Game: Celtics 99, Bullets 96
Series: Celtics 3, Bullets 1
They may suffer some bloody, Sam Peckinpah flashbacks. Like veterans of jungle warfare, they'll probably need time in a halfway house before they are fit to return to society. The Celtics don't mind. They are finallly finished with the barbaric Bullets, and can proceed to Round 2 of this weekend against civilized folk from Detroit or New York.
In a fourth and final white-knuckle, bone-cracking ballgame, Boston defeated the NBA's 16th-best team, 99-96, last night to clinch the opening- round series, three games to one. "I'm glad this junk is over," said Gerald Henderson, who rolled on the floor, punching and grappling with Washington's Frank Johnson after time expired.
The sight of two Napoleons rolling on the hardwood provided a fitting finale to a series filled with meanness, malice and good old fashioned mudslinging and name-calling. "What do you do now?" heroic Jeff Ruland (30 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists) asked himself. "You go home, join the family, rest, beat the dog . . . "
The Celtics conquered Washington on the strength of a brilliant return-to- form performance by Robert Parish (8 for 13, 20 points, 12 rebounds), a sparkling backcourt relief job by Quinn Buckner, 48 minutes of defensive pressure and a 38-32 rebounding advantage. Parish, Buckner and Kevin McHale were the architects of a 15-0 second- period run that carried the Celtics from a 34-31 deficit to a 46-34 lead. Boston never trailed again.
The Celtics came to life after a first quarter in which Larry Bird was held to two points and no field goals, while Rick Mahorn scored 14. K.C. Jones put Scott Wedman and Buckner in the backcourt to start the second quarter. Bird (17 points) broke his drought early in the period, but went down in a heap (slightly sprained right ankle) with 9:44 left in the half. He walked off under his own power, then came back a minute later.
Then came the Celtics' explosion of 15 in a row - six by McHale, seven by Buckner (three jumpers and a free throw) and a tough inside basket by Parish - for a 46-34 lead with 3:05 left in the half. "We were able to get a pretty good offensive stretch," said Buckner. "For some strange reason, I got going on offense, and from that point we pretty much controlled the game. I took some shots I don't normally take, but when you got it going well, you do that."
Trailing by 44-34, Bullets coach Gene Shue finally called for time. When play resumed, Parish blocked a Ruland shot, setting up one last Buckner jumper to complete the run. Ricky Sobers ended Washington's five-minute, 57-second shutout with a jumper, but the Bullets trailed by 52-41 at halftime.
Parish and Buckner inflated the halftime margin to 62-46 early in the third, and Boston finally appeared en route to Blowout City. No way. The noble Bullets wouldn't fold. With 6:32 left in the third, Ruland converted a three-point play as Parish picked up his fourth foul. Jones probably regrets not lifting Parish at that point, because 49 seconds later the Celtics' center picked up his fifth foul while getting back to cover a fast break.
With Parish on the pine, the Bullets completed a 9-0 run, closing the gap to 62-55. The Celtics' lead was down to five (70-65) at the end of three. When Washington threatend in the fourth, Parish (despite five fouls) intimidated at both ends and put a stop to any thoughts of another comeback by the Bullets. The Celtics led, 90-80, with 2:44 left when Parish finally fouled out. The Bullets staged their final comeback as 13,853 started to file out, but two free throws by Dennis Johnson (18 points, six assists) gave Boston an insurmountable, 94-86 lead with 56 seconds left. When the last of the desperation fouling was over, the Celtics were three-point winners and Henderson and Johnson were wrestling on the floor.
"I wish them well," said Ruland. "If they win the championship, it'll make us look that much better. If they lose in the next round, we'll take some credit."