1983-84 Boston Celtics
It was 13 days of ocean scenes and magazines.
TWA presented "Gorky Park" on the way to San Francisco, and Delta featured six hours of shut-eye on the red-eye home. Four sellouts and a total of 89,352 paid to see the Celtics, and hoopologists in six cities labeled Boston "basketball's best," while citing a new coach and the Dennis Johnson difference. When the trip finally ended early yesterday, the Celtics had a 4-2 West Coast record (against teams playing .748 ball at home) and a nine-game lead in the NBA's Atlantic Division.
The race is over, folks. In baseball language, the Celtics own an 18-game lead and it is the second week of August. When the Celtics left Boston, they were ahead of Philadelphia by 6 1/2 games, but had just suffered the indignity of a nationally televised, 18- point, home defeat against a Philadelphia team playing without Moses Malone and Bobby Jones. Larry Bird said he wanted a 6-0 trip. He said he was going to "burn up" the West Coast. K.C. Jones said he'd settle for 3-3.
Things got off to a good start in Oakland. Bird handed out 17 assists in a 125-115 victory over the Warriors. In Seattle the next night, Bird hit 13 of 24 shots for 30 points while managing 13 rebounds and 13 assists in a 111-100 victory over the Sonics, who'd won 11 straight at home. Bird and the Celtics peaked in Portland. Sir Larry had 34 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists in a 107-101 victory over the Trail Blazers, who never lose at home and desperately needed the victory.
"The Portland win was very large," says Jones. "That's like going into a snake pit. They have a habit of not losing there very often and I thought we'd be in large trouble there." "When we beat Portland we were really rolling," adds Bird, who stormed the Pacific, averaging 23.8 points, 8.3 assists, 11.6 rebounds and 40.6 minutes while hitting 52 percent (58-111) from the floor and .928 (26-28) from the line. "That was by far the best one. Every game is a big game, but I thought that was the best we played. They played well, but we played better."
Three nights after Portland, the Celtics ran into a buzzsaw in San Diego. The fired-up Clippers dominated the Celtics, 114-107. The California mudslide continued in LA where the Celtics lost to the Lakers, 116-108. "This should have been a 5-1 trip," says Kevin McHale, who averaged 18.8 points and shot 59 percent (48-81) on the trip. "Only San Diego really beat us. We beat ourselves in LA."
Sunday's 116-109 salvation against the Suns (who had won 11 of their last 12 at home) made Jones very happy. "I said I'd be happy with 3-3, so going 4-2 makes it a successfull trip," said K.C. "San Diego just played one hell of a game against us. In LA, we were in it, but we threw the ball away at the end. Losing three in a row and not improving on the things we did wrong in LA would have made it somewhat sour, but we did win in Phoenix and we did improve on those things."
The Celtics are 22-8 on the road . . . Maxwell averaged 14.6 points per game on the West Coast . . . Boston shot higher than 50 percent four times - those were the four victories . . . Robert Parish shot high than 50 percent in only one game of the trip . . . Dennis Johnson outrebounded Rick Robey, 9-1, Sunday . . . Baseball stars Tommy John, Ted Simmons and Pete Vukovich were in the Celtic locker room after the Phoenix game . . . M.L. Carr did not play in five of the six games. Greg Kite and Carlos Clark each played one minute on the trip.