1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 107, Blazers 101
February 20, 1984
If he was Walter Mondale, he'd have the nomination sewn up by now. Since the Celtics touched down on the West Coast last Wednesday, Larry Bird has taken California, Washington and Oregon in succession. Last night's 46-minute Renoir was painted for the benefit of the usual 12,666 in Portland's Glass Palace. Bird scored 34 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, handed out 9 assists and stole the ball three times, leading the Celtics to a 107-101 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. He got a lot of help from Dennis Johnson and Gerald Henderson, who contributed 20 and 13 points respectively, and came up with big steals in the final minute.
Portland coach Jack Ramsay was stunned, but hardlly speechless after watching Bird dismantle the Trail Blazers. "Tonight, you saw the greatest player in the game in Larry Bird," said Ramsay. "I don't know if he can play any better than he did tonight. He is just a magnificent pllayer. He may be the best that ever played the game." K. C. Jones echoed Ramsay with, "In all the years that I have watched and played in this league, I have never seen a player with so much involvement in the game as Larry Bird. He dominates all phases - shooting, passing, rebounding and smarts."
Bird chose a tough house to demonstrate his best. Beating Portland at home is only slightly tougher than beating the Russians in an Olympic hockey game. The loss dropped the Blazers to 24-5 in Memorial Coliseum. Conversely, the Celtics are a league-best 20-7 on the road. Boston trailed by two after one, but scored 40 in the second quarter (11 by Bird) and led, 64-58, at the half. Jim Paxson (24) and Calvin Natt (18) pulled the Blazers even early in the third.
Kenny Carr (19) led a 9-2 run midway through the period. Bird took his first breather of the night in the final minute of the quarter which ended with Portland leading, 81-80. The Celts scored only 16 in the period. Sir Larry was on the floor with four Celtic subs at the start of the fourth and hit a three bombs to put the Celts ahead, 88-85. With the Celtics leading by one, and three minutes left, Bird fired an outrageous three-pointer as the shot clock neared zero. "I've made that shot before," he said calmly. "I wasn't that far behind the line. I knew the clock was winding down and I figured if I made it we'd win the game."
Natt and Paxson brought Portland back one last time before Robert Parish (only 14 points and five rebounds) put the Celtics ahead for good (103-101), hitting two free throws with 0:46 showing. Portland set up a play, but Henderson stole a lazy Paxson pass and hit one of two from the line to make it 104-101 with 33 seconds left. "He (Paxson) couldn't see me," said Henderson. "I was coming from behind on the blind side. I knew it was gonna be there." After a timeout, DJ stole a Carr pass and was fouled as he went in alone. He made both to make it 106-101 and send Portland's 297th consecutive sellout toward the exits.
"We made what I call automatic' passes at the end and they got into the passing lanes," moaned Ramsay. The final seconds were indicative of a game which featured 10 lead changes an eight ties. Boston shot 54 percent to Portland's 48, but the Celtics were outrebounded, 40-39. "It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but we'll take it," said Parish. "This is by far the toughest game we've had yet on the trip," added Bird, who hit 14 of 20 from the floor (2-2 from three-point range) and four of four from the line. Bird said he was hoping for 6-0 before the sojourn started and the Celtics are a giddy 3-0 on the Coast as they prepare for San Diego Wednesday.