1984 Playoffs: Round 1
Game: Bullets 111, Celtics 108 (OT)
Series: Celtics 2, Bullets 1
Put the brooms back in the closet, ready the crutches and wheelchairs, and see if Northwest Airlines has any first-class seats to National Airport for tomorrow afternoon. Maybe it was Kevin McHale's brash "I-don't-think-they-can-beat-us" statement, or maybe Washington's men at work just had one coming.
Whatever, the raging Bullets defeated the Celtics, 111-108, in overtime yesterday, which means there will be no sweep, there will be more black and blues, and there will be a fourth game at the Capital Centre Tuesday night. The Celtics now lead the best-of-five NBA playoff series, 2-1.
"Go over and tell Maxwell and McHale that we can beat them," snarled Jeff Ruland, Washington's 6-foot-10 wrecking ball who had 33 points and 13 rebounds. Ruland's comment was indicative of the bad blood between these teams. There hasn't been a single punch thrown yet, but Cedric Maxwell said, "They're the most physical team in the league. They can be dirty and hit you with cheap shots. The longer the series goes, the worse it's gonna get as far as physical contact and animosity between each other."
Only 8359 turned out for yesterday's matinee thriller. Too bad. The Bullets deserve better. On paper, they have no business being on the same floor with the Celtics (Washington was 35-47 in the regular season), but they've taken Boston to the limit three straight times. And by force of will (with a little beef on the side), Washington took it away from the Green in extra innings.
After a jumper by Larry Bird (27 points) put the Celtics ahead, 104-101, with 2:33 left in overtime, Washington regained the lead on two free throws by Greg Ballard (18 points) and a basket by Rick Mahorn (15 rebounds) in the lane. Dennis Johnson tied it, at 105-105, for the last time with one of two from the line, but with 37 seconds left and one second remaining on the shot clock, Mahorn hit a jumper from the right of the foul line to make it 107-105.
"When I hear our bench yelling green,' I know there's less than seven seconds on the shot clock," said Mahorn, who'll never be confused with Andrew Toney. "I knew Greg was in trouble and it was time to put it up. I was glad it went in." Then the weary Robert Parish capped off a bad day (4 of 17 from the floor and matador defense on Ruland) by missing two free throws with 22 seconds left. See you Tuesday.
Forced to foul, the Celtics fell further behind when Ruland and Frank Johnson sandwiched four straight free throws around a Parish turnover. A DJ three-pointer set the final score. The Celtics did well to force the overtime. They trailed by 15 early in the fourth period, and by 92-82 with 5:48 left. Boston was able to force the OT because the Celtics tightened up on defense - allowing four points in the final 5:17 - and got a tremendous lift from M.L. Carr.
Boston trailed, 96-91, with 2:17 left in regulation when Carr cameup with the biggest play of the first 48 minutes. Anticipating a Mahorn pass to Ricky Sobers, Carr tipped the ball away, scooped it up and went the length of the floor for a layup as he was hammered by Sobers. That made it 96-94.
After the game, Sobers accused the Celtics of trying to provoke a fight by playing Carr. Carr responded to the charge with: "Ricky doesn't have any heart. He talks and bumps and once I come in he starts mouthing off. I'm not out there to hurt anybody. It's just warfare out there." When Mahorn was tagged with an offensive foul after a Ruland miss, McHale made two free throws to tie it with 1:28 left.
Two free throws by Ballard put the Bullets ahead, but a clutch 16-foot turnaround by Parish tied it at 98-98 with 21 seconds left. Washington's final possession did not yield a shot, unless you want to count a fumbling half-lob by Ruland as regulation expired. The Bullets were able to squander a lead because they enjoyed their best 12 minutes of the series in the third quarter. With Ruland dominating McHale and Frank Johnson (16 points) doing everything he wanted in the backcourt, Washington opened the period with six straight, translating a one-point halftime deficit into a 13-point lead. In the quarter, the Bullets shot 54 percent (to Boston's 38 percent) and won the rebounding battle, 15-7.