1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 116, Suns 109
By the time they got to Phoenix, the Celtics had re-defined their western tour goals. Two straight losses in Southern California ended cocky aspirations for a 6-0 sweep. Last night's 116-109 victory over the Phoenix Suns saved the sojourn. The win enabled the Celts to pack their luggage (and the bags under their eyes), fly home with a respectable 4-2 coast record, and avert three straight losses and three days of "What's Wrong With the Celics?"
A third consecutive defeat would have been demoralizing, especially with the Knicks coming to town Wednesday. Let's face it: 3-3 is unacceptable when you start with a 3-0 record. "This was an important game for us," said Cedric Maxwell. "I just felt we had to play well to establish ourselves for New York and end the trip with a 4-2 record." "It was a big game for us," echoed Kevin McHale (18 points, 9 for 13 shooting). "This makes for a lot better red-eye flight later tonight."
The Celtics led by 15 in the first half. Things got off to a pleasant start when Dennis Johnson received a nice ovation during the starting lineup introductions. Less than five minutes into the game, Robert Parish (20, 12 in the first quarter) scored on a followup of his own miss for his 10,000th career point. The Chief was presented with the basketball after the next whistle. Parish's milestone broke an 8-8 tie and set the stage for a 6-0 Celtic run which pushed the Celtics to an 18-10 lead.
Boston's running game was in good form and the Suns were missing a lot of shots. With two minutes left in the quarter, DJ rebounded a Larry Bird (23 with 13 rebounds) miss, took the ball outside and canned a long jumper to make it 29-18. "We started off the game by running and boxing out and that helped us get something going," said coach K. C. Jones (The Celtics finished with a 48-34 rebounding advantage).
Ex-Celtic Rick Robey made his first appearance with 1:24 left in the first. He was guarded by old pal Bird and scored two points on a long jumper. This was a night when the Celtic guards were hitting (19-34, .558), and a running jumper by Danny Ainge gave Boston a 33-24 lead after one. The Celtics shot 62 percent (15-24) in the quarter and outrebounded Phoenix, 14-8. Phoenix shot 43 percent (10-23).
Another Ainge jumper early in the second made it 41-26. Then Parish picked up his third foul and Phoenix started to fight back. James Edwards (28 with 8 rebounds) and Maurice Lucas led an 11-4 surge at the end of the second and Boston's 15-point lead was down to six (59-53) by haltime. A basket by Edwards early in the third, cut it to 64-63, before the Celtics woke up with a 6-2 run to make it 70-65.
They traded baskets for a while. New Britain's Rod Foster did most of the scoring for the Suns. He had five baskets in the quarter before coming out with four personal fouls. DJ, who was enjoying a superb floor game (9 rebounds, 4 assists, 14 points) on his old home court, came up with a strange basket late in the quarter. A missed Celtic shot, contested by several big men, hit the floor hard and bounced high into the air. DJ caught it and slammed it home to give the Celts an 84-75 lead.
Maxwell scored seven points in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the quarter and Boston held an 89-82 lead after three. McHale and Edwards countered one another early in the fourth as the Celtics held their lead. It was 105-101 with three minutes left when Boston put it away. First McHale canned a long turnaround, then Bird added two free throws after Gerald Henderson and McHale combined to steal the ball. That made it 109-101 with 1:53 left. After a free throw by Larry Nance, Bird iced it with a preposterous right-to-left runner which did not dent the net.
As the sellout (14,660) throng started to file out, Walter Davis hit a three-pointer and Maurice Lucas tapped one home to make it 111-107, but Henderson and Parish sank three free throws to extinguish all comeback hopes.