September 22, 1980
Bill Fitch is in midseason form. His team wins its first exhibiton game and he hesitates about 15 seconds before deciding that maybe there were a few suprises.
The score of this game was Boston 106, New Jersey 99, and there have been many exhibitions sloppier and far less artistically fulfilling. There was even a serious fourth-quarter comeback wherein the Nets, who started the final quarter trailing by an 84-67 score, twice cut the margin to five in the final two minutes. After the second incursion, the Nets missed two good shots before Eric Fernsten took a nice Gerald Henderson pass (16 points, 4 assists) and dropped in a layup that gave Boston a 104-97 lead with 31 seconds left.
But results are not the reason for exhibitions. Performances are, and the Boston display worthy of the most attention was submitted by Ronnie Perry. The well-publicized Holy Cross star responded to a starting role like the thoroughbred he is, scoring 11 points (including a three-pointer from the corner) and handing out six assists in 22 minutes of playing time. Furthermore he was part of a most intriguing third-quarter combine that was directly responsible for the 17-point margin.
The team in question consisted of Dave Cowens at center, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale at forward and Perry and Chris Ford at guard. This crafty, aggressive quintet shredded a Nets' five of Eddie Jordan, Mike Newlin, Edgar Jones, Roger Phegley and Cliff Robinson with its passing, shooting, rebounding and general savoir faire.
"I don't want anybody buying tickets assuming that Perry is taking (Tiny) Archibald's job, or leading us to the promised land," asserted Fitch. "But he certainly played well offensively."
That both teams were interested in playing basketball rather than street ball is evident by the assist/basket ratio. The Celtic had 31 assists out of 40 baskets and the Nets had 37/39. The slim crowd of 2855 at the New Haven Coliseum probably went home not knowing how good an exhibition it really was.