And the damn thing wasn't on Boston TV.
The Celtics were (pick one) awesome, spectacular, scintillating, breathtaking, magnifique, or maybe even immortal, for some 19 minutes last night, resulting in a sweet destruction of the Phoenix Suns, 116-97.
A bewildered, perennially ignorant Veterans Coliseum gathering of 12,666 was subjected to the gruesomeness of its 32-8 team being trampled in the second half after having taken a 13-point, 62-49 lead into the locker room.
The Celtics, who have now won seven straight road games and 11 straight overall, practically laughed at the halftime deficit, outscoring the Suns, 38-20, in the third quarter and by a 29-15 margin in the last period. That adds up to a whopping 67-35 second-half Boston advantage on the Suns' own floor.
What the loyal Boston fans missed seeing was a second half in which the Celtics came together at both ends of the floor as well as in any game this season. The Celtics performance followed a second quarter in which the Green and White bordered on collapse, falling from a 30-30 one-period standoff to a 62-49 halftime deficit. The Suns were beating the Celtics in every major category except shooting percentage. The Suns owned the offensive boards, where they managed to compile a 12-5 edge in second-chance points.
The Celtics got started on the road to recovery when Robert Parish (essentially a first-half spectator - 0-for-3 from the floor, 1 rebound in 6 minutes) pumped in 8 points in the first 3:26 to get Boston within seven at 68-61. This was the spark the Celtics needed.
By the end of the third quarter, Parish's totals had risen to 15 points, Larry Bird (who did not take a shot during the 38-point quarter) had seven assists (six in the period), Chris Ford had connected on the final two of his four 3-point field goals, Tiny Archibald (25 points, 10 assists) had 20 points and the Celtics had and 87-82 lead.
"We weren't sitting in the locker room thinking we were beaten because we're down by 13," said Bill Fitch. "We just didn't think we were as bad as we looked in the second period. The idea was to cut the lead in half by the middle of the third period and then make our run."
The idea wasn't bad, folks, because midway through the third quarter the lead was down to three (76-73), and, yes, the Celtics then did make a truly big run.
Phoenix was two entirely different teams in this game. In the first half you had to wonder how they ever could lose. Guards Dennis Johnson (30) and Walter Davis (18) were having their own way offensively, John MacLeod's bench, led by Johnny High and Jeff Cook was doing its accustomed solid job. The Suns finished the half with an 11-4 run, capped by a Davis 17-footer with 6 seconds left, and they pranced off the court.
Ah, but in the second half the Suns were a miserably disorganized group that had you wondering how they ever won a game. The Celtics asserted themselves on the boards, led by Bird (10 rebounds), Parish and Rick Robey, whose 13 points and seven tough rebounds, hardly conveyed his impact on this game. The Suns could get neither inside nor outside on the fast break. They began launching bombs, resulting in a 5-for-22 third quarter. By the late stages of the game, the Suns reached to pathetic heaves as they desperately tried to get back into the game.
If there was a critical jump shot in the last quarter it came at 95-88. The Suns were still alive at this point, and the assumption was they had one good run left. But Robey went up as high as he could ever dream of jumping to stuff an offensive rebound to his armpit as the Celtic bench exploded. Bird (a Merriwellian 27 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 5 steals) swiped the ball and fed Robey for a sneakaway layup. Gerald Henderson next took a crisp Cedric Maxwell feed and banked in a 13-footer to finish off a quick 6-0 outburst. MacLeod promptly called a timeout - his last, with 5:53 left in the game - but his counsel did no good. Soon it was time to get out the abacus.
It was, in sum, vintage Celtic basketball. It was make-the-extra-pass, get-on-the-board, dig-in-on-defense basketball that good teams can play on the road.
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