Undermanned Celtics Rally Past Spurs, Take Second Leg of Texas Triangle

Celtics Improve to 42-15
1981-82 Boston Celtics

If the 1981-82 Celtics ever deserved to take a bow, it was last night. Performing with heart and savvy, they came from eight points down in the third period to take out the San Antonio Spurs by a 110-101 score at the Hemisfair.

This second post-Larry and seventh post-Tiny game was won thanks to the skilled, deep Boston front line of Robert Parish (26), Cedric Maxwell (25) and Kevin McHale (18 points, 13 rebounds and a superb defensive job on Mike Mitchell), and it was accomplished without the usual help from Gerry Henderson, who pulled a hip muscle early in the game and who was spelled admirably for the final 8:39 by Danny Ainge.

The Celtics conceded George Gervin 48 points and shut down the rest of the Spurs. But they were still trailing by a 69-61 score with 9:15 remaining in the third period when they erupted for a 27-14 run that sent them into the fourth quarter leading by an 88-83 score.

The lead remained between five and nine the rest of the way. There was no one big play or big basket, although it can be argued that the coffin-nailer was a Parish stuff of a Charles Bradley miss with 3:06 left that gave the Celtics a 102-93 lead. Each time San Antonio crept close, the Celtics did the right thing.

Unable to sustain first-quarter play that ranked with any the Celtics have come up with this season, the visitors succumbed to a 36-point San Antonio second period onslaught to fall behind by a 60-56 score at the half.

The Celtics had come out playing inspired two-way basketball, moving to a quick 10-4 lead, and building it to as many as 15 points (27-12) before the Spurs appeared to have any clue as to what was going on.

The Boston defense was aggressive and intelligent, while its offense was varied and efficient. Bill Fitch decided to attack the Spurs at a noted weak point immediately, sending M.L. Carr into the low post on Gervin the first time Boston had the ball. M.L. responded with a nice running hook for the game's first two points, one of two times he would post up his taller foe with success in the game's first two minutes.

Carr would wind up with 10 first-period points, while Cedric Maxwell would match him. The Celtics went out of the period leading by a 36-26 score.

But things had already swung around by the end of the period, and when the second period unfolded the momentum belonged completely to the Spurs. Stan Albeck went to his bench and got a nice lift from sub guard Mike Bratz, whose seven points included a three-pointer in the midst of the San Antonio comeback run. Bill Fitch got very little from his subs, and the Celtics suffered noticeably when Robert Parish missed the first 7:48 of the second quarter with two personal fouls.

As usual, the prime San Antonio offensive force was The Iceman. Gervin had a relatively subdued first period, scoring 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting. But the got into one of his grooves in the second quarter, pouring in 17 more points on his normal variety of shots. The Celtics, meanwhile, fell apart on offense. The smooth functioning attack of the game's first nine minutes suddenly looked like the first day of practice, and nothing Fitch did seemed to work, not that he had that many offensive alternatives. Danny Ainge, for example, played five minutes without taking a shot, a rare occurrence for him.

San Antonio derived some success with a three-quarters press, and once they got flowing their whole attitude improved. Boston was still leading by five at 46-41 with 5:07 left, but Bratz tossed in his three-pointer at this strategic moment, and San Antonio really turned it on, finally seizing its first lead at 49-48 on two followup free throws by Dave Corzine. The Spurs actually led by as many as six (60-54) in the late stages, representing a turnaround of 48-27, before two Parish foul shots with 29 seconds left created the halftime score.

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