Celtics Rebound from Opening Night Loss

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 109, Cavaliers 89
Record: 1-1

While you were cranking the night-table clock back an hour, the Celtics were wishing they could go back 24 hours and replay Friday's Detroit Disgrace. Instead, they put the first-game loss behind them and methodically defeated the all-new, but still lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, 108-89, last night. Boston's victory salvaged an opening weekend split and averted the humiliation of an 0-2 start against two perennial NBA doormats.

The Celts knew that another loss would have inspired sheer panic. Cries and whispers would have tracked them for weeks, or worse, they might have been sentenced to a season of prop-plane shuttling between Detroit and Cleveland. Accordingly, they came out and blowtorched the Cavs with a heat-seeking, 12-0 surge after the opening tap.

Robet Parish (nine in the quarter, three more than he scored all night in Pontiac) started it with a patented turnaround. Then Gerald Henderson (18) took a pass from Parish in the lane and laid it in. While Lonnie Shelton and the Cavs were missing their first nine shots, Larry Bird (16 points, 13 rebounds) took time for a routine jumper. A pop from out top by Dennis Johnson made it 8-0 and forced a time out. After the pause, Henderson drove for two more to make it 10-0, and Bird hit an 18-footer from the right to complete the shutout. The Celts hit nine of their first 11 shots and 14 of 20 in the quarter. So much for any fears you had about the unthinkable happening two nights in a row.

"It wasn't quite as ugly as last night," said Parish. "I wanted to make sure we got into the swing of things early. Tonight we were definitely ready to play from the first jump ball." "We gave them 16 fast-break points in the first quarter," said Cleveland coach Tom Nissalke. "You can't let any team get off on you like that, especially a team like the Celtics." Cav guard Geoff Huston got Cleveland on the scorebord with 7:21 left in the quarter, but the Cavaliers would never get closer than three the rest of the night. The Celts led, 18-6, midway through the period and 29-20 after one.

Cleveland's first-quarter total represented an 18-point defensive improvement by the Celtics, who allowed Detroit 38 in the first period Friday. Early in the second, the Cavs fought back and pulled to within three at 35-32 on a nice drive by ex-BC great John Bagley. K. C. Jones called time and after the pause, Boston scored seven straight to go back up by 10. Then, still-torrid Kevin McHale (22, 8 for 11 from the floor) undressed Cav center Ben Poquette, scoring 12 points in the period, and Boston led, 55-44, at intermission. The C's hit 60 percent (24 for 40) in the half and committed only seven turnovers.

Led by World B. Free (23), the Cavs pulled to within seven briefly in the third, but Henderson, Bird and DJ picked Cleveland apart and, when McHale scored with 2:30 left in the period, Boston's lead swelled to 79-58. The fourth quarter was a slow-motion special, featuring the debuts of Greg Kite and Carlos Clark. Both rookies scored their first pro points before the final buzzer. "Winning this game is a relief," said Henderson. "Last night's loss was not the way we wanted to start the season. The first half tonight - that's the way we wanted to get started."

Jones added, "We did a much better job putting pressure on them. That helped us get the fast break going and the ball was dropping. The 12-0 start showed that our running game is still effective." It also showed that the Cavs are still inept. New uniforms, new owners, a new logo, a new paint job on the floor, four new rookies and a still fat Lonnie Shelton couldn't change the fact that they are still the same old Cavs. Celtic fans should be happy that the Cavaliers came along just when Boston needed them.

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