1983-84 Boston Celtics
Jazz 122, Celtics 109
SALT LAKE CITY
When you bring a nine-game winning streak, the best record in the NBA, and a couple of Brigham Young University legends to Salt Lake City, you figure to come out with a victory over the Utah Jazz. What you don't figure is that 7-foot-4 Mark Eaton is going to take over the ballgame in the final minutes and lead All That Jazz to a 122-109 victory over the Celtics before 12,743, the largest crowd in the franchise's history.
Eaton has been something of an NBA laughingstock since he first ducked under the Salt Palace doorway last fall. He hardly played in his two-year stint at UCLA, and it was widely assumed that he'd never make it in the big time. The Celtics weren't laughing last night. After trailing for most of the game, Boston pulled to within four with 3:12 remaining when Mr. Sears Tower took over. In rapid-fire succession, Eaton blocked Larry Bird's shot, buried a lefthanded hook to make it 106-100, blocked Kevin McHale's shot and turned an Adrian Dantley feed into a three-point play. That made it 109-100 with 1:49 left. Ballgame.
"He's the reason they won," said Celtics coach K.C. Jones, who was heaved in a hail of last-minute technicals. "All of 'em played great, but Eaton's the one that did it to us." "I couldn't believe how big he was," added McHale. "I couldn't believe he could do what he did. When he gives them 17 points and 12 rebounds, they're going to win." In the closing seconds, the Celtics futily fought back with three-point tries and complaints to the officials. Jones was tossed by Darrell Garretson (not a substitute official, folks), as the Jazz giddily padded their lead. "It was a thrill," said Eaton, who had six blocks. "They weren't as physical as I expected they'd be, but they scored 140 points in Denver last night and had to be a little tired."
The Celtics were in trouble from the outset, as Bird (hobbled by ankle and hip injuries) was on his way to a season-low eight points on 4-for-15 shooting and Boston's defense hardly made up for his off night. The Celtics allowed Dantley (26 points), Darrell Griffith (18) and John Drew (29) to run wild for three quarters. The Celtics trailed by 13 in the second quarter, by nine at halftime, and again by nine after three. It was the first major deficit the Celts had faced since their opening-night loss in Detroit 20 days ago. When Utah's Rickey Green sparked an 11-1 third-quarter surge, Boston trailed by 10 (86-76) with 3:46 left in the period. The end of the period was downright embarrassing. Griffith scored on a sneakaway after McHale (24 points, 11 rebounds) missed two free throws, then Green stripped the ball from McHale and made two free throws after a desperation foul by Danny Ainge. Utah led, 94-85, after three quarters.
With M.L. Carr on the court, Boston tightened its defense in the fourth. Utah managed only two field goals in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the period. The Celtics outscored the Jazz, 11-4, in that stretch to pull within two. Utah wouldn't fold. Eaton banked one in and Green hit a bomb to put the home team ahead by five with 4:41 left. A minute later, Eaton took over. "They were sky high for the ballgame and when we got close, Eaton came through," noted Parish, who led the Celtics with 25 points and 17 rebounds. The Celts were ahead by one after one period, but the Jazz blasted the Celtics, 20-6, in the first five minutes of the second period and never looked back. Griffith hit three three-pointers, and Drew scored 14 second-quarter points. It was a 37-point period for the home team.
The first half paralled Boston's demolition in Detroit in more ways than one. The Celtics let the Pistons score 70 in the first half of their only other loss, and "held" the Jazz to 68 in the first 24 minutes last night. Last summer, Utah coach Frank Layden joked that the 1982-83 Jazz Booster Club turned into a terrorist group. There was no such ugliness in Salt Lake City last night. And there were no jokes about Mark Eaton.
Ex-BYU greats Danny Ainge and Greg Kite were honored at halftime last night . . . The Celtics have accounted for 19 percent (5 of 26) of all NBA road victories . . . Celtics assistant coach Chris Ford was in Philadelphia last night, scouting the Sixers and Knicks. The Celtics, who have played 7 of 11 on the road thus far, play host to the Knicks tomorrow night and travel to Philly for Holy War No. 1 Saturday night . . . The rumor mill has Seattle's David Thompson going to the Atlanta Hawks . . . In case you were wondering, it was 24 years ago today when Syracuse's Connie Dierking fouled out in the first quarter of a game against Cincinnati.