1983-84 Boston Celtics
Pistons 128, Celtics 120 (OT)
April 14, 1984
So much for half-speed, cruise control, resting key people and tuning up for the playoffs. In a game that was played as though the safety of the free world were at stake, the Detroit Pistons defeated the Celtics, 128-120, in overtime last night. The Pistons were too hungry, too talented, and too inspired to lose in front of 30,091 raucous fans at the Silverdome. Detroit trailed by four with less than a minute to go but tied it up and led for the entire overtime.
It was 114-114 at the end of regulation. Early in OT, Isiah Thomas shot the Pistons to a 120-116 lead and the Celtics never got closer than two after that. With 37 seconds left, Isiah hit two free throws to give the Pistons a 126-120. The Pistons were home free. "It was indicative of the way we've been playing," said Detroit center Bill Laimbeer (25 points, 10 rebounds). "We haven't folded. When we had to tonight we made a couple of shots and defensive plays and got back in the ballgame."
Detroit's victory snapped Boston's nine-game winning streak and put the Pistons in position to win the Central Division in Atlanta tonight. Just imagine . . . the Tigers are 8-0 and the Pistons can win a regular-season title. The long-suffering Motown fans deserve this. As they did against Milwaukee and New York earlier in the week, the Celtics experimented with some new combinations, yet managed to stay close all the way. K.C. Jones played Robert Parish only seven minutes in the first half and used Carlos Clark and Greg Kite simultaneously in the second quarter.
All the unusual stuff went out the window in the second half. Larry Bird ended up playing 43 minutes (29 points, 20 rebounds), Parish got 32 minutes, while Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson logged 39 and 42 minutes respectively. The Celtics appeared to have it locked up when Bird hit a preposterous mortar shot from the outer limits to give the Celtics a 114-110 lead with 1:02 left in regulation. But the shot heard 'round General Motors didn't stop the Pistons. Detroit fought back with two free throws and got the ball back when Kelly Tripucka blocked a Scott Wedman shot and forced a 24-second violation.
Trailing, 114-112, with 11 seconds left, the Pistons called time. Tripucka inbounded to Thomas (29 points, 11 assists) and he lofted a four-foot rainbow over McHale and into the hoop. The Celtics called time, but Bird's off-balance buzzer-beater missed, and it was OT. "I thought we had it won," said Bird. "It's the same way we lost here at the beginning of the season. We threw it away (17 turnovers to Detroit's seven). You can't lay down in a game like this." Neither team could establish momentum at the start (five points was the biggest lead in regulation). The Pistons were hoping Boston would take it easy, but the Celtics layed full tilt.
There were 10 lead changes in the first period. At halftime, McHale (32 points) had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and it was 58-58. Winning the Central Division crown would mean a lot to the young Pistons. They play their final game tonight at Atlanta, where a win would give them the first division title in franchise history (regardless of what the Bucks do, since the Pistons would prevail in a tie by virtue of a 3-2 season-series edge). "It's a matter of personal pride," says Laimbeer. "Plus, we feel it gives us a better advantage in the playoffs. "We also get more money for finishing first," adds Laimbeer. "But mainly we'd like to beat out Milwaukee, because they've had their way for so long. Our fans would like to see it, too. It's nice to say you're a first-place ballclub."
The Celtics finally have a playoff date. Boston will open its best-of-five series against Washington Tuesday night in the Garden at 8. The league office won't say anything about Games 2 and 3, but ESPN has been told to count on a game in Boston Friday night. If that holds true, Game 3 in Landover, Md., presumably would be played on Easter Sunday . . . Danny Ainge (sprained left ankle) did not dress for last night's game . . . Bird leads the NBA with a free-throw percentage of .887 (368 for 415). Detroit's John Long was right behind with a percentage of .886 (242 for 273).