1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 116, Bulls 101
Playing like a team intent on impressing the bowl committees, the Celtics made it eight in a row last night, goring the Chicago Bulls, 116-101, in Chicago's archaic sports palace.The streak matches Boston's longest victory string of last season and puts the Celtics on a 73-9 pace. Easy, now. It's a little early to be ordering banner No. 15, and there's no need to have the new mayor leave an open date for a City Hall Plaza victory reception in June. After all, the Celtics have thus far only played one game against a 1982-83 playoff team.
Victory No. 8 came on a night when Kevin McHale led the team with 24 and Dennis Johnson (23) played like the man who was the NBA playoff MVP in 1979. And Larry Bird got another audition playing shooting guard while rookie Carlos Clark saw his first meaningful minutes as a professional. It was also an altogether different victory route for the Celtics, who've been smoking their opponents in the first quarter, then blowing leads. Last night, Boston trailed early, then slowly built a comfortable margin, which didn't peak until the final buzzer.
"We played well at the end, and that's kind of a new thing," noted McHale, who made 10 of 12 floor shots. "Chris (Ford) wants us to go 81-1, but that might be asking too much. We'll just have to keep on playing hard and good things will happen." The visitors were stale at the start. Chicago's David Greenwood and Orlando Woolridge (17 in the first half) shot the Bulls to a 17-8 lead before the startled Celtics went on a nine-minute tear, outscoring the home team, 31-10, to take a 39-27 lead with less than two minutes gone in the second quarter. Boston never trailed again.
"We started off in the mud," said coach K. C. Jones. "Chicago was playing like they hadn't been in a game in three weeks. They were hungry and were blowing us away." It didn't last because Dennis Johnson (19 in the first half) brought the Celtics back with sticky defense and penetration drives. Meanwhile, Robert Parish (19, 13 rebounds) stayed hot, and Bird (18, nine rebounds) picked up the loose pieces.
Boston's lead swelled to 13 (55-42) with 3 minutes left in the half, but Woolridge brought Chicago back, scoring eight points in a 13-4 surge. The Celtics' margin was down to six when D. J. converted a Bird feed in the closing seconds to make it 61-55 at intermission. The Celtics outrebounded Chicago, 27-17, in the first half and 49-31 overall. Boston had a whopping 22 offensive rebounds. In a choppy third quarter, Quintin Dailey (20) brought the Bulls back to within three a couple of times, while Jones experimented with a backcourt of M. L. Carr and Clark, then Bird and Clark. Clark held his own for a couple of minutes, started to struggle, and was mercifully rescued by Quinn Buckner. Meanwhile, both McHale and Cedric Maxwell picked up their fourth fouls and had to come out.
The Celtics led, 88-79, after three, and held their ground in the fourth. Chicago had some luck with a 1-3-1 trap defense, but Gerald Henderson and Danny Ainge beat the zone late in the game, and the treetop trio of Bird, Parish and McHale wore the Bulls down. When Boston went ahead by 11 with 8 minutes left, Bulls coach Kevin Loughery inserted Nowhere Man Reggie Theus. The crowd implored Mr. Solid Gold Dancer to shoot, but Theus kept passing off, and his teammates kept missing. Meanwhile, Parish and Bird buried a couple of jumpers to make it 102-89 with 5:28 left. Loughery called for time. He had seen enough of Theus, who has scored only two baskets in his last two games.
When Chicago again pulled to within eight, the Celtics were ready to respond. They continued to beat the trap defense and outscored the Bulls, 12-5, the rest of the way.