1983-84 Boston Celtics
March 22, 1984
The Celtics play the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden tonight (8, Ch. 4) and, strange as this sounds, Boston needs a victory. Simply put, the Celtics are fed up with the punks from New York. Hubie Brown's henchmen are 3-1 against the Green this season and have won five of the last seven. "They have that attitude that they're the superior team," says Cedric Maxwell, who is expected to return after missing one game with a strained groin muscle. "They have played well and have a right to be cocky. Every time they've boasted they've been able to play well. We've let them take the game to us and we have not done the things inside that we're capable of doing."
Ordinarily, a team with Boston's record wouldn't have anything to prove at this juncture of the regular season. Boston's 51-17 mark is far better than any other team in the NBA. However, the Celts have been continually reminded of their 8-9 record vs. Atlantic Division foes. Moreover, Boston's potential playoff foes could be (in order, if Boston keeps winning) Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The Celtics are a cumulative 5-10 against those four teams. New York can make history with a victory tonight. Since Larry Bird came to Boston (1979-80), no NBA team has beaten the Celtics four times in regular- season play.
"We just have to go in and play our game and win," says Gerald Henderson. "We have to try to execute and take care of the pressure they apply." New York's pressure defense has forced the Celtics into an average of 21.25 turnovers per game. The Celtics have been unable to consistently beat New York's press and have failed to exploit the Knicks' relatively weak second unit. "We can't say this is just another ballgame," admits coach K.C. Jones, who has trouble hiding his disdain for Brown. "They are cocky and it's important for us to go in and win."
The Celtics have been stung twice at home by the Knicks. Boston's only victory against New York this year was a two-point conquest without Bird in New York. The Celtics haven't forgotten the Feb. 29 nightmare. In that four-point loss, Boston scored only one basket in its last nine possessions covering 4:11. Three turnovers, five missed shots and zero offensive rebounds snuffed out the Celts, who had been flying high after a 4-2 West Coast trip. The Knicks took a five-game winning streak to Cleveland last night. Louis Orr was expected to start at forward in place of Truck Robinson again, but Truck has finally recovered from his sprained ankle and will be ready.
Bernard King, Bird's most serious challenger for MVP, ranks fifth in the league in scoring (26.5) and has been virtually unstoppable since the All-Star break. He has scored 40 or more six times this year. Center Bill Cartwright has played exceptionally well against the Celtics. Hubie's starting guards are Rory Sparrow and Ray Williams. "They stole a couple from us early on," says M.L. Carr, "but we're not worried about New York. They're a good ballclub, but they're just trying to psych themselves up to a point where they think they can beat us anytime. Hey, I'd be happy to see us play them in the playoffs."
Boston's next four games are against Atlantic Division rivals (New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington), and the Celtics are coming off losses against all four . . . The Knicks are happy with the job Eric Fernsten has done as a backup power forward. Fernsten is New York's best player at making the outlet pass . . . Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale played 48, 47 and 45 minutes respectively in Boston's overtime loss in Indiana Tuesday night . . . The Knicks are 24-8 at home and have won five straight on 33d street . . . With 14 to play, Boston's magic number for clinching the division title is seven.