Knicks' next two possessions and the Celtics responded with a 9-0 run to get back into the game.
"We know we have the capability to come back when we get behind," Ford said. "We don't want to make a habit of it, but we can do it."
And they did it in the second half. Leading by the uninspiring tally of 48-46 at the break, Boston broke it open by shooting 60 percent in the third. Ed Pinckney came off the bench when Parish picked up his fourth foul and had two big hoops (a tip and a breakaway dunk) in a 10-2 run that gave the Celtics a 66-55 lead.
Also coming up big after the half was Brian Shaw, who finished with 20 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds. And the pullaway came with Parish taking in the action on the pine and Kleine looking dazed and confused after getting whacked. McHale fronted Ewing, others harassed the Knicks franchise, and no one else stepped into the huge breach.
The Knicks got back to within 70-64, but Kevin Gamble, in his only prominent stretch of the game, scored 6 huge points that enabled Boston to lead, 78-66, after three.
In the fourth, a 7-0 New York run fueled by Ewing and Kiki (12 points on 4 of 10) made it an 80-75 game with 7:39 left. Ford called time.
Boston was in the process of botching a possession when Ewing fouled Lewis on a 22-foot jump shot as the shot clock expired. Is this team stupid or what? Lewis (17 points, 12 rebounds) made them both to launch a game-ending 8-1 run that got the lead to 88-76 with 4:39 left.
By then, the boo birds in sold-out MSG were squawking with delight. McHale (12 for 20) added three more hoops down the stretch and the trash-talkers were left to stew in their own verbiage.
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