Celtics Down Pistons

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Celtics Improve to 28-9
1981-82 Boston Celtics

The Celtics survived a first-half blitz - including a 40-point second quarter - by the Pistons and posted a 128-120 victory over Detroit last night at the Silverdome. The Celtics had not lost two games in a row all year, but found themselves struggling for momentum in the giant Silverdome. The Pistons trailed after one period, 36-35, but roared to a 75-63 lead at halftime behind the shooting of one John Long.

Boston's early game plan was to work the ball into low to Robert Parish, and that plan worked: he responded with 14 points. Both teams went on spurts in the period in which the score was tied seven times. Boston went ahead, 23-19, at one point, but the Pistons kept close behind the shooting of Kelly Tripucka, who had 11 points in the period. On Friday night, it was a 16-point effort by Milwaukee's Bob Lanier that put Boston in the hole. Last night, the culprit was the lighting quick Long, whose 17 points included an 8-for-8 spell from the field. Detroit sank 18 of 23 shots in the period, a sizzling, 78 percent.

The Celtics were ahead, 40-39, when the Pistons suddenly got up a head of steam. Two baskets by Phil Hubbard put Detroit ahead, 43-40. And with the Pistons leading, 45-44, Long hit three straight baskets and Detroit's lead was five points, at 49-44.In the next three minutes, the Celtics could do very little and found themselves down, 63-52. Two more baskets by Long made it 15 of 16 for the Pistons in the period and a 67-54 lead.

Celtic coach Bill Fitch shuffled his troops frantically, including the insertion of Danny Ainge, and Boston cut the lead to seven points, 70-63, with 57 seconds left. But the next five points belonged to Detroit, and Boston trailed at halftime, 75-63.Long finished with 21 points in the first half. Parish led Boston with 17. Boston was outrebounded in the first half, 30-19. The Pistons shot 60 percent for the half (32-53).

Losing to the Milwaukee Bucks and having a four-game winning streak snapped didn't make Fitch happy Friday night. But at least it didn't cost him a chance to be the head coach of the Eastern Conference team for next Sunday's NBA All-Star game at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.The 76ers also lost Friday night, and that meant Fitch's club had clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference despite the 122-118 loss in Milwaukee. Going into last night's game, Boston and Philadelphia were a game- and-a-half apart in the standings with one game to play before today's deadline date.

While Fitch will tell you that being coach of the Eastern Conference All- Stars is an honor that carries a mixed blessing, it was one that eluded him 11 previous seasons of pro coaching, nine with Cleveland. The last two years, the Celtics lost a game in the week before the deadline, and fell behind the 76ers in the Atlantic Division race just long enough to give the job to Philadelphia's Billy Cunningham instead of Fitch."While I'm happy that I made it," said Fitch. "I'm more happy for my players and the team than myself. I don't want to make a big deal out of it. It's a lot of work and I work hard enough as it is. But it is a fun game for the players and the fans, and it's nice to be selected."

Kelly Tripucka may have lost out to teammate Isiah Thomas this year in the balloting for the All-Star team, but he thinks he's convinced all the skeptics that he can play in the NBA. "A lot of people were saying I couldn't play at all," said Tripucka, the former Notre Dame star who was the 12th player selected in last year's draft. "But I always had confidence in myself and my ability."Tripucka is averaging 20.6 points and 37 minutes a game. He was NBA rookie player of the month in December.

"I didn't understand it, really. While it's true that I played in a program where they controled the ball a lot, and didn't shoot that much, it didn't mean I couldn't. Don't all the shooters in the league come from New Jersey. I don't see anybody surprised at players from North Carolina making it. They play control basketball, too."

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