Missed Opportunities Come Back to Bite C's

October 24, 1980

The Knicks deserved it. They fought back twice, and they finally took it home when Bill Cartwright blocked Chris Ford's weak little pop shot with three seconds left to preserve a 109-107 overtime decision over the Celtics before 12,941 at the Hartford Civic Center last night.

The Celtics should have won in regulation, but they didn't. They should have won in overtime, but they didn't. Costly errors on defense hurt them on both occasions. In addition, Cedric Maxwell, a hero the night before in a similar situation, missed the second of two vital free throw attempts with 16 seconds remaining in regulation when a make would have given the Celtics an insurmountable four-point lead.

That miss haunted the Celtics when Ray Williams emerged from a Knick timeout and swished a three-pointer at the 11-second mark - in traffic, yet. That gave New York the unique distinction of making two shots in the final two minutes, both being three-pointers.

Boston held overtime leads of 103-99 and 107-105, but New York came back to score easily each time. The latter situation was the most important one, for with 1:24 to play, the Celtics had the lead and Bill Fitch had on the floor what was supposed to be his defensive unit. He had just inserted M.L. Carr and Gerald Henderson for Ford and Tiny (13 assists) Archibald.

But Henderson proceeded to make three big mistakes in the span of 47 seconds. He dropped a pass out of bounds that would have represented Boston possession after the Robert Parish rebound of a Cartwright miss; he allowed Michael Ray Richardson to slip in unmolested for the tying layup on the subsequent in-bounds pass; and he hit the side of the backboard with a jumper on the next Boston offensive sequence.

Campy Russell (25), a strong offensive performer throughout, stuck in the game-winner, an 18-footer from the right side at the 18-second mark. The Celtics had one more chance, but Larry Bird and Archibald couldn't get off the shots. The ball came to Ford, and Cartwright made him eat it. That was that.

Larry Bird's three-pointer from the right-hand corner with 10 seconds remaining in the half capped a big Celtic period and sent the Green and White into the locker room holding a 55-53 halftime advantage.

The Celtics had trailed by as many as 14 points (24-10) in the first period, but they regained their composure and out-played New York thoroughly in the second 12 minutes. Tiny Archibald's penetration, Kevin McHale's inside defensive play (three more blocks for the rookie big man) and Bird's late shooting spree turned the tide in a fast-paced, if somewhat sloppy, display of basketball.

Boston got right to it in the second period. Trailing by eight (31-23) when the period began, they moved to within three at 33-30 and then hung tough before grabbing their initial lead of the game at 42-41 on a Bird banked runner down the lane. There were nine subsequent lead exchanges in the next four minutes before Bird, who hit his last four shots of the half, dropped in his second three-pointer of the season to provide the Celtics with that small halftime edge.

The Knicks had quickly demonstrated that their division-leading record was no mistake by moving into their 24-10 lead. A late Boston surge succeeded in bringing the so-called "home" team within eight points (31-23) by the quarter's end.

At the outset, Boston was beaten in every manner. New York shot, rebounded and defended better, and also seemed to get every loose ball. Boston's team reactions were very slow, as several times in the period a Celtic either dropped a rebound that was his or could not handle a well-thrown pass.

New York led from 2-0, and the Celtics would only come within two once in the remainder of the period, that being 4-2.

The key NY blitz was a run of 14-4 in just 3:37 that gave them their 14- point bulge with 4:08 left in the period. It was no coincidence that Boston's turnaround commenced with the entrance into the ball game of Archibald, who did some penetrating and who simply enlivened a dead Boston offense.

New York unloaded its full weaponry in that first eight minutes. Ray Williams and Campy Russell hit their bombs. Cartwright hit his turnarounds. Michael Ray Richardson pushed the ball up. Sly Williams joined Cartwright in an assault on the offensive boards that would net the New Yorkers eight points.

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