Celtics Survive Rick Barry's Torrent 4th Quarter
January 23, 1980
Only one thing ruined the moment for M.L. Carr. Cedric Maxwell, who has the locker next to Carr's, had heard a reporter ask a dumb question and couldn't wait to relay it.
"Did you hear what that guy asked Jeff?" said Maxwell, referring to teammate Jeff Judkins, who has the locker on the other side of his. "He asked him if he thinks he would be the one to be cut for Pete Maravich? How dumb can you be to ask a question like that?"
Carr merely nodded his head in agreement. He has been in locker rooms in troubled times for, it seems, his entire pro career, but his priority has always been to worry about the game first and let the off-court comings and goings happen as they may.
"Everybody on this team has a role," he was saying, trying hard to get back to the subject of Boston's 112-106 victory over Houston. "Some nights, I come off the bench to score. Tonight, I came off to play defense. Everybody has a job to do, and I try to do mine each and every night."
Carr was speaking as the ultimate pro. For it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the Celtics would sign Maravich and somebody would have to go. And, in fact, they did sign Maravich, and when he is able to come off the injured list, somebody will have to go.
But foremost in Carr's mind was the pride he felt for having stopped Houston's Rick Barry in the fourth quarter. Nothing that was happening was going to spoil that moment for him.
"I remember when I came into the game," said Carr. "The first thing I said to him was, the party's over. You don't get no more 3-pointers.' "
And it was his simple philosophy that turned what had been a stirring comeback by the Rockets, who once trailed by 22 points (77-55) into a Celtic victory. Carr shadowed Barry all over the court, to the sidelines when he chatted with coach Del Harris, and would have gone into the Rockets huddle if the rules would have allowed it.
"You talk aboout a key to a game," coach Bill Fitch would say later. "It had to be putting Carr on Barry. He became Lamont Cranston Jr. The Stopper. He took Rick right out of the things he wanted to do at a time when Barry was hot and wanted the ball."
The Celtics didn't really plan to use Carr to guard Rick Barry last night.
Larry Bird was doing a decent enough job for three quarters and Barry had only six points. But the former ABA star, who made the 3-point goal a living spectacle early in his career, cut loose in the final period, scoring 17 of his 23 points. Nine of them came on three straight 3-pointers. In fact, he scored 11 straight points at one juncture and it was two free throws by Barry that tied the game at 97.
"Larry just wasn't able to handle Barry," said Fitch. "But I knew that when I sent him in. I just told him to stay in there long enough for M.L to get a blow. When M.L. told me he was ready, I sent him in."
"We were in trouble. Our plan was to take advantage of their lack of speed and of Moses Malone. When Moses was covering Dave (Cowens), we shot from outside. When Moses was covering Maxwell, we ran. But it became a different game when Dave got hurt and Moses took over inside. Then Barry got hot, and we had to do something."
Something meant M.L. Carr.
"I decided to concentrate strictly on Barry," said Carr. "When he went around the court, I went around the court. When he went to the coach, I went to the coach. When he got a glass of water, I got a glass of water.
"What I wanted to do was deny him the ball and I don't think he touched it after he sank those two free throws. Me guarding him upset everything they seemed to be trying to do . . . the whole pattern of their offense."
Having Carr as Barry's shadow meant Houston was forced to use its half- court game, reduced to four-on-four basketball. The Rockets have neither the speed or overall ballhandling skill to match up with Celtics in that style of play. Three bad plays in a row led to a 105-101 lead, and the Celtics never looked back.
"We didn't take advantage of Boston at that point of the game," said Barry. "I mean M.L. took himself out of the team defense entirely and we should have gotten the ball inside. But we didn't do it."
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