1983-84 Boston Celtics
Pistons 127, Celtics 121
DETROIT. One more like this and everybody will be saying they can't win without Bill Fitch. The Celtics opened their "We Owe You One" 1983-84 season last night much the same way they closed the dismal campaign of '82-83. In 48 minutes of stinko action (not helped by non-union officials, we should add), Boston played zero defense, ignored the fast break, and dropped a 127-121 decision to the upstart Pistons.
The Celtics were in foul trouble all night and had a hard time overcoming a memorable no-show performance by Robert Parish. They gave up 70 points in the first half and trailed, 70-66, at intermission. Things got worse before they got better. Midway through the third quarter, Detroit led, 86-74 and Boston's four top guards all had at least three personal fouls. Parish didn't score in the first half while Detroit center Bill Laimbeer rung up 18 points (he had 26 total). Parish got one basket in the third quarter, and two more in the fourth, but spent a good part of the evening on the bench.
With four starters on the bench, Boston scored six straight to pull within four (90-86) with 3:12 left in the third. Kevin McHale (25 points) and Scott Wedman keyed the surge and McHale gave the 17,117 an extra thrill when he got into a brief shoving match with Laimbeer. Both players were assessed technical fouls. Detroit led, 96-93, after three. Isiah Thomas came alive with eight points early in the third, but the Celtics fought back and were able to pull even (106-106) with 7:50 left when Thomas picked up his fifth foul and a technical.
The lead changed hands a couple of times after that. Kelly Tripucka, who did a reasonable impersonation of Dave DeBusschere all night, put the Pistons up by three, 116-113, with a bank shot with 3:28 left. Dennis Johnson followed-up a Larry Bird (23 points) miss to cut it to one. With 2:24 showing, Parish woke up and hit a foul-line rainbow to put Boston ahead, 117-116. After McHale rebounded a Terry Tyler miss, Bird canned on from out top to make it 119-116.
The Pistons caled time with 1:44 remaining. Two free throws by John Long cut it to 119-118, and after Parish traveled, Thomas hit a jumper to put Detroit ahead for good, 120-119 with 47 seconds left. The Celtics next chance was blown when Isiah stole the ball from Parish at midcout, got fouled and hit both to make it 122-119. Jones called time with 0:37 showing. Tyler rebounded a miss by Bird, was fouled and hit one with 25 seconds left to make it 123-119. The Celtics called time again. Bird cut it to two, but the Celtics had to foul Tripucka with 16 seconds left and he hit both to make it 125-121. Don Meredith could have started his "The Party's over" at that point.
It would be safe to say that the Celtics were unable to establish the kind of defensive pressure they wanted in the first quarter. A team coached by K.C. Jones is not playing well if it surrenders 38 points in 12 minutes, which is exactly what the Celtics did. Boston trailed, 38-33, after one. Gerald Henderson scored seven of Boston's first 13 points, but he was replaced by Quinn Buckner early because Jones wanted more pressure on Thomas. The lead went back and forth for most of the quarter, but the Pistons took charge on an 8-4 run (led by sub Tyler's six straight) at the close of the quarter.
Detroit center Laimbeer (nine in the quarter, 18 in the half) and Kelly Tripucka (also 18 first-half points) hurt the Celtics underneath. Conversely, the Celtics weren't able to get much under the basket. Parish didn't score in the first quarter, and Cedric Maxwell had only one basket and four points. Ray Tolbert put the Pistons ahead by seven at the start of the second, but the Celtics roared back, scoring eight straight (six by Wedman) to briefly regain the lead, 41-40. The Celtic surge was short-lived, as the Pistons proceeded to rip off eight straight of their own to take a 48-41 lead and force Jones to call time with 7:55 left in the half. Detroit made it ten in a row on another jumper by the unconscious Tyler.
Desperate for some activity, Jones got tagged with his first technical foul of the new regime. Tyler missed the free throw. After the interruption, the Celtics started going inside to Maxwell and McHale. McHale ended up with 14 in the half, which somewhat offset Parish's shutout performance. A bomb by Bird (15 in the half) tied it, 62-62, but Tripucka took over for the Pistons, scoring nine in the final three minutes of the period. Detroit led, 70-66, when the horn went off. It was a particularly scary half because the Pistons had 70 points and a four-point lead even though Thomas had scored only two. K.C.'s first halftime chat must have been a beauty.
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