1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 125, Warriors 115
February 17, 1984
The message was clear, and Boston's 125-115 victory over the Warriors last night had 13,335 hoop fans taking it to the streets of San Francisco and the Baghdad by the Bay that is Oakland: The 1983-84 Celtics will not be intimidated. On a night when Larry Bird had another of his memorable Coliseum deep freezes (5 for 12), Cedric Maxwell (24 points), Robert Parish (28 with 15 rebounds), Danny Ainge (12 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists) and Co. picked up the torch for the Celtics.
Call it just another win over a 23-31 ballclub if you want, but remember that the Celtics had lost three of four and hadn't won here in four years. Also remind yourself that the victory got the dreaded West Coast trip off to a good start and enabled the Boston increase its Atlantic Division lead (over the Knicks and the 76ers) to 7 1/2 games. A 31-21 Celtic fourth quarter provided the margin of victory. The first three quarters were sheer roller derby, but the Celtics dug in for the final 12 minutes, holding the Warriors to eight baskets in 25 attempts (32 percent).
"We had a chance to win, but I don't know what else we could have done," said beleaguered Warriors coach John Bach. "They're able to find a way to win, and that is the sign of a great team. They beat us in a fair fight." The Celtics made 17 of 23 first-quarter shots and led, 44-32, after one. Purvis Short (29 points) and Joe Barry Carroll (22) sparked a 24-6 Golden State surge at the start of the second. It was 67-67 at the half and 94-94 after three. It was tied four times early in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics took the lead for good (104-102) on a Dennis Johnson (15 points) drive with 8:11 left. DJ's basket was part of a 14-4 run which thrust the Celtics into a 116-106 lead with less than three minutes to play. That was it.
"We had the game sewn up, but kept letting them back in the ballgame," said Bird, who shoots here the way Mike Torrez pitches in Fenway Park. Bird made up for a slow offensive night by snatching nine rebounds and handing out a season-and career-high 17 assists. Bob Cousy and Tiny Archibald are the only Celtics who have managed more handouts in a single game. "Some of them," said Ainge, "were absolutely unbelievable. Bird, whose shooting difficulties in the Coliseum are legendary (he tossed an 0-for-9 shutout here a few years back), managed to dismantle the Warriors without scoring a basket in the first quarter.
He has six assists in 12 minutes and sparked the Celtics to a 44-30 lead with 20 seconds left in the period. Gerald Henderson (10 points in the quarter), Parish (9) and Maxwell (14) were the beneficiaries of Bird's floor show. Short was Golden State's only answer. He scored 17 in the first 12 minutes. The Warriors roared back with a 12-2 surge in the first four minutes of the second period. It was part of a 24-6 streak which moved the home team into a 56-50 lead. Then DJ picked up his fourth foul and had to sit down.
Boston's All-Star frontcourt trio led a 10-0 comeback, and the Celtics regained the lead on a vicious fastbreak slam by Parish. The half ended appropriately with a 35-foot buzzer-beating three-pointer by the ever-annoying Mickey Johnson (16 points). The game was tied five times early in the third period. Bird came alive with three baskets midway through the quarter, (he had only two in the first half), but his matador defense on Mickey was one of the reasons the Celtics couldn't pull away. When Boston went ahead by seven, Golden State closed the quarter with seven straight to make it 94-94 after three.
Significantly, Ainge was on the floor for the crucial stretch drive. In fact, he played the entire second half. In what might have been his best floor game of the season, Boston's much-maligned guard contributed 34 minutes and meshed nicely with the breakneck pace. "I love that type of game," he said. "I think every player does. Unfortunately, it got us into trouble in the second quarter when we cooled off, but kept trying to keep up that pace."
Larry Bird went into the record books with his 17 assists in Boston's 125-115 victory over the Golden State Warriors Thursday night. In NBA history, only one forward has compiled more assists in a game. Warrior Rick Barry dished out 19 against the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 30, 1976. Bob Cousy and Tiny Archibald are the only Celtics who have topped Bird's total. Cousy holds the team record with 28 against Minneapolis in 1959. Cousy had four other games with more than 17. Tiny topped 17 three times with the Celtics, including a 23-assist game against the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 5, 1982.