1.25.2010

Bird Shows Bernard Who's King

Celtics 116, Knicks 102
Game 2
1984 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Celtics Lead Series 2-0


The Knicks won't leave Massachusetts with any George McGovernesque talk of moral victory. The Celtics thrashed New York again last night, and Boston's 116-102 conquest means that K.C.'s sunshine band will take a 2-0 lead and a bushelful of confidence to the Naked City for Game 3 tomorrow night.

Like Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali, the Celtics have been able to support words with actions thus far. Cedric Maxwell said the Celtics would contain Saint Bernard King, and they have. King was held to an unthinkable 13 last night (tying his second-lowest output of the season), and is currently averaging 23 points below his 42.6 first-round scoring average.

But the smothering of King (by Maxwell, Kevin McHale and just about everyone else) wasn't the only story. Ever-heroic Larry Bird scored 37 (16 of 22 from the floor) with 11 rebounds and four steals, while Dennis Johnson hit for 19 and annoyed the Knicks enough to force a whopping 27 turnovers.

Robert Parish chipped in with a respectable 18 points and 11 rebounds, but the Knicks again had no answer for Boston's Rich Gossage, a/k/a McHale. The Minnesota mauler scored 24 over a hapless assortment of would-be defenders named King, Louis (Gandhi) Orr and Truck Robinson.

"They're in the grave right now," said McHale. "We've got to keep pouring dirt on 'em. We've got the shovel in our hands. . . . They've tried a lot of things, and they just didn't work."

Curiously, the Knicks chose to run with the Celtics - a decision that obviously elated the green team.

"We're happy they're running as much as they are," added McHale. "But we've had 10- and 12-point leads the whole time, and when you get down like that you've got to run."

Hubie Brown had a spicier explanation for the New York running game: "It's hard not to run, because we're usually chasing 'em after a turnover."

Five Knicks had four or more giveaways, a remarkable statistic given the fact that turnover-prone Ray Williams was absent due to a death in his family. Guards Dennis Johnson (four) and Gerald Henderson (five) picked New York's pockets nine times.

DJ and Henderson also accounted for 33 points and buried 13 of 25 shots. "We're playing well together," summed Johnson. "I think we're playing a lot better than most people expect us to."

And then there was Bird. Only in Boston in 1984 could a player score 37 points on 73-percent shooting, grab 11 rebounds with four steals and fail to be named game MVP (Henderson was). Bird has been so good for so long that he's sometimes taken for granted.

Hubie noticed. The maniacal New York czar hardly mentioned Bird's deadly shooting, but said, "The entire Boston team played great defense, but the one man the purists noticed was Bird. He's the real key to their defense. Bird reminded us tonight of a middle line-backer the way he roamed around out there. His ability to clog the lane, double team and strip the ball were the keys to their defense."

Bird shot pretty well, too. Ignoring his sprained right ankle, he had 12 points and 5 rebounds in the first quarter, 21 points in the first 14 minutes and 23 at intermission.

The score was tied eight times in the first six minutes, but from 16-16, the Celtics ripped off eight in a row and never looked back.

Bird started the go-ahead streak with a followup of his own miss. After two free throws by Maxwell, Henderson got the Celtics four more points with a pair of steals. Henderson's second theft was a stripping of Trent Tucker at midcourt followed by a solo layup. Brown called time, the Garden erupted and the Celtics led, 24-16.

After the pause, Bill Cartwright (25 points, 11 rebounds) interrupted with a bucket, but by then, Brown had Orr trying to guard McHale. The Celtics immediately took the ball down low, and McHale wasted no time getting his first basket over Gandhi. McHale scored four more before the quarter ended with the Celtics on top, 34-27.

Bird started the second quarter with a three-pointer, a follow of a missed layup by Quinn Buckner, and a press-beating jumper that made it 41-29, forcing another timeout.

Tucker, Rory Sparrow and Cartwright brought the Knicks to within two late in the half, but DJ took over with two steals (embarrassing Sparrow) and five straight points (including a dazzling steal and layup as he was fouled) to boost the lead back to nine (66-57) by halftime. King had seven points and seven shots at intermission.

In the third quarter, the Celtics shot 52 percent, forced six turnovers, held King to two shots and no points, and added four points to their lead.

Bird and McHale (12 of 14 from the floor) turned it on in the fourth period, breaking the Knicks every time New York started any semblance of a comeback. Cartwright and Darrell Walker (18) tried to keep New York in it, but McHale and Bird scored Boston's first 18 points of the period and the Celtics led, 109-92, with 3:54 left.

The war of words erupted into a flurry of elbows between Maxwell and King at that juncture. No one was tossed, but Brown picked up a technical for his contribution.

In a final burst of futility, the Knicks managed only two field goals in the last eight minutes.

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