12.02.2009

Celtics Seek to Silence Sixers and the Strangler

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Record: 13-5
12/4/1983

Imagine you've been a Celtics season-ticket holder for the last four years. You don't own a television and don't read the newspapers. Every May, you take a Club Med vacation, and hand over your playoff tickets to your obnoxious brother-in-law. You can't figure out why everybody makes a big deal out of the Celtics- 76ers games. OK, maybe you heard vague references about playoff duels while you were away, but in four years of regular-season Garden bouts, you've only seen the highly touted Sixers win once in a dozen tries.

That's right. The World Champion Sixers have won only one regular-season game (1-11) in the Parquet Palace since Larry Bird ordered his first pair of green sneakers. The Sixers are 5-6 in Garden playoff games over the same period, giving them an overall ledger of 6-17 in Boston since 1979-80. Don't get too cocky, Celtics fans. Your heroes own a dismal 4-17 regular- season and playoff record in the Spectrum since '79-80. Home and away, Philadelphia holds a 23-21 edge over Boston going into tonight's joust (7:30, Ch. 4).

Why have the Sixers been unable to win regular-season games in the Garden? "I don't know why that is," says Philadelphia coach Billy Cunningham. "There is not a basic formula that I know of, and I don't think any particular building is intimidating for us." Boston's Kevin McHale and Philadelphia's Julius Erving have a theory. "We simply don't have a lot of time to prepare for them during the regular season," says the Doc. "In the playoffs, everything is nullified because we all have the same rest," echoes McHale. "Now, you have a situation where they might be playing the night before they come in here. I really think that has a lot to do with it."

Bingo. Take tonight's game, for example. The Celtics were off last night, while the world champs were Greco-Roman wrestling with Brothers Beef and Co. at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md. Philadelphia had won six straight and nine of 10 before playing the Bullets, but it's always a long night when you go up against Rick Mahorn and friends. The Sixers have developed a dangerous habit in this young season. Despite their first-place record, they've been behind in every game except one, a 115-101 victory over Houston.

Two weeks ago, the Sixers bolted to a 16-point, third-quarter lead against the Celtics, then wilted and watched a 24-6 Boston run. The Celtics led briefly in the fourth quarter, before Andrew Toney--the so-called Boston Strangler--buried Boston at the end and the Sixers were 92-91 winners. Maurice Cheeks (a season-high 20 against the Celtics) has been superb since the Boston game, and Toney hit 9 of 9 in the second half of Wednesday's victory over Atlanta. Meanwhile, MVP Moses Malone had his worst game of the year against Atlanta (eight rebounds, 12 points) and was looking to get back on the track against Washington last night.

The Celtics will be looking for their fifth straight victory.

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