Chief Takes Advantage of Chocolate Thunder 's Absence

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 107, Nets 98

Record 56-19
April 1, 1984


This is the cruise control season. It's all Clevelands and Chicagos from now on, and with the Atlantic Division and basketball's best record virtually locked up, sleepy eyes and heavy thighs take a toll. But these Celtics bear no resemblence to the April Fools who paraded in Green last spring. Last night, they traveled to Bruce Springsteen Country and came away with a convincing 107-98 victory over the Nets, which mathematically clinched a tie for the division title. Instead of eroding into late-season bad habits, the Celtics took it to the young, surging Nets, who had won 10 of their last 11 at home.

"If you let up, you get beat," said Larry Bird, who had 22 points. "This is a little different than in past years because we got everything wrapped up, but we're still coming to play. We're going at these games like we've got to have em." After a night of long, hard work by indefatigable Robert Parish (30 points, 13 rebounds) and Bird, a group consisting of Quinn Buckner (six assists), Danny Ainge, Cedric Maxwell, Scott Wedman and Kevin McHale took control of the game. It was 53-53 at intermission, and a 10-3 run after halftime pushed the Nets to a 63-56 lead early in the third. In the middle of the surge, Darryl Dawkins came out due to strained ligaments in his right wrist. Dawkins (11 points in the first half) never returned, and the Nets weren't the same without him.

With Chocolate Thunder missing, Parish took charge and the Celtics closed to within one (64-63) on a dazzling hoop by Bird. A three-point play by Bird tied it at 68 with 4:53 left in the third. The Celtics blitzed Jersey with ten straight points at the end of the period - turning a 71-70 deficit into an 80-70 lead. Do-it-all Parish and McHale each had 4 of the 10, and Wedman scraped the cobwebs off his arm long enough to bury his first jumper since Wednesday. The Celts led the rest of the way. Boston kept the pressure on at the start of the fourth. A hook by McHale (six points and four rebounds in the fourth period) and a corner jumper by Ainge made it 84-73 with 10:47 left. New Jersey coach Stan Albeck called timeout.

Wedman and Ainge kept it going and a Wedman jumper made it 94-79 with 5:50 left. Jersey fought back and pulled to within eight (with 4:36 left), but Bird and Parish returned and an outrageous lefty hook by Bird (on which he was fouled) made it 99-86 with less then three minutes to go. "Them not having Darryl was a big thing," admitted McHale. "If he'd been in there, it would have been a little closer. Jersey appeared to have the advantage in the early going. The Nets had beaten the Celtics two straight and had won 14 of their last 18 games.

Buck Williams (19 points, 18 rebounds) had nine points and six rebounds in the first period, which ended with Jersey leading, 30-28. The Nets outscored the Celts, 7-2, at the close of the period and shot 52 percent to Boston's 40 percent in the first 12 minutes. Albert King and Birdsong led an 8-1 run at the start of the second. After Reggie Johnson rebounded a missed layup by Ainge, King canned a baseline jumper to give the Nets a 38-29 lead with 10:00 left in the half. K.C. Jones called time. After the pause, Bird led an 8-0 surge by the Celtics. When Dennis Johnson scored off the break to cut Jersey's lead to one (38-37), the Nets called time. Dawkins and Cook (13) led the Nets back, and it was 53-53 at halftime. The second half was all Boston - and no Dawkins.

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