Celtics Cruise Past Bullets without Bird and Ainge

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 108, Bullets 85
Record 46-15


There was reasonable cause for concern. Larry Bird was home in bed, and the Celtics have the same fondness for the Capital Centre that Walter Mondale has for New Hampshire. When Boston came out for warmups without Bird (back injury) and Danny Ainge (jammed neck), you could almost hear Beef Brothers Jeff Ruland and Rick Mahorn snarling, "Make my day."

As it turned out, the Bullets were unable to take advantage of their power play. In fact, Washington never had a chance. Scott Wedman stepped into the breach (9 for 14, 19 points), Robert Parish (26) and Kevin McHale reduced Ruland and Mahorn to beef jerky, and the Celtics again played Oakland Raider defense for 48 minutes. The result was a convincing 108-85 victory over the team Boston will probably face in the first round of the playoffs next month.

Dennis Johnson and Gerald Henderson should get a lot of credit for this one, too. DJ scored 16 in the first half and pushed the Celtics to a 10-point (51-41) halftime lead. Henderson scored eight in the third quarter and helped Parish with a 19-4 run which put it away. Washington fans had to be asking, "Where's the Beef?"

Mssrs. Ruland and Mahorn combined to hit only four of 14 shots. Mahorn finished with six points and six rebounds, while Ruland came home with 11 and 11, plus a whopping seven turnovers. Ruland did not score a basket after halftime. "We knew what they were going to do," said McHale, who had 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, starting in place of Bird. "We had them scouted really well. We tried to be smart under there, double-teaming certain people. You can't let them get the ball down low, because no one can stop them under there."

K.C. Jones was happy with the defense. Since halftime in Hartford last Friday, the Celtics have put together 10 consecutive quarters of nose-to-nose defense. Last night's effort represented the second-lowest point total by a Boston opponent this year (Chicago scored 83 on Jan. 31). Wedman is the other happy story. He canned six of six in the first half and buried his first attempt in the third quarter. The 19-point effort represents Wedman's scoring average from 1979-81, but ranks as his highest point total since joining the Celtics on Jan. 14, 1983.

"I feel good about the way I played and about the way the team played," said the ever-humble Kansan. "I'm just glad to be part of it. I had a pretty good feeling early that I was going to be hot." Red Auerbach felt good, too. "Now you see what he really can do," Auerbach said upon entering the winners' locker room. Wedman is Larry Bird disability insurance - an expensive policy at $700,000 per year. He scored 16 and 10 in the two other games Bird did not start this year.

Playing without Bird hasn't been the disaster one might expect. Since Bird joined the Green in 1979, the Celtics are 9-2 in regular-season games without him. Johnson helped build Boston's early lead. After shooting 6 for 26 in his previous three games, DJ erupted for 16 points in the first two quarters. Parish added 15 to the first-half onslaught. Ruland wasn't his usual nasty self in the first half and seemed dazed after intermission, committing four turnovers in the first four minutes. The Celtics took advantage, scoring six straight to take a 57-43 lead after halftime.

With 7:12 left in the third, DJ gave the Celtics a scare, going down after a tangle with Ruland. DJ's left knee had banged against Ruland's right and the Celtic guard went down in a heap. He was OK after a timeout and so were the Celtics. While Parish scored nine points in a three-minute span, the Celtics pushed the lead to 70-47. The Celtics wouldn't let Washington get closer than 13 in the fourth quarter.

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