11.27.2009

Will Bird's Celtics Match the Futility of the Wicks-Rowe Era?

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Record: 9-5
11/25/1983

We are reminded today of the last lace, 29-53 Celtics of 1978-79. They were the creation of John Y. Brown, featuring Bob McAdoo, Curtis Rowe, Sidney Wicks, and Dennis Awtrey. We are reminded of this awful outfit because they were the last Celtics team to lose more than four straight games. They did it several times, of course, the last being an impressive eight-game swoon between March 27 and April 7 in 1979.

The 1983-84 Celtics face the prospect of a fifth consecutive loss tonight (7:30) when the high-flying Atlanta Hawks come to the Boston Garden. The Central Division-leading Hawks have won four straight and could create some dubious Celtics history by winning tonight. Take comfort. Cedric Maxwell, the only link between the awful Celtics of '78-'79 and the current Boston unit, sees no resemblance.

"This team doesn't have that knack," says Max. "We've got the quality to bounce back. The team I was on back then, we'd lose four and we'd know it was gonna be five or six. We've got too many leaders now to go into that kind of a
tailspin." Maxwell thinks he knows what's causing the Celtics' skid. "Our inside game has been strong," says Maxwell. "But we've got to be more consistent from the outside. Teams are starting to jam back in on us like they did last year." Larry Bird's much-publicized shooting slump has temporarily stripped the Celtics of their best outside threat. Bird is shooting an abysmal 32.9 percent (25 for 76) in the four-game losing streak.

The Celtics have fallen behind by considerable margins in each game of the streak. "We won't get stuck in the mud again Friday," coach K. C. Jones promises. "We have to eliminate that. We've gotten into some bad habits . . ." Bird added, "We're not executing and not moving the ball, but I still feel really good about this team. I think we've got a better chance of winning a championship than we've ever had. Standing around on offense has been our biggest problem."

The Celtics haven't been able to complete any comebacks either. They made up huge deficits in the Philadelphia and New York losses, but still stand 0-5 in games in which they are trailing or tied going into the fourth quarter. The Hawks are 7-5 and have won four straight, all at home. Rookie guard Glenn (Don't call me Doc until Julius retires) Rivers has started the last three games at point guard and is averaging 32.7 minutes, 10 points, 6.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds in that span. Overall, the 6-foot-4 rookie from Marquette is shooting 52 percent (35-67) from the floor. He has been starting in place of Johnny Davis, who is out with a pulled hamstring.

Eddie Johnson is Atlanta's shooting guard and is averaging 23.2 points and eight assists in his last five games. Mike Glenn is the first guard off the bench, and when he takes over at the wing, Johnson moves to the point. Up front, Tree (Love at First Bite) Rollins makes his first appearance in the Garden since he gnawed Danny Ainge's finger in a playoff brawl last April. Tree is averaging a league-leading 4.6 blocks a game. He took a stray elbow from Indiana's Steve Stipanovich Tuesday, but expects to play.

Dan Roundfield and Dominique Wilkins will flank Tree. The estimable Roundfield has 35 rebounds in his last two games and is averaging 17.3 points and nine rebounds overall. Wilkins is averaging 19.9 points and a whopping 4.1 offensive rebounds a game. He has scored in double figures in every game (something none of the Celtics can claim), and has hit for 20 or more in eight of 12 games.

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