Rookie McHale Impresses Yet Again

November  1980


The Portland Trail Blazers are that most perplexing of all athletic teams, an aggregation whose whole is far less than the sum of its parts.

Many players on this team are coveted around the league. The coach is well respected. But they are an absolute mess at present (7-16), and when they leave the state of Oregon they are an embarrassment, as a Garden crowd of 14,603 learned last evening.

Woe be to he or she who was stuck in traffic and missed any of the first six minutes of last night's game. Hardly had George Adams finished warbling the anthem (and warble is what he does, all right) when this contest was over. The Celtics scored the first eight points of the game, and the only thing that passed for a crisis thereafter came when the second-half margin dipped under 25 points. The final tally was Boston 126, Trail Blazers 101.

It was the 11th consecutive road setback for the Trail Blazers, who are the only winless road team in the NBA (yes, even Dallas sneaked up on Seattle one evening), and who have now, counting last year's playoffs, dropped 15 consecutive games away from home over a two-season span.

Boston's early dominance was awesome. The Celtics missed scoring on their first possession, but they came right back by running off five consecutive fast breaks, good for a quick 8-0 lead and the first Portland time out of a dreary evening. In the first 2:15 of the game, the Trail Blazers had two turnovers and Larry Bird (24 points) had blocked a Mychal Thompson shot.

The first period yielded scores such as 21-3 (the second Portland time out), 31-10, 37-14 and, finally, 39-18 at the period's end. The Celtics were whipping the ball around in last season's manner, racking up eight assists on their first nine baskets. Other interesting first period stats included 18 fast break points (on 11-for-15 efficiency) and 65 percent shooting (15-for- 23).

It was not a night for individuals, as Bird led a parade of seven double- figure scorers. At various times Bird, Robert Parish (15 of his 21 in the first half) Gerry Henderson and Kevin McHale took turns pleasing the crowd.

McHale's first half was worthy of comment. He entered the game with the Celtics holding a 31-10 lead, and he wound up equalling his season's, and therefore his career, high of 13 points in the next 6:42. He started off by beating Bobby Gross on a beautiful up-fake and dip-in scoop along the baseline, and he continued along with a variety of followup shots, reverse baseline layups and other power moves.

Perhaps the most outstanding basketball play of the first quarter, however, was a classy display by Gross. After driving the lane to make the score 23-8, Boston, he immediately hustled back downcourt to block an attempted sneakaway layup attempt by Rick Robey, a man five inches taller. It was a play reminiscent of Portland's salad days, and it should have served as an inspiration to the others. Sadly, it did not.

Actually, effort was not Portland's problem. They are a confused ballclub. They don't take good shots and they don't help out on defense very much, either. Their bodies and minds don't seem to be in synch at all.

This was obviously no night to judge the Celtics, who were nothing more than the fortunate beneficiaries of the schedule. The Celtics did many good things out there, but Portland's resistance was so weak in the early stages that the Bostonians might just as well have been playing Detroit in an exhibition in Billerica.

Nonetheless, the fans went home with something to talk about, whether it was Bird's 11-for-16, 7-assist performance, or Parish's latest impressive effort or one of McHale's four blocks. What the Portland televiewers talked about is a matter of conjecture.

1 comment:

FLCeltsFan said...

ah the Trailblazers who a few years later will be the answer to a trivia question. The only team to beat the Celtics at home in 86.

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