1983-84 Boston Celtics
Knicks 102, Celtics 98
This is about as big as the games are going to get until the postseason tournament begins late next month. The remainder of the Celtics' regular season is going to be devoted to playoff peaking and establishing some self respect against all teams in the path of championship No. 15. That's why last night's 102-98 loss to the New York Knicks was semi- disturbing. Hubie Brown's Hombres are a potential second-round playoff foe and have been beating Boston with alarming regularity (six of the last nine) over the last two seasons.
For 44 minutes, it was your basic duel between the planet's top two forwards: Larry Bird (30 points) and Bernard King (35). But in the end, the Knicks won because the turnover-plagued Celts couldn't produce down the stretch (just like last week in LA) and scored only two points in the final four minutes. The Knicks led for almost the entire first half, but a 31-23 Celtics' third quarter gave Boston a three-point lead. New York came back and Rory Sparrow put the Knicks ahead by three with 4 1/2 minutes left. Turnovers and other dubious plays dominated the next three minutes.
A Bird bomb from out top gave the Celtics a 98-97 lead with 2:23 left. The Celts had a chance to go up by three, but no call was made when Dennis Johnson was floored by two Knicks on a fast-break miss. The rest of Boston's wounds were self-inflicted. With 1:05 left, hero Ray Williams rebounded a Bird miss and the Knicks callled time. After the pause, Bill Cartwright and King both missed, but Williams sneaked in for an offensive rebound and laid it in to give the Knicks a 99-98 lead.
With a full 24 seconds on the shot clock and 0:31 on the game clock, the Celts called time. They set up Kevin McHale, shooting his patented jumper over Marvin Webster. The shot was no good, King grabbed the rebound and Boston called time with 18 seconds left. Louis Orr was fouled with 12 seconds left and missed the first. When the second shot went through to make it 100-98, the Celts called time. The best shot Boston could get after the timeout was a Bird leaner near the foul line, which Williams blocked. Sparrow came up with the loose ball, was fouled and sank both with six seconds left to ice it.
The Celtics shot 40 percent and committed 12 turnovers, but trailed by only three at halftime. They turned it around, shooting 61 percent and outrebounding New York, 12-5, in the third period to take an 84-79 lead into the fourth. At the start of the second half, Bird snatched five fast rebounds and scored on a follow and a bomb to put the Celtics ahead, 59-58. King Bernard put a stop to that with eight unanswered points and the Knicks led, 64-59. King had 14 in the period. Late in the quarter, McHale scored eight straight for the Celtics to put the Green back ahead. After an Eric Fernsten (remember him?) travel, Bird buried a bomb and it was 82-77. Bird closed out the 14-7 surge with another basket. Bird had 10 points and six rebounds in the crucial quarter.
Shooting 65 percent and outrebounding Boston, 11-8, the Knicks led for the entire first quarter and took a 34-29 advantage into the second. King had 15 first-period points and Cartwright added 10. Playing without Truck Robinson (sprained ankle), New York started Orr at forward with King. Celtic Cedric Maxwell, sidelined at Tuesday's practice with an upset stomach, was healthy enough to cover King at the start. After Bird (13 in the period) opened the Celtics' offense with a dazzling baseline drive and lefty layup, the standaround Celts watched King lead a 10-0 Knicks' run, capped by Cartwright's three-point play. The Garden was pretty quiet when K.C. Jones finally called time.
Boston's comeback was thwarted by two missed layups (Gerald Henderson) and a traveling call on Johnson, who was leading the break by himself. Bird kept the Celts active and his three-pointer from the right corner cut New York's lead to 17-15 and forced Brown into a 20-second timeout. The Celtics went with Quinn Buckner, Danny Ainge, Scott Wedman, McHale and Robert Parish at the start of the second. McHale was matched up against Fernsten. Ainge and Buckner had trouble with the Knicks' press and came out. Meanwhile, rookie Darryl Walker had the Knicks rolling to a 42-34 lead with 7:07 left in the half.
Down, 44-37, the Celtics tightened up the defense and started taking advantage of obvious mismatches underneath. Bird and Parish started with six straight. McHale woke up with six of his own and when Parish scored on a followup to finish a 14-5 run, the Celtics had their first lead of the half (51-49). It didn't last. The Knicks closed the period with a 7-2 run and led, 56-53, at intermission. Celtics' fans were nearly treated to a repeat performance of Johnson's San Diego heave, but DJ's latest three-quarter toss caromed hard off the board and rim as the buzzer sounded.