1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 117, Jazz 106
Tuesday night, he was Joe Fan. He sat home in his favorite chair, worked on a magic Megabucks system and watched the tube - listening to Gil and Cooz describe the proceedings from Landover, Md. Last night he was Larry Bird again. He buried preposterous shots from the outer limits, grabbed every available loose ball and rebound, and threw in a late-game clincher while seated on the parquet pine of the Garden.
Bird wasn't alone in leading the Celtics to a 117-106 victory over the Utah Jazz, but his contributions stood out more because he had trouble getting out of bed Tuesday morning (due to sub-scapula bursitis), and there was serious doubt about his ability to contribute against the Frank Layden A.C. last night. When it was over, Robert Parish had 23 points and 12 rebounds, Kevin McHale had 21 and seven and starting guards Gerald Henderson and Dennis Johnson had contributed 33 points on 50-percent shooting . . . but everybody knew that Larry Bird was The Man.
He was equal parts Audie Murphy and Ken Stabler. He curtailed his convalescence, wiped his hands on the dusty bottoms of his sneakers and produced a 26-point, 14-rebound, 9-assist masterpiece. Twenty of his points came in the second half, and the final six served to shake the Garden and shatter the Jazz. "I heard what he said when they asked him if he could play tonight," said Utah coach Layden. "He said, I got the uniform on.' That's a pro for you. When he puts the suit on, he's ready to play. That's why he's probably the greatest player in the game today. What a clutch performance he put on at the end of the game. The game was in doubt, but he put it away."
Bird scored only six in the first half, which ended with Boston leading by one, 59-58. The Celtics shot 54 percent in the first two periods but committed a whopping 15 turnovers and allowed John Drew, Rickey Green and Darrell Griffith to score 51 of Utah's 58 points. Bird (11 in the period) led a 13-4 surge at the start of the third period to put the Celtics ahead by 10. "I hadn't shot in two days and just wanted to get into the flow of the game at first," said Bird. "In the second half, I felt I could hit the shot. My game was under control. The more I played, the better I felt."
Still, the Jazz wouldn't fold. Crashing the offensive boards, Utah closed to within four points late in the third. Boston led, 86-81, at the start of the fourth. Utah cut it to three (92-89) when Hancock Tower Mark Eaton (7 feet 4) blocked a shot by Parish and Griffith went coast-to-coast for two. The Celtics were still leading by three when McHale converted a three- point play, and DJ got a layup after stealing from Griffith to make it 101-93 with 6:02 left. Utah called time. They traded baskets for a minute and a half, but Bird pushed Boston's lead to 10 (107-97) on a long fallaway with 4:23 left.
After another timeout, Bird did it again, canning one of his no-balance, no-conscience fallaways. McHale followed with a scoop shot underneath, and it was 113-100 with 2:15 left. A half-minute later, Bird threw one in as Rich Kelly knocked him to the floor. His free throw made it 116-102. The Jazz played without Adrian Dantley, who was attending the funeral of his 103-year-old great-grandmother. Without the league's leading scorer (30.4 ppg), Utah got 70 points from Drew (27), Griffith (23) and Green (20). The visitors missed Dantley, and the Celtics hadn't forgotton Utah's 122-109 November win in Salt Lake City, but Bird was the X-Factor.
"Larry called me at home this afternoon and said, I feel like going,' " said coach K.C. Jones. "I said, OK.' " "I don't get paid for sitting home," said Bird. "I don't like to miss games. On Tuesday, I was very stiff, my shoulder was sore and I had pain all around my body. Today, it loosened up, and I really fellt like playing. I wanted to find out today so I'd know if I could play Friday (in Milwaukee), because that's a big game for us."
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