1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 100, Pacers 95
It had all the rhythm and artistry of your average tractor pull, but the Celtics aren't in any position to argue with last night's 100-95 victory over the NBA's worst entry, the still-brutal Indiana Pacers. The Celtics turned the ball over like a team of Wendell Tylers and shot as if they had spent two weeks under the tutelage of mason Charles Bradley, but prevailed thanks to 22 points from Kevin McHale, 21 from Robert Parish and 19 from the man who is to Indiana what Elvis was to Memphis - Larry Bird. There were 14 lead changes in the first half, which ended with Indiana leading, 53-52.
The third quarter was a 12-minute memorial to bricklayers across America. The Celtics shot 22 percent (5 for 22) in the third, while Indiana managed a pitiful 25 percent (6-24). Early in the period, the Pacers came out smoking, taking full advantage of the stand-around Celtics. Indiana opened with a 9-2 run and led, 62-54, when Celtics coach K.C. Jones called time. Boston struggled to get back into it, and when the clanging ended, the Celtics led, 71-70, after three.
The Celtics had some success with their perimeter game early in the fourth quarter. Backup guards Danny Ainge (eight points in the final quarter) and Quinn Buckner buried three straight jumpers in an 8-2 run, giving the Green a 79-72 lead with 9:45 left. But Butch Carter and George Johnson started to bring the Pacers back, and with 7:30 left, Herb Williams scored on a power drive to cut Boston's lead to 81-80. The Pacers tied it at 82-82 and again at 86-86 when the spectacular Clark Kellogg (25 points, 14 rebounds) hit two free throws with 5:22 left. Then Bird put the Celtics ahead for good with a bomb, and after Ainge rebounded a Jerry Sichting miss, McHale scored on a power drive over George Johnson to make it 90-86 with 4:25 left.
With Boston leading, 94-90, Bird stole a Sichting pass intended for Kellogg and passed to Dennis Johnson for a layup. The Celtics led, 96-90, and Indiana coach Jack McKinney called time with 2:25 left. Both teams stumbled after the pause. McHale was fouled by Johnson with 1:28 left and made both to give the Celtics a 98-90 lead, their biggest of the game. When the last airball had been tossed and the last careless passed had been thrown away, 13,725 Hoosiers filed out of Market Square Arena thankful they can watch Bobby Knight's team for the rest of the winter. Kellogg drove on Bird for eight points in the first five minutes, and Indiana led, 12-9, when Jones called for time.
The Celtics hit only three of their first 11 shots and Bird was 0 for 5 when he came out with 4:16 left in the first quarter. Jones immediately moved Cedric Maxwell over to guard Kellogg. Parish and Gerald Henderson kept the Celtics in it throughout the first 12 minutes. Parish scored nine, Henderson seven, and it was 23-23 at the end of the first 12 minutes. There were 11 leads changes in the quarter. Incredibly, both Bird and Williams were scoreless in the period.
Jones started Scott Wedman, Ainge, Buckner and McHale with Bird in the second quarter. The Bird/Wedman forward combination has been used rarely. Boston ripped off five straight, including Bird's first basket, to take a 28-23 lead. Williams awoke with eight minutes left in the half, starting an 8-0 run, which put the Pacers back on top, 37-34. Henderson, Parish and DJ came back in, and McHale scored five straight to put Boston back ahead. It was another temporary lead. Kellogg (20 first-half points) burned Boston, Parish inexplicably missed three consecutive layups and the Pacers went ahead by four. Bird (10 points in the second quarter) got it going before intermission and scored six in a row, but the Celtics couldn't hold the lead. Jim Thomas scored for Indiana to make it 53-51 with nine seconds left, and when DJ was fouled at the halftime buzzer, he made only one of two shots. Boston trailed, 53-52, at intermission.