December 29, 1979
First, the news you never wanted to hear: Tiny Archibald is injured. The little guy sprained his left ankle 19 seconds into the fourth period last night and headed into the locker room to the accompaniment of a standing ovation.
Now the news Bill Fitch always wanted to think he'd hear if his playmaker ever went down: "I'll play tomorrow," Archibald vowed. Tiny is no different than anyone else. He's having too much fun to think about missing a Celtic game. Since watching this team play is such a delight, can you imagine what it must be like to play for them?
Otherwise, it was business as usual. The regular Friday night assemblage of 15,320 really didn't get itself cranked up until garbage time, but they were on a mild downer after the Wednesday game against Philadelphia. They provided fair support, just as the Celtics played a fair game in dispatching the once-fearsome San Antonio Spurs, 133-114, for their 16th triumph in 17 Garden encounters and their seventh victory in succession.
San Antonio arrived without two-fifths of its starting five. Left behind on this long one-game trip were Larry Kenon and James Silas, each victimized by a flu bug.
The Spurs utilized a typically explosive spurt by George Gervin, who scored 10 unanswered points in a fraction over two minutes, to construct a 20-10 lead in the first period. But once the Celtics found their running game and whittled the margin to three (28-25) by the period's end, there was an aura of inevitability about the outcome. The Celtics were about to flaunt their new-found bench strength and turn this somewhat sloppy game around.
Specifically, the quintet of Rick Robey ("He ran the lanes very well" - Fitch), Larry Bird, M.L. Carr, Gerald Henderson and Don Chaney, put the hammer to the Spurs midway through the second period. Happily for the Celtics, the catalyst was Carr, who for the first time since he severely sprained his right wrist a fortnight ago, looked like the bubbly M.L. Carr who had so captivated this town during October and November.
"I was hoping to get through this weekend without having to do much, so I could rest it up for the West Coast trip," Carr confided. "But there wasn't much sense in saving myself when we needed this win as much as any other one. We were a little flat, so I mentioned on the bench that I would try to make something happen."
Would that we all had Carr's determination and will. For ol' Mighty Loose came roaring in to disrupt the Spurs. With the Celtics holding a shaky 40-38 lead, Carr threw in seven straight points, starting with a three-pointer, his first successful bomb since his injury. Those were the first two of 14 consecutive Carr-oriented Celtics points. In the next 2:40, Carr would spin in for a one-on-one flipper; take a phenomenal Bird missile for a give-and-go layup; send Bird in for a fast-break goaltended layup, and then bring the customers out of their seats with a behind-the-back pass for a Chaney fast- break layup. He completed his destruction with four free throws to cap a 12-point, 2-assist, 50-thrill 12 minutes of basketball.
Against the multi-faceted Celtic offense featuring the likes of Bird (26 points, including two three-pointers), Maxwell (23), Archibald (17 on 6-for-9 shooting), Carr (14), Gerald Henderson (11, highlighted by his first career three-pointer) and a trio of bench performers (Robey, Chaney and Eric Fernsten) with eight points apiece, all the visitors had to offer was the efficient offense of Gervin. The Iceman worked hard for 27 of the first 58 San Antonio points, finally finishing with 36. But Fitch felt compelled to laud both Chaney and Chris Ford for keeping the Iceman from going hoopy.
Old Anaheim Amigo fans would have cherished the 76-point (Boston, 41-35) final period which was to true basketball what British humor is to true comedy.
The high point of this fast-break exchange came when Bird attempted to throw a pass to himself off his own backboard from about 17 feet away. "I was losing control, so I thought I could put it on the glass and give it back to the man coming down the side," he explained. He failed to come up with the ball, but he managed to steal it back and throw in an artful scoop shot. With the victory assured, that stuff is what people paid to see, and Bird seldom fails to deliver.