1984 NBA Finals
The jokes alone spoke volumes about how Robert Parish's contributions were being perceived during the championship series. There was one about the Boston bar that displayed a sign reading: "Come to the Garden Thursday and see Robert Perish."
Another asked: "Is Parish burning?"
Parish, the Boston center, heard them and was not laughing. He wasn't talking either, even after he let his actions speak for themselves in the Celtics' 129-125 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth game at the Forum Wednesday night. Before the fourth game, in which the Celtics evened the series at 2-2, the 7-foot Parish had simply not been a factor.
Parish's statistics were down in every category from the regular season. He averaged 19 points during the season, but was averaging only 13.3 in the first three games of the series. He was being harassed by the Lakers' double-teaming defense and receiving no help from his team's outisde shooters.
Even worse, he was being manhandled by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The 37-year-old Laker center isn't known as a physical player, but he was successful in forcing Parish, a fine shooter, outside of his normal 12-to-18-foot range. But that all changed in Game four. Parish benefited from the play of his backcourt: Dennis Johnson, who had 22 points and 14 assists; and Gerald Henderson, who played only 3 minutes in the first half, scored all 13 of his points in the second half and overtime. Parish also profited from the physical nature of the game, which saw two minor skirmishes and one that cleared the benches.
Through it all, Parish scored 25 points, his high in the series, hitting 11 of 23 shots from the field. He also added 12 rebounds and made 2 key plays. With the Lakers leading, 113-108, and just 56 seconds remaining in regulation, Parish grabbed two offensive rebounds in succession and scored while being fouled by Abdul- Jabbar. He nailed the free-throw to bring the Celtics to within 2 points, 113-111, with 39 seconds left.
"In my mind that was the key play," said Coach Pat Riley of the Lakers. "He gave them 2 or 3 shots in a situation when they needed them most. They came in determined and with a commitment to keep the ball alive." Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 32 points, fouled out on the next series and Larry Bird hit the two free throws to tie the score, 113-all, with 16 seconds left.
Parish was a factor again in the final seconds of regulation time. Coach K. C. Jones assigned him to guard the Lakers' 6-foot-9-inch forward James Worthy as the Lakers prepared to set up their game-winning attempt. In a similar situation in the second game, the Lakers had failed to get off a shot in time because Magic Johnson, the playmaker, had hesitated, fearing that Parish would steal his pass attempt to Abdul-Jabbar. This time Johnson did not hesitate when perhaps he should have. Following the designed play, he forced a pass to Worthy, who was neither open nor in position for a good shot. Parish had forced him toward the sideline more than 20 feet away from the basket. When Johnson attempted a bounce pass to Worthy, it was stolen by Parish.
In overtime, Johnson failed again. This time, with 35 seconds remaining and the score tied at 123, he missed two free throws - he is an 80 percent shooter from the line. Bird then hit the game-winner on the other end with a fadeaway 14-footer over Johnson's outstretched hand.
After the game, Parish was quiet. He dressed quickly and left the locker room saying: "I've got nothing to say."