November 16, 1980
They're nowhere near peak form, but somehow the Celtics have been able to grind out victories. Even the loss of M.L. Carr (they're 6-2 without him after being 4-3 with him) has been overcome.
Friday's 126-102 triumph over New Jersey was basically in keeping with the style the Celtics established during two weeks at home. In victories over Kansas City, Washington and New Jersey the Celtics played very spotty ball. They had to come from 14 down to defeat KC. They blew a 20-point lead to Washington before answering with 15 in a row. A 14-point third-period lead over the Nets was whittled to 6 early in the fourth period before the Celtics again stepped on the gas and won by 24.
They have been in all 15 games. Their losses have been by 6, 4, 4, 2 and 1, with two coming in OT. They controlled the game in four of their five losses. They could be 14-1 despite having yet to play a solid two-way game for 36 minutes, let alone 48.
The Celtics' tremendous frontcourt depth has made the difference in several games, and it will continue to be their calling card. A remarkable aspect of their eminently respectable record is that Larry Bird has played three, maybe four, games the Larry Bird of 1979-80 would have been proud of. His shooting and his passing - he has racked up a whopping 64 turnovers - have been sub-par. The question therefore arises: If the Celtics can get by with Bird being somebody else, what will happen when he again starts being Bird, as he will?
Bird remains the key man, but this is hardly a one-man team, especially up front. Robert Parish has turned in a number of strong performances, for example. The team is going to him, and he seems to enjoy the responsibility. But the key man this past week has been Cedric Maxwell. He is again playing his unique game, having shot 71 percent (24-34) the past three games.
When any of the above falter, Bill Fitch can call on the likes of Rick Robey and Kevin McHale. Imagine the luxury of a mobile 6-foot-11, 6-10 bench duo.
The backcourt seems to be stabilizing, now that Gerald Henderson (9, 12 and 10 in his last three games) has begun to play better basketball. The brass still has eyes and ears open for guard help, but in no sense is anyone in a panic mood.
The road again beckons. Three of the next four games will be away, starting Tuesday in Chicago. They will play the Indiana Pacers in a televised game Wednesday before returning Friday to face Golden State. They will conclude a busy week Saturday against the Cavaliers in Richfield Township.
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