Slimmer Quinn Buckner Making a Difference

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 119, Bucks 105
Record: 2-1

If you ask Quinn Buckner, he'll tell you he owes his success to clean living and target practice. Translated, that means the veteran Celtic guard is off to the kind of season he envisioned a year ago when he came here from Milwaukee. Before the Celtics' 119-105 victory over the Bucks last night in their home opener, all eyes were on Milwaukee's Tiny Archibald. But afterward, most of the sellout crowd at the Garden was singing the praises of Buckner, who scored 16 points and gave Boston an unexpected lift with the kind of outside shooting that he didn't have a year ago.

"I've really been shooting well since training camp," said Buckner. "The way I thought I would when I came here a year ago. I owe a lot of it to keeping my weight down and shooting all summer, with Junior Bridgeman of Milwaukee, would you believe. Since training camp, I've been shooting with Larry Bird. They are two pretty good shooters, and maybe some of it rubbed off."

On paper the Bucks figured to have a slight edge because they could bomb away outside with the likes of Sidney Moncrief, Bridgeman and Archibald. No team with a Larry Bird can be called bashful about shooting from the outside, but it was thought that if Gerry Henderson got into foul trouble, the Celtics had only one other pure shooter at guard, Danny Ainge. Sure enough, Henderson did get into foul trouble in the third quarter, with Boston leading by only 69-67. In came Buckner, who had hit 4 of 5 shots in the first half, and out went the best-laid plans of Bucks' coach Don Nelson. With Boston leading, 72-70, Buckner hit a 16-footer from the right baseline to give the Celtics a four-point lead, and the Bucks never came any closer.

"Quinn did just a super job," insisted Celtics' coach K.C. Jones. "He showed that he's not only a great defensive player, but also that he's a leader. He hit some big shots from the outside." Nelson, the man who let Buckner go to Boston for Dave Cowens, agreed that Buckner's play was an important factor in Boston's victory. "On defense, we had a lot of problems getting by him," said Nelson. "He's improved a lot. I think it is because he approached the season well. His weight is down and he is playing well on both ends of the floor."

Buckner's fine play off the bench is something that future Celtics' foes will have to think about. If he is successful as an outside shooter, it will mean that Boston has four interchangable guards. Dennis Johnson and Henderson are the starters. "Right now," said Buckner, "we're able to get a lot of versatility out of the guard situation. D.J. is playing very well inside, and I'm trying to make whatever contribution I can make.
"Right now, the jump shot is going. Defensively, I'm just playing aggressively. I think that's what we have to have, guards playing aggressively to get the forwards and centers playing the same way."

Buckner said the key for him was his preseason approach. He lost 10 pounds by dieting right after last season, and spent the whole summer keeping weight off and working his shot. "It paid off," he said. "I was aware of the guard situation when I came to camp. All I had to worry about was getting my game in shape, and learning what was expected of me and my teammates. "I feel better than I did last year. I thought I was going to shoot like this then. But I got hurt in training camp and I didn't get started the way I like. You live and you learn in this game."

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