1983-84 Boston Celtics
Great expectations have been moderated. When the Celtics stormed through Oakland, Seattle and Portland, there was talk of a 6-0 West Coast trip. That was before back-to-back losses in San Diego (114-107) Wednesday and Los Angeles (116-108) Friday. Now, the Celtics will gladly settle for 4-2. The trip winds up tonight at 10 against the Suns at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
This might be called a big game. The first-place Celtics no longer worry about the Atlantic Division race (Boston leads the 76ers by eight games), but with Hubie Brown's Hessians (the Knicks) coming to Boston Wednesday night, the Celtics don't want to end this trip with three straight losses. Friday night's loss was particularly discouraging for the Celtics because LA was able to win without Jamaal Wilkes (flu) or Bob McAdoo (asthma), and it gave the Lakers a 2-0 series sweep.
The Celtics led by six early in the fourth quarter, but Robert Parish was in foul trouble and had trouble containing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (31 points, 11 in the fourth quarter). Meanwhile, Magic Johnson was en route to 18 assists, James Worthy was jamming his way to 27 big ones, and Michael Cooper held Larry Bird to only 12 shots and 14 points. Kevin McHale led the Celtics with 26 points.
"We got outhustled and we threw the ball away," said Celtics coach K.C. Jones. "They feel they can dominate us now. I would think they would want to meet us in the finals and hope they do." Meanwhile, back in Arizona, the Suns had an 11-game homecourt winning streak snapped by the Denver Nuggets, 117-100. Phoenix has won three of its last four.
The Celtics finished a 3-3 Coast trip last year with what might have been the most exciting victory of the season. Down by one point with one second left, Bird buried a three-pointer to send the Celtics home smiling. A special sidelight tonight will be the return of Dennis Johnson. DJ gave the Suns three good years before he was swapped to Boston for Rick Robey last June. The trade has proved very controversial for the Suns, who are 26-31 and lack a quality playmaker.
Parish needs just four points to crack the 10,000 barrier . . . McHale has 26 points in each of the last two games and has hit 23 of 36 floor shots and six of six from the line . . . DJ shot 4 for 18 against the Lakers . . . Scott Wedman did some time in the backcourt against LA . . . The Celtics are 21-8 on the road . . . Boston has increased its lead by 1 1/2 games since heading West. Thank the sagging Sixers, who are 13-17 since Dec. 29 . . . Boston's next victory will be the 2000th in franchise history.