Celtics Collar Kings

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 119, Kings 110
Record 36-9
February 1, 1984

Baseball folks weren't the only ones toasting ex-greats last night. Over on Causeway street, the Celtics and Kansas City Kings played host to a forgettable epic which could have been dubbed "A Salute to Earl Tatum." Predictably, the Celtics won the stand-around special, 119-110. The victory stretched Boston's winning streak to seven games, but only the Greenest of fans enjoyed all 48 minutes. The game featured the usual Renoir shooting of Larry Bird (32 points), some "Get back, Loretta" shot-blocking by Robert Parish (six rejections), and lots of Pete Rozellesque parity.

"We were a little sluggish, and I'm sure they were too," said red-eye, dead-eye Bird. "We really didn't play that well, but we still did the things at the end that we had to do to win." "We had turnovers and missed a lot of easy shots and didn't play very good defense," added Parish. "It was just one of those nights. We were due for a game like this after the way we've been playing." It was certainly nothing like Boston's recent wins over Cleveland and Chicago, but maybe you've been spoiled. The Celtics are 27-4 since Nov. 22, and Boston is without question the most feared and respected team in basketball at the moment.

The Celtics saved the buzzsaw for the final minutes last night. With 7:01 left, the faceless, last-place Kings led, 95-94. Kevin McHale (10 of 14 for 22 points) put Boston ahead for good with a half-hook, and Bird followed with two baskets to make it 100-95. LaSalle Thompson thundered for four straight, but, at 100-99, the Celtics ripped off nine in a row to put it away. The 9-0 run went this way: A Dennis Johnson tap-in of a Bird miss, a McHale turnaround, a free throw by Parish, a fallaway by Bird and two more Parish free throws.

DJ (19 points) gave the fans a scare when he turned his ankle in the middle of the rally, but, limping like Gunsmoke's Chester, he stayed in the game and watched Bird and Parish push the lead to 10 (109-99) with 1:28 left. "It was sluggish," admitted coach K C. Jones. "But you're going to have those kind of wins where you just eke it out at the end." The 140th straight sellout crowd had as much trouble getting into the game as the two teams. Blame the schedulemaker. Both teams played in the Midwest Tuesday night and were up well before 5:30 a.m. to catch flights to Boston.

The Celtics were still waiting for a wakeup call when the first quarter started. Parish had 12 of his 21 points in the first period, but the Celtics were outrebounded (12-11), committed seven turnovers and trailed, 31-29, after one. Jones tried to pick things up with an unusual lineup at the start of the second quarter. He had sub guards Danny Ainge and Quinn Buckner playing with M.L. Carr, Cedric Maxwell and McHale. The experimental group opened the period with a nifty 8-2 surge. The drive peaked when Buckner fed Carr for a fast-break dunk as Bird waved a towel from the bench and Cotton Fitzsimmons called time.

Eddie (26) and Steve Johnson (17) brought the Kings back, and Kansas City had a 57-53 lead at intermission. You've got to fight Johnsons with Johnsons, and Boston's DJ burst out of the blocks after halftime, scoring eight points in a 12-2 run which carried the Celtics from a four-point deficit to a six-point lead. The Celtics were unable to sustain the offensive pressure, however, as EJ and Billy Knight (20) shot the Kings right back into the lead with an 10-1 surge.

Then Bird took over, scoring 10 points in the next three minutes. Boston, 86-80, after three and put it away with the 9-0 surge late in the fourth quarter. "We played the way we wanted to play," said Fitzsimmons. "We played our tempo and our style. In the last five minutes we let them get away with too many shots and too many passes. But we made them play, and that's important."

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