PARISH THE CHIEF IN 119-104 ROUT
Larry Whiteside Globe Staff
The only word that fits when speaking of Robert Parish last night was awesome. You tell yourself one night he has given the Celtics all he has, and the next night he goes out and gives a little bit more.
Seldom has there been an exhibition of rare intimidation like the one Parish put on last night in the Celtics' 119-104 rout of the New Jersey Nets at the Garden. To score 29 points, grab 18 rebounds and block seven shots against the Sisters of the Poor is a notable achievement. But to do it in the clutch with Larry Bird saddled with foul trouble is, frankly, remarkable.
Forget about the final score. The Celtics led at one time by 29 points and finally got a chance to let their reserves shake out the cobwebs down the stretch. Terry (Do-It) Duerod delighted the crowd of 12,687 by scoring 12 points in his first prolonged tour of duty.
Remember the nickname "Chief." That's the name the Celtics have given to Parish for the way he seems to take over the middle, particularly on defense, and last night was no exception. Yes, it did remind you of a guy named Russell.
It was Poster Night for Larry Bird, and he did wind up with 15 points. But he was on the bench after three minutes of the first quarter with three personal fouls and a $100 payroll deduction, courtesy of referee Jack Nies. So the Celtics looked to their 7-foot center, who went to work and had 18 points and 12 rebounds in his first 17 minutes.
Boston actually was slow in getting started and trailed at one point, 15-14. But then Parish broke loose for 8 of the next 11 Celtic points and a 25-19 lead at the quarter. The lead grew to 51-42 by halftime, and the Nets faded completely in the third period when they failed to score a basket for the first 5:29. The Celtics then built a 62-49 lead to 29 points, 94-65, with 9:04 to go. Parish added 11 more points and six rebounds in the third period and took the rest of the night off.
New Jersey did reel off 41 points in the final minutes, a classic of garbage-time. In fact, not even the scoreboard man could keep track at the end (many people went home thinking it was a 118-105 victory). Mike O'Koren wound up as high man for the Nets with 18 points.
But more than anything it was a show. The Robert Parish Show.
"I knew he had improved," said Nets' coach Kevin Loughery, "and I don't like to make judgments on the basis of one game. But he was awesome tonight. He was the most intimidating factor I've seen in a long time. And he was that way on both ends of the floor."
Parish, actually, wasn't all that happy about his play, even though he seemed to intimidate rookie Mike Gminski and veterans Maurice Lucas and Bob Elliott every time they came near the basket.
"We really didn't play good defense in the first half," said The Chief. "The difference in the second half was that we did, and it enabled us to get our fast break going."
Having Bird back wasn't the worst thing to happen to the Celtics. He was dead on target, hitting 7 of 10 from the field in 17 minutes. Boston outscored New Jersey, 32-21, time and time again scoring on opportunity baskets. The Nets had upset Portland and Phoenix recently, hitting outside shots and running a very deliberate offense. With Boston applying defensive pressure, they never really got started.
"Larry came back in the second half," said Fitch, "and that's the sign of a real pro. He was filling the lane, holding back like a safety and being very patient. He was pulling up for his jumpers like Sam Jones."
And Robert Parish is playing like The Chief.
"I'm playing in the pits now," said Parish. "And winning helps me play with more intensity. When you're playing in the pits, you can be more aggressive . . . and I am."