November 1, 1980
After spotting a hot shooting Kansas City ballclub an 11-point halftime lead, the Celtics came storming back with a 60 percent third-period shooting spree that opened the gates for a 115-110 triumph before 14,035 at the Garden last night.
The first sub-capacity basketball gathering the Garden had seen in 23 playing dates probably wished the Celtics had stayed in Pontiac after witnessing some of Boston's first-half antics. For a while, it seemed as if every Boston miscue was being turned into a Kansas City basket, especially since the visitors shot a dazzling 63 percent from the floor in the first half.
But the Celtics responded to the pleas of the enthusiastic crowd by blasting the Kings off the floor in the third period. The Boston defense improved. Larry Bird led a board assault. Cedric Maxwell, along with Bird the cowinner of the nightly MVP award, started to squirm free underneath, scoring 12 of his team-high 24 points. The result was a 23-9 period-opening spurt that turned the 64-53 KC halftime lead into a 76-73 Boston advantage.
It was 88-85 after three quarters, and the Celtics had established control of the game. The victors would eventually lead by as many as 10 points on six occasions, but there was some anxiety before it was over. In fact, the Celtics neatly squandered a 112-102 lead with 2:43 left, and they needed a third- chance basket by Robert Parish with seven seconds left to wrap the game up.
With 32 seconds left and Boston clinging to a 113-110 lead, Parish had a shot rejected by Sam Lacey. The ball went to Bird, who had to throw up a wild right-corner shot to beat the clock. The ball hit the right side of the backboard, but Parish was there to retrieve it and lay it in to create the final score.
The Kings hardly could have done more things en route to a 64-53 halftime lead over the frustrated Celtics. KC shot well - make that sensationally. The Kings hustled on the boards and played enough good defense to dominate play during the last 19 minutes of the half. Boston held but two leads in the half, temporary advantages of 9-8 and 11-10. The Kings forced the action in the remainder of the first two periods.
The Celtics had particular difficulty containing three Kings. Otis Birdsong had arrived here as the No. 3 scorer in the league, and the Garden fans quickly discovered why as he dropped in 12 of his 19 first-half points in the opening period. Scott Wedman, the smooth cornerman, matched that total as the Kings canned 26 of their first 41 attempts over the first 17 minutes.
A third Celtic tormentor was center Lacey, who dissected Bill Fitch's second-quarter unit with his beautiful high-post passing. The big fellow relieved a foul-plagued Leon Douglas and was instrumental as the Kings expanded a 35-28 one-quarter lead into a second-period advantage that peaked at 14 on three occasions during the final five minutes of the half.
Throughout the first half, Boston displayed the sloppy ballhandling that has practically become its calling card. The Celtics were guilty of over- passing on far too many occasions, and the opportunistic Kings made them pay for these errors with fast-break baskets.
The final coup came when a long rebound went to Reggie King and he canned a shot an instant before the buzzer to send the Kings off the floor with that nice 11-point lead.