McHale, Wedman, and DJ Lead C's to Victory

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 119, Nuggets 90
Record: 16-6

If the Denver Nuggets want to learn something about defense, they should ask the Celtics, who brought their bag of tricks to the Civic Center for the first time this season and put on a clinic.Even with Larry Bird on the bench with strained knee ligaments, the Celtics shut down the high-scoring Nuggets and rode a 34-19 surge in the second period a 119-90 victory last night before a crowd of 13,374.Denver was simply overmatched, and in the last 15 minutes threw in the towel as Boston rolled to its third straight victory and seventh in the last eight games.

Kevin McHale the Celtics with 21 points, and Scott Wedman and Dennis Johnson each added 15 points. But a damper was put on the Boston victory by the injury Bird, who left the game after the first quarter with strained ligaments of the left knee. He apparently slipped on a slick spot on the Civic Center floor, which had just been waxed yesterday morning. There was no immediate indication by Celtic trainer Ray Melchiorre as to the seriousness of Bird's injury.

"He slipped on a slick spot," said Melchiorre. "They should have toweled it off this morning, but they didn't." In fairness, Denver was operating short-handed after the second period. Veteran center Dan Issel came up with back spasms left the game and did not return. But that certainly didn't excuse his teammates, who were horrible in the second period, and worse in the third. Boston shot to a 26-point lead and never looked back. Bird had 17 points while he was in there, helping Boston to a 38-32 lead. McHale had nine points in the second quarter and 10 more in the third. After that, it was garbage time and Boston emptied its bench. With the Nuggets, you can always expect a track meet from the opening whistle, and they did not disappoint the huge crowd at the Civic Center.

In the first six minutes, the score was 21-17, and both teams had put on a shooting clinic. Dennis Johnson, Bird and Gerald Henderson led the Celtics' early surge. A three-point play by Henderson gave Boston a 17-12 lead. But a few minutes later, the lead was only 21-19 on four straight point by Denver's T.R. Dunn. Bird warmed up at this point, the next four baskets for the Celtics, who went ahead, 30-24. But with good shooting also came a little bad luck. Bird slipped and twisted his right knee on a wet spot on the floor, and suddenly had
trouble running the court. You couldn't tell immeidately how bad he was hurting. After Denver moved to within two points at 30-28, Bird fed Henderson for one basket, and scored another on a Henderson miss. Bird's 16-footer with 58 seconds left put Boston ahead by eight points before a quick surge by Denver cut the score at the quarter to 36-32.

Bird finished with 17 points in the first period, but was on the bench at the start of the second. Even without Bird, Boston was able to maintain its lead, going inside to Cedric Maxwell. After Denver moved to within four points, 40-36, Max scored four of the next five baskets as Boston's lead grew to 49-42. Baskets by Ernie Vandeweghe and Alex English, however, brought Denver back to within three at 49-46. Denver suffered some bad luck when Issel, who had been on fire in the first half, scoring 12 points, left the floor with back spasms. Maxwell went to the bench, but McHale came in and led Boston to an 11-2 run, and suddenly the Celtics were up by 12 points, 60-48. The lead grew to 64-49 on a hook shot by McHale and a fast-break layup by Johnson. Henderson's three-pointer with 45 seconds left pushed the lead to 19 points, and at halftime, Boston led, 72-51. McHale had nine points in the second period.

After a 34-19 second period, the Celtics might have been expected to ease up some. But they came out in the third period wih a 14-9 surge for an 86-60 lead. Parish, Maxwell and McHale took turns exploiting the Nuggets inside. Suddenly, the game had become a rout, and what appeared to be left was 15 minutes of garbage time. With two minutes left, Denver coach Doug Moe benched all his regulars as Boston boosted its lead to 98-70. The Celtics led after three quarters, 103-72. McHale had 10 points in the third period, and Boston shot a sizzling 70 percent from the field (12-17).

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