1983-84 Boston Celtics
Knicks 110, Celtics 103
All week long the Celtics heard nothing about the New York Knicks but their trapping defense. Surely, this was the biggest problem in facing a team coached by Hubie Brown. But someone should have reminded them of the offensive talents of Bernard King and the floor leadership of Rory Sparrow as the Knicks came into Boston Garden and pulled off a stunning 110-103 victory last night before a sellout crowd.
King was hot, scoring 32 points, 15 in the first quarter. The Knicks stopped a Celtics surge in the second and third quarters with good defense by their famed No. 2 unit, "Hubie's Hummers." But the game was decided in the final period, because Brown put the ball into the hands of Sparrow, who got it to the right people after Boston had pulled to within a point at 97-96. Sparrow scored two baskets himself, then fed the ball inside to the big Knicks front line, which stopped the Celtics' inside thrust and won for the sixth time in 11 games.
Both the Celtics and Knicks saw winning streaks broken in road games prior to last night's meeting. Boston's nine-game streak was snapped at Utah, and the Knicks had won three in a row before losing Wednesday night in Philadelphia. All three of New York's victories had been achieved with trapping pressure defense, but it was King's brilliant that sent the Knicks off to an early nine-point lead, 13-4, with King scoring 11. The Celtics simply could not get the ball inside, and when they did, the Knicks were there to steal the ball.
Shots by Gerald Henderson and Larry Bird helped cut the deficit to five points at 15-10. But the Knicks kept the upper hand and surged ahead, 22-13. But with a little more than five minutes to play in the period, the Celtics went to the bench for Kevin McHale. That seemed to spark Boston to its best spurt of the night, an 11-2 run that created a tie at 24, with McHale scoring three baskets. New York regrouped by going to its second unit, which went after the Celtics with an aggressive three-quarter court trapping defense. When Parish sank a layup with 1:33 left, the score was tied at 29-29. After McHale hit a free throw for a one-point lead, New York went ahead at 31-30. But Boston regained the lead with 36 seconds left on a jumper by Bird. In the period, King had 15 points, Bird, 9.
The second period began the same way the first had ended. The Hummers kept scrambling and clawing, and Boston's lead turned quickly into a 35-32 deficit. New York shot ahead, 40-34, before the Celtics cut the margin to two points at 40-38. New York surged ahead again, 49-42. At this point, the Knicks starters came back, and Boston went to a lineup featuring McHale, Scott Wedman and Cedric Maxwell. After New York went ahead, 52-46, Dennis Johnson went on a five-point binge, and suddenly the Celtics trailed by only one, 52-51, with 2 1/2 minutes left.
The Celtics rally, however, also woke up the Knicks, who scored six straight points, including a delicious fast break by King, his 23d point of the night, and New York moved to a 57-51 lead. Johnson's two free throws moments later made it 57-53, but the Celtics could get no closer. King hit 10 of 11 shots in scoring his 23 points. The Knicks had only one more steal (9) and one more turnover (13) than Boston but was obviously the more aggressive team. Boston had only one blocked shot in the first half.
New York started off the second half strong, thanks to an interesting substitution. Sparrow, who had missed four games with a bruised toe, started at guard in place of Ray Williams, and the Knicks took off after Boston had closed to within two points at 60-58. Truck Robinson hit a hook shot to give New York a four-point lead, Sparrow hit three straight baskets and, suddenly, it was a 68-62 game. But after falling behind by eight points, 70-62, the Celtics began to climb slowly back with good defense and scoring from its front line. New York was ahead, 74-66, when Maxwell hit a three-point play. When Quinn Buckner hit one of two free throws, and Parish sank a shot of the miss second attempt, Boston had pulled to within two at 74-72.
King sank a basket to put New York ahead by four again, but Bird and Buckner came right back, and the game was tied at 76. When Wedman, playing at guard, hit a jumper with 39 seconds left, Boston had the lead at 80-78. But the Knicks worked for the last shot, and with three seconds left, Louis Orr sank a shot from the left corner, tying the game at 80. Boston quickly took the lead at 82-80 on a jumper by Wedman, but New York quickly scored three straight baskets to go ahead, 86-82. Boston pulled within two points at 88-86 but seemed to go cold from the field, and with Marvin Webster scoring two baskets and Robinson, one, the Knicks lead grew to six points at 92-86.
The Knicks answered every Boston charge and went ahead, 97-90, and with 3:32 left, Boston trailed, 97-91. But when McHale hit a banker off the glass with 3:09 left, and passed to Danny Ainge for a sneakaway layup at 2:44, the Knicks lead was cut to two points, 97-95, and the crowd was howling. A steal by Bird and a fastbreak resulted in a free throw by McHale that cut the lead to one point at 97-96. But Sparrow made it a three-point lead with a layup, and New York led with 2:22 to play, 99-96. McHale hit two free throws and Robinson sank a hook shot, and with 1:29 left, the Knicks led, 101-98. Johnson sank two free throws to make it a one-point game again.
With 58 seconds left, Johnson fouled Bill Cartwright, who sank one of two free throws to put New York ahead, 102-100. McHale missed a hook shot, and King was fouled in the shoving afterward as the Knicks went ahead, 104-100, with 40 seconds left. The final straw was when a play for Johnson went astray. He was called for traveling, and a foul to Ray Williams produced a 105-100 New York lead with 31 seconds left.