CELTICS TOP ROCKETS, 133-119
Robert Parish, Chris Ford and Larry Bird combined for 72 points last night to lead the Celtics to a 133-119 win over the Houston Rockets for their sixth straight victory.
With Boston holding an 78-76 lead and 5:22 left in the third period, the Celtics ran off a 13-2 spurt to take a comfortable 91-78 lead. The closest Houston could get the rest of the way was 10 points, 101-91, early in the fourth quarter.
The teams were tied, 62-62, at halftime when the Celtics took command of the game, outscoring the Rockets, 33-23, in the quarter. Parish scored five of his 26 points in the 13-2 run and Ford added four of his season-high 23 to key the surge. Boston allowed only three Houston field goals in the last 5:41 of the third period.
Bird finished with 23 points, including 11 in the final period, when Boston built up its biggest lead, 111-96, midway through the quarter. The 133 points marked the Celtics' highest output of the season.
Houston, which has lost seven straight to Boston, was paced by Robert Reid, who led all scorers with 32 points, 19 in the first half. Moses Malone contributed 15 and Calvin Murphy added 14.
For a half that provided 14 ties and 16 lead changes, the first two quarters of play yielded no real sustained excitement and not much quality team play, either. It was, to be frank, the NBA as its critics view it, with points seemingly coming too easy in a game devoid of passion.
Two free throws by Calvin Murphy with 34 seconds left created a 62-62 halftime score. Boston had led by nine points at 29-20 with 2:19 left in the first quarter after a nice fast break run that was on the verge of breaking open the game. But when Larry Bird missed an open corner jumper at that juncture, and when Robert Reid followed with a second-chance three-point jump hook, Houston was able to bounce off the ropes and get itself back into the game.
The game's close, but uninspired, nature was evident from the beginning, as the clubs went through four ties and four lead changes through 17-16, Houston. The most interesting thing that had happened to this point was a technical foul called on Moses Malone, who didn't like the second foul called on him by referee Joe Crawford. Mo departed with 7:51 left in the quarter and his team ahead by a 10-9 count. He did return to help the team in the second quarter, however.
The Celtics had nice scoring balance in the first quarter, but they were unable to contain their guests, especially Mr. Reid, who popped in 19 first- half points. With Murphy bounding off the bench to score eight quickies, the Rockets fought back from that nine-point deficit, re-taking the lead at 33-32 on a Bill Paultz hook that evoked a respectful ooh-and-aah reaction from the crowd.
It's hard to explain why a game with 124 points was so dull, but it was. The clubs just didn't have their full heart and soul in this game, and what the Celtics needed entering the second half was a spark from somebody.
Houston arrived seeking to erase the stigma of being swept into the Gulf of Mexico by the 1979-80 Celtics. Boston took all six regular season games between the two (many of them being decided late) and then blew the Rockets out in four straight in the playoffs. Houston has since switched to the Western Conference due to realignment and thus last night's affair marked Houston's only regular season visit to the Garden this season . . . Larry Bird's recent rebounding surge has boosted his per-game average close to 11 grabs a game. He had hoped to average 12 or 13 a game this year, and he may if he boards the way he has in the past nine games . . . Calvin Murphy missed two games with a sprained ankle and then saw limited action against San Antonio, the Rockets' last foe, due to matchup problems . . . The Celtics are playing to 93 1/2 percent capacity in the Garden this year after 14 dates. This ratio trails only Portland (100 percent) and Milwaukee (97 percent), and no matter how often it's printed it's still difficult to grasp. Remember when this was strictly a hockey town? . . . The Celtics' 23 victories included 14 by 10 or more points. Boston was 3-3 in games decided by two points or less, 4-5 in games of four and under and 6-5 in games of five and under. Bill Fitch always says that if a team wins half of its close games it will be doing well.
Moses Malone came here with a string of 184 consecutive games in double figures, dating back to Nov. 1, 1978, when the Warriors kept him from dubs . . . Speaking of dubs, Robert Parish missed twin figures on Wednesday for only the fourth time this season, and the first time in 21 games . . . Houston has added free agent Bill Willoughby recently, and he has been starting up front . . . Boston had only lost one Garden game this year, and that by two points to Milwaukee with a controversial no-call ending . . . Isn't the All- Star voting wonderful? Thanks to Atlanta's ballot stuffing, Tree Rollins leads the East centers. Thanks to Utah's, Ben Poquette, the second worst starting center in the NBA (hi there, Scott Lloyd), is third among West centers and Ron Boone, who doesn't start and who looks every second of his 34 years, is fourth among guards . . . Since the Celtics were limited to four spots and Dave Cowens had not yet announced his retirement, Robert Parish, the East's best center thus far, is not even on the ballot. Let us hope that he and Jamaal Wilkes (nowhere in the West forward balloting in his greatest year) will receive their due from the coaches.