4.16.2016

27-6 Run Propels C's to Victory



January 19, 1980


The Celtics gave another Garden capacity crowd some of that old-time fast- break and team-concept religion last night, blowing the Portland Trail Blazers out with a devastating third-period run and cruising to a 111-93 victory.



A 27-6 ramble in the final 7:13 of the third period broke open what had been a hard-fought game, sending the Celtics into the final period holding an 86-66 lead they would have no trouble maintaining. They built the lead up to a peak of 26 (104-78) with 4:46 remaining.

There wasn't much trouble deciding who should get the MVP award, for the decisive third period could have easily been subtitled "The Dave Cowens Story." The Captain dropped in 14 points, and during this period he scored 10 points in the first 5:17, when the game was still a game, sank his final six shots of the quarter and played the defensive board game he must play in order for the Celtics to be a great team.

Portland, which led at the period (33-22) and half (51-49) was leading, 57-55, when Cowens picked up the team and the crowd with eight points in the next two minutes. He engaged in a brief one-on-one duel with Maurice Lucas which resulted in the latter's return to the Portland bench, and it was he who kicked off a burst of 14 straight points with a power hook and a jumper. That run boosted the Celtics into a 73-60 lead, and the game was never close after that. With Cowens and Larry Bird (17 points, 15 rebounds) sweeping the boards and with the ball again moving in October fashion, Boston shot a dazzling 15 for 20 in that third quarter.

Considering that they had continued their recent wretched play on offense by shooting 30 percent (6-for-20) in the first period, and considering that the Trail Blazers had completely embarrassed them at the other end for the entire half, the Celtics had to be very pleased about finding themselves trailing by just two points (51-49) at the half.

There was, incidentally, some poetic justice involved in the attainment of that halftime score, since the Celtics arrived there by virtue of a three- point jumper with one second remaining by none other than Don Chaney, who took a bail-out pass from Tiny Archibald and drilled home a jumper from the right flank. The Blazers were packed down in a flagrant zone, so any time a lawbreaking club is beaten on a three-pointer by one of the most unreliable shooters in the league, somebody Up There is definitely watching out for you.

Still, the Celtics really didn't deserve to be that close at the half, as long as we're talking about justice. The Blazers looked very little like a team behind the Clippers in the standings, and very much like the efficient outfit which came in here last season and played perhaps the finest pure game of basketball anyone submitted all year long. They ran their offense to perfection, especially during a first-period stretch in which they assumed temporary control of the game with a run of 14 unanswered points which left them in posession of a 33-21 lead.

Pay attention, hoop freaks, for how could you not like a team which compiled 21 of its first 27 points as follows: inbounds play - 2; second- chance shots - 4; back-door plays (including dunked lob passes) - 6; fast break - 9? That's the way to play the game, folks.

Against this display, the Celtics had little to offer other than clock- beating jumpers and turnovers. Their recent handling of the fast break has been absolute Early Marx Bros., and when Bill Fitch suggested on Wednesday that they go back to basics, he wasn't kidding. They had become very sloppy on offense, and only the fact that they have been playing at home has saved them from some recent embarrassments in the loss column.

It was 33-22 at the period, and for the first five minutes of the second quarter the Celtics were unable to cut into the Trail Blazer lead. Their only sign of life was M.L. Carr, who would score eight points and who would ignite the crowd with steals and some fancy offense, but it was also a case of M.L. giveth and M.L. taketh away, for twice he cost them baskets on fast breaks with fancy but poorly executed passes. Still, without his spirit and hustle, they might have been down by a dozen or more points at the half.

The little surge which got the Celtics back into the game began at 38-29 with an 8-2 run which pulled them within five at 41-36. The Blazers responded with a beautiful lefthanded running hook by Bob Gross, and for the next six minutes they would keep Boston in that 5-7 range. But the Celtics hung in there - no matter how bad they play, they always play hard - and it was 49-44 when Carr connected on a running hook with 1:14 left. A Cowens turnaround at :34 made it 49-46, and Chaney's late bomb came in response to a pair of Kermit Washington free throws.

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