PARISH PREYS ON HAWKS
Don't blame Robert Parish for feeling as if he's on Cloud Nine. One day he learns he's been named NBA Player of the Week. And the next night, he shows why.
And it goes far beyond Parish's career-high 33 points that helped the Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks, 106-101, last night before 12,513 screaming fans at the Garden.
With Golden State, Parish was something less than one of the league's top big men despite a 17-point scoring average.Parish is focal point of a demoralizing band of shot blockers and power barons that is gaining an awesome reputation.
He has become the Celtics' shot-blocking master, a talent that rubbed off on his teammates, most notably rookie Kevin McHale, but also Cedric Maxwell and Larry Bird. They blocked only six shots last night, but the constant intimidation kept the Hawks shooting long jump shots.
Parish has also reclaimed his scoring touch, adding a new-found aggressive spirit around the basket to his repertoire of shots, including the mile-high jumper. It was a combination of defensive and offensive feats that earned him rare praise from Red Auerbach, the man who decided last spring he'd rather have Parish than rookie Joe Barry Carroll, the league's No. 1 draft choice. And Auerbach was talking about a center who came to Boston thinking he would be a backup to Dave Cowens and Rick Robey.
"Robert has changed his game and I don't think there's anyone I ever traded for who did that. He's playing under control and his defense has been impressive," said Auerbach.
"Parish did an excellent job," Atlanta coach Hubie Brown said after his team lost its second game at the Garden this year. "He is playing much better here than he was at Golden State, but there is a reason. The Celtics are the most unselfish team in the league, and they are also the best passing team.
"Normally, you start passing the ball around, and teams rotate on defense. That leaves somebody open and two things normally happen - either somebody shoots it or they can't make the pass and do something else. Boston, however, has great passers and unselfish players who keep on working and get him the ball inside. He's probably gotten it more here in one month than he's gotten in three years at Golden State." Parish remains low key about winning the NBA weekly award.
"It did come as a surprise to me," he said. "I thought there were a lot better players in the league."
You wouldn't have thought that in the final 13 minutes of last night's game.
Bird and McHale were at forward. Tiny Archibald, who played 43 minutes, was at guard along with Gerry Henderson.
Bird, Parish and Henderson wound up scoring 34 of the last 37 points. Bird (13) and Henderson combined for 21, mostly from long range or on the gallop. With breathing room, Parish hit 13 of his game-high 33.
"The combination we had out there in the last 13 minutes was the best one we felt we could put out there," said Fitch. "I can think of maybe three mistakes. But outside of that, they played nearly perfect. We had to go inside tonight and get our points. And we put ourselves in a bad spot in the third period by not hitting any outside shots.
"They outscored us, 13-2, at one point, and the only shot we made was a stuff by Robey that nearly came out. But we decided if they were going to beat us it would be with 20-footers. (Charlie) Criss and (Jim) McElroy made a lot of those shots to keep them in it. But we were not going to let them beat us inside.
"Larry got going in the fourth period, and Gerry put in some key hoops to loosen them up. That allowed Parish to play better on both ends of the court. Gerry made one bad shot and I wanted to take him out. But he came back and made a key basket the next time down that kept our lead. That helped a lot."
McHale said a halftime tip from the coaches helped shut off Roundfield (only six second-half points).
"Roundfield was getting open because I wasn't aware of a pick they were setting for him inside," said McHale. "In the second half, I was able to slide around the pick, and then I just mostly tried to stay up on him and keep a hand in his face. I've got big hands and I tipped a few. Nobody likes to shoot with somebody hanging in front of them."
Parish likes that.
"That's why I go for so many balls," he said. "I know if I miss the ball, there is Max, Kevin and even Larry back there to block. It's a good feeling."
And so is winning.
"It's not the 33 points I'm happy about," said Parish. "It's winning. That's the difference between here and Golden State. This team is a winner and the guys are so unselfish. That makes me work that much harder."