1983-84 Boston Celtics
Clippers 114, Celtics 107
February 23, 1984
Imagine scoring straight A's in calculus, physics and Latin, then getting bopped out of the National Honor Society due to an F in shop. This was supposed to be the easiest test on the trip. Breathless victories in the horror chambers of Oakland, Seattle and Portland were making this Celtics tour look like the NBA equilavent of Mick Jagger and the Stones Across America in 1980. The Celtics appeared invincible and were making cocky statements about going 6-0 on the dreaded Pacific Coast. With the rare benefit of two days rest, a joust with the Western Conference's worst team (18-37) conjured up thoughts of a day at the beach.
Wrong. The Celtics were stung by the Clippers, 114-107, in the San Diego Sports Arena last night. There are two lessons here: 1) The coast is still the coast, and 2) Any team with Bill Walton, Norm Nixon and Terry Cummings is capable of beating the NBA's elite. The Clippers were at their best. San Diego hit 46 of 88 from the floor (52 percent), 20 of 22 from the line and outrebounded Boston, 45-37. Nixon came through with 22 points and 11 assists, Walton had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Cummings hit for 24 points.
"We didn't really rebound well and didn't play good defense when we had to," said Larry Bird, who "cooled off" with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists. "But when a team is playng that well against you, there's not much you can do about it." "This was a game I pointed to as one we could lose," said Cedric Maxwell. "We were relaxed and at ease and playing against a team that doesn't have a good record but is super-talented. Everything was really working in their favor."
Robert Parish was certainly working in San Diego's favor. He had his third-consecutive West Coast no-show, a still-life nine-point, two-rebound performance in 28 shoddy minutes. The tired Chief was mercifully benched for crunch time, when the Celtics threatened to pull it out. The Clippers led by as many as nine in the first half, but a 25-12 Celtics surge before intermission gave the Green Team a 61-57 halftime lead. Bird was 9 of 13 for 18 points in the first two quarters.
There were seven ties in the third quarter, which ended with a preposterous 75-foot underhand heave by Dennis Johnson. When the three- quarter-c ourt shot ripped through the chords, San Diego led, 84-82. Boston led, 90-88, early in the fourth quarter, but the Clippers appeared to put it away with a four-minute, 12-0 surge. Cummings scored six (all at Bird's expense) of the dirty dozen and got help from guards Ricky Pierce (16 points) and Craig Hodges. A jumper by Hodges with 5:30 left completed the run and gave San Diego a 100-90 lead.
Parish broke the 12-0 string with one of two from the line but was lifted with 4:55 remaining. San Diego led, 102-93. Suddenly the Celtics awoke with a 10-0 flurry. Long bombs by Bird and Danny Ainge brought the Celtics back. James Donaldson (a forceful 18 points, 12 rebounds) lost the ball out of bounds, and Bird hit a corner shot. Maxwell stole the ball from Walton and sank two from the line to cut it to 106-103 with 2:01 left. Ainge rebounded a Nixon miss, and Gerald Henderson hit a jumper to cut it to one and force a Clipper time out with 1:37 showing.
After the pause, Cummings hit a jumper and Ainge was tagged with a charging violation. Henderson then stole the ball from Cummings and hit two free throws to cut it to 108-107. With the shot clock winding down, Walton buried a rare 18-footer from out top to make it 110-107 with 0:29 left. "That one's not in the playbook," said Clippers coach Jim Lynam. "Bill sensed the clock going down." Then Bird missed the first of a closing flurry of three-point clangers. Derek Smith (who did a nice defensive job on Bird) rebounded and was immediately fouled. He hit both to make it 112-107 with 23 seconds left. Henderson (two), Ainge and Bird all missed three-pointers, and Cummings closed the book with a couple of free throws.