Bulls hand Streaking C's an L

January 30, 1981



Tiny Archibald knows better than most that life in the NBA can be a grind. But for him, losing still comes hard.

"I think what it finally came down to," he was saying last night in the wake of the Celtics 108-85 loss to the Bulls - their worst of the season - "is that we left our game in Boston. We felt we had accomplished something in finally catching up and beating Philadelphia. But it doesn't always work out the way you figure, because we also had to beat a good Chicago team tonight, and we couldn't do it. They were keyed up and came out that way. If nothing else, they proved to themselves that, should we meet in a playoff situation, they are capable of beating us."

And the implications go far beyond last night, added Archibald. After the All-Star break, the Celtics play 14 of the next 18 games on the road.

"Now it means we have to start the second half of the season with Philadelphia and Milwaukee on the road, and a tough Indiana team back home. It's not going to be easy for us. But I don't think you'll find anyone on this team giving up just because our streak came to an end."

The morning line, simply stated, was that Boston's 13-game winning streak had come to a predictable end. The Chicago Bulls, hell bent on vengeance after a five straight losses to the Celtics, came out steaming in the second half and handed Boston its second defeat in 27 games.

Considering the fact that the Celtics had played a very tough game the night before in beating the 76ers for first-place bragging rights in the Atlantic Divivion, what happened last night was understandable.

But, for the players, there were no excuses.

"The bottom line," said Celtic center Robert Parish, "is simply that they wanted it more tonight than we did. We didn't run particularly well. We got beat in the transition game after the first half. They took the game right to us."

No one would have blamed Celtic coach Bill Fitch if he had cited injuries to key players for the loss. Larry Bird played only two minutes in the second half because he was still hurting from being kicked during Wednesday's game with the Sixers; Parish had a sore foot, and Cedric Maxwell had assorted ailments. But Fitch would have no talk of either the schedule or the injuries as being factors in last night's outcome.

What was particularly irritating, he said, was that the Celtics allowed a 41-39 lead in the second quarter be turned into a 53-41 deficit at the half. With that incentive, Chicago went on to hand Boston its worst defeat here since a 134-113 trouncing almost 10 years ago.

"It wasn't just Bird," said Fitch. "We knew he would have trouble because of his bruised thigh and hip. We knew we'd played a tough game the night before. But if I thought this club didn't have a chance to win every night, I'd send my two assistant coaches out here and I'd stay at the hotel.

"The turning point of the game was not the loss of Bird, but the fact that some people whom you needed to come in an pick up the slack off the bench didn't get the job done. We were flat at the beginning of the game and we stayed that way all night. But if you're going to give us credit for the way we handle certain teams, then give credit to the Bulls. The beat us, period."

In fact, added Fitch, it was almost embarrassing.

"It wasn't our night, it was Chicago's," he said. "They did it to us in every phase of the game. We were like the Pillsbury Doughboys."

Well, that's the way it seemed in the second half. The Celtics won't have many 26 turnover nights, worth 28 points. The Bulls have played them tough in five previous game but never had a 51-40 edge in rebounding, or a 15-6 lead in steals or a 7-4 lead in blocked shots.

"In the two previous games we played here," said Bird, "even though the final score might have been close at the end, we were in command. That wasn't the case tonight. But there's nothing you can really do about it now, except to remember this and what they did for the next time we play Chicago."

Chicago certainly will remember it.

"The Celtics might have been a little flat tonight," said the Bulls' Ricky Sobers. "But I don't think anyone could have beaten us tonight. This was the big one. We had to win this one tonight."

More than one Celtic alluded to the Bulls' newfound running game, keyed by Reggie Theus' one-man fast breaks, and the long-range gunning of Bobby Wilkerson.

"I still don't know why people think we can't run," said Bulls coach Jerry Sloan. "Boston isn't the only team that can turn good defense into a fast- break. If it's there, we'll go with it. We were ready to play tonight and we knew what we had to do. The thing for us to do is to continue as we have been doing in the last six games after the break."

But then, the same thing is true for the Celtics.

"I wouldn't worry about them," said Bulls' general manager Rod Thorn. "Any team that loses only twice in 27 games is going to be all right. We got our own problems."

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