November 29, 1980
This game was reason enough to own a home video recorder. You could just picture a Celtic junkie sliding this tape into his apparatus on July 4.
The Celtics were so good at times that the championship flags stood up and saluted. They were so sloppy and bumbling at times that Bill Fitch had all he could do not to send one of his assistants out for a shotgun. Most of all they were aggressive, gutsy, human, lovable and tall. Very, very tall.
The Garden crowd of 15,320 was sent home exhilarated last night by the most dazzling Celtic display of the season, a 120-106 triumph over a good Knick team that simply could not contend with Boston's size, passing and fast- breaking. The game was broken open in a memorable third period in which the Celtics scored 37 points and produced two heroes. Boston later expanded the lead to as many as 17 points (105-88, 107-90 and 109-92) before stumbling a bit (109-100 with 4:49 left). But they had one more crowd-pleasing run left in their system, and the game ended with Wayne Kreklow getting off the schneid one second before the final buzzer to create the final score.
This game was no stroll through Paragon Park for the Celtics. Despite ripping off 18 fast-break points in the first period - now that's a bunch of running points, son - they could only pull ahead by two (35-33) at the quarter's end. Despite leading by 11 (58-47) with Larry Bird in the backcourt in the second period, they could only stagger into the locker room leading by one (62-61). And a minute or so into the third period, they still were ahead by a solitary point (66-65), and nobody in attendance was thinking anything other than it would be nice to escape with a victory, by any score.
Then Cedric Maxwell simply took over the game. Max had scored just six points while playing the entire first half, and he was at that point the leading candidate for the Lamont Cranston Award. Suddenly, he was playing HORSE by himself.
He began his streak as soon as Campy Russell hit a banker to create that 66-65 score. Max promptly sneaked away from the smooth Knick forward for an easy basket, and these would prove to be the first two of nine consecutive Maxwell points. The next three came on a Havlicekian shovel job while driving across the lane. Twenty seconds later, he was dropping in a jump hook and Red Holzman was calling a timeout.
His final two came after Robert Parish ripped down one of his game-high 15 rebounds to start a fast break. Max finished his burst with yet another two- hand power drive to give the Celtics a 75-65 lead. His final basket of the quarter was the most authoritative. It was a soaring, crashing dunk after breaking through the New York press.
Speaking of Parish, to say that he played a superb game is to risk a "what else is new?" response. "To me," said Fitch, "Robert played another great ballgame." The numbers - 17 points, 15 bounds, 5 blocks, 7-for-10 shooting - are simply inadequate to describe how greatly he outplayed his counterpart, Bill Cartwright (15 points, 10 rebounds). You really had to be there. Or else own a video recorder.
You also had to be there to see the full effectiveness of Kevin McHale's spectacular show. The Rook checked in with career highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds, scoring eight of those points and grabbing seven of those rebounds in the pivotal third period. Along with Parish, Larry Bird (14 rebounds), Rick Robey (8 rebounds) and Maxwell (7 rebounds), he helped the Celtics impose near-total inside dominance over the Knicks.
"They outrebounded us, 56-31," said Holzman, "and it killed us. They have a lot of big guys banging and they really got out on the break."
Another big factor was the way Tiny Archibald ran the team in the first period. The little guy was a suitable facsimile of his '73 self as he blew by Michael Ray Richardson in both transition and half-court situations, many times finishing off the play with an acrobatic drive. He and Chris Ford (11 points and a three-pointer that gave the team a helpful eight-point third- period margin) divvied up 13 assists as the Celtics passed their way to 36 feeds, a very high number.
This was a four-star entertainment spectacle, what the NBA would like to be every night in every arena. New York did a lot of good things, but the difference was the great size and awesome dexterity of Boston's frontcourt. This game was to the Wednesday fiasco with Portland what "Hamlet" is to "Three's Company."