CELTICS STREAK TO 7TH, 107-102
This was work. This was messy. This was a good win, because the Cleveland Cavaliers really aren't as bad a team as people think they are.
Breaking away in the final 2:12 as Larry Bird seemed to do whatever appeared necessary to insure a victory, the Boston Celtics staggered off with a 107-102 triumph over the Cavaliers before 5028 diehards at the Coliseum.
The aggressive Cavaliers utilized 10 fourth-period second-chance points to erase a 93-84 Boston lead and pull into a tie at 99 apiece on two Randy Smith free throws with 2:12 remaining. But the Celtics rolled up their metaphorical sleeves and went to work.
Bird, who finished with 21 hard-earned points and 20 rugged rebounds, fed Cedric Maxwell with one of his corner-of-the-eye bullets for the tie-breaking layup. Next followed a key possession. Gerald Henderson and Tiny Archibald double-teamed Randy Smith, who had to get rid of the ball. The Celtics rotated artfully, leaving newly-acquired Mack Calvin with a flat 20-footer over a switching Bird.
Robert Parish (24) followed up his own miss with a pair of free throws to make it 103-99 with 1:11 left. Bird took over from there, twice rebounding missed Cavalier three-pointers and throwing in a pair of foul shots with 39 seconds left to clinch the game.
The victory was Boston's seventh in succession and it enabled them to avenge a November 22 setback in this building.
Struggling from the outset to shake the pesky Cavaliers, the Celtics had to settle for a 58-52 halftime lead.
Cleveland totally shut down the Boston running game, allowing the Celtics only one fast-break basket in the entire first period. They likewise were able to keep Boston from dominating the boards, keeping the Celts to an 11-6 advantage in second-chance points. Offensively, the Cavs milked the sensational all-around play of Kenny Carr, the smooth 6-7 forward who scored 18 first-half points while limiting Larry Bird to four.
The clubs battled on the closest of terms. Another hyperbolic statement, you say? Then try these facts: Until Robert Parish's hustling follow-up three- point play with 8:10 remaining in the half, neither team could go ahead by more than two points. There were 11 ties through 22-all in the first period, followed by 10 lead changes in the next 2:42, climaxed by Mike Bratz' buzzer- beater that created a 32-31 Cavalier one-period lead.
They battled through five more lead changes before Parish gave the Celtics a 41-38 lead on his three-pointer. The Celtics proceeded to establish mild control, accumulating a 49-42 lead at one point before the Cavs fought back to come within two at 52-50. That encroachment came with 1:56 on a pair of Carr free throws, but Kevin McHale came right back with a beautiful left-handed tap-in, followed by a left-corner jumper by Terry Duerod. Mike Mitchell and Rick Robey each canned a pair of free throws to finish off the halftime scoring.
The game had little personality, consisting of some decent perimeter shooting by the Cavs and some solid inside play by Boston. Parish tossed in 16 points with his usual variety of moves, while Tiny Archibald added 11. About the only interesting aspect in this half were two goaltending calls on Parish in the first period. The Big Fella is usually a no-muss, no-fuss shot blocker.
The Celtics had not forgotten their last visit to the Richfield Coliseum. It was on November 22, and the Cavs defeated them convincingly, 113-98. Many people feel that triumph saved Musselman's job . . . Larry Bird has averaged 13 rebounds a game over his last 10 games, and his 40-68 shooting in his previous four games hiked his drooping shooting percentage to .474 . . . The Cavalier drawing the most recent raves was forward Kenny Carr, who did more than anyone else to insure the aforementioned Cavalier victory last month and who had a season-high 31 points and a game-high 17 rebounds on Thursday as the Cavs defeated Denver (Boston's Garden foe on Tuesday), 130-122 . . . Bratz had a season-high 23 points in that game, along with eight assists . . . Cavalier fans have been deprived of a great basketball treat. After 17 games and 169 minutes, noted foul-shooting demon Kim Hughes had yet to head for the line. He may be the only NBA player in history that John Hummer could look down upon when it came to foul shooting.