1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 102, Knicks 96
April 12, 1984
Their door stayed locked for a long time afterward, their coach outside, publicly ripping his starters. Inside, the players bitched at each other loudly enough to be heard through cinder-block walls. "Somebody wasn't playing tonight," one said. "And I'm talking about all 12 of us." Those were the New York Knickerbockers last night, and that is how the Celtics are leaving people this week, as they kick back and gear up for the playoffs.
On Tuesday, Boston had gone into Milwaukee and grabbed a victory from a club that desperately needed one. Last night, the Celtics belted the Knicks, 102-96, before the usual 14,890 at Boston Garden and ended New York's chance for the home-court edge in next week's first round. It was Boston's ninth straight victory and 61st of the season. But more to the point, it was yet another one they didn't need, but went after anyway.
"Everybody we're playing now is fighting for playoff position," Robert Parish said. "They're coming out fired up. If we come out nonchalant or flat, it's going to get embarrassing." And after last year's 0-4-and-out against the Bucks, this Celtics team is determined not to be embarrassed again. So last night, after New York had chopped a 76-62 Boston lead to 84-82 with 8:17 left, coach K.C. Jones decided it was time Parish went in alongside Kevin McHale (30 points off the bench) and Larry Bird (23 with 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks) and laid down the law. "I said the hell with resting people," Jones said. "Let's go for the win."
And in a span of 2:09, Bird set a string of four croakers in motion and left New York for dead. He ran a give-and-go with McHale, then rebounded a Bernard King miss and sent Parish down alone for a slam. A back-door layup from Quinn Buckner and Bird's 18-foot fallaway made it 100-92 and put an end to the evening's exercise. Jones had meant for it to be a sensible toner for next week's orthopedic trauma with Washington. He had 10 healthy bodies available (Danny Ainge's ankle and Gerald Henderson's hamstring are still balky) and wanted to rotate them wisely.
"I told them before the game," Jones said. "Fifteen to 20 minutes for Robert, 25 for Larry." And Jones stuck to it, in the face of a game that threatened to spin out of reach more than once. Parish played the first nine minutes, then sat down for Greg Kite. Cedric Maxwell sat out the second quarter in sweats. Bird threw in 17 points in the first half, then gathered cobwebs for the third period. Yet the Celtics still managed a 49-46 lead at intermission, thanks to Bird, 10 points from Scott Wedman and a dreadful effort by the New York starters, who shot 9 for 30 in the first half.
"An incredibly poor performance by our first group," said coach Hubie Brown, "in a game that was so meaningful." The Knicks, 5-9 since King dislocated a middle finger against Boston on March 22, wanted this one badly. A victory would have kept their home-court hopes alive and given them a season series over Boston for the first time since 1970-71. It also would have left a pointed calling card for the second round of the playoffs, when these two teams might meet again.
Instead, the Knicks got manhandled by a Boston team that used Wedman at guard for 42 minutes, gave Kite 20 minutes at center through the guts of the game, and needed only 19 minutes from Dennis Johnson. Which is one of the points the Celtics wanted to make last night. They conceded King, who now has matching dislocated middle fingers, his 27 points. Andmix'n'match lineup or not, they concede nothing else to this New York team, or anybody else at this point.