Doc and the Strangler Rally Sixers Past Celtics
1983-84 Boston Celtics
Sixers 121-Celtics 114 (OT)
I'm not knocking our record or the character of my men. But I'm after perfection."- Sixers coach Billy Cuningham He sounded like the NBA version of Captain Queeg. Only Billy Cunningham was talking about his defending champion Philadelphia 76ers and not just your average ship of fools. Cunningham had just watched his club come from a 15-point deficit and put on one of those defensive efforts that only a game between the Celtics and 76ers could produce.
But he sounded almost unhappy about the 121-114 overtime victory, the second time the Sixers have beaten the Celtics this season. "By no means do I underestimate the Celtics just because we're 2-0," said Cunningham. "They are just a fantastic basketball team, just as we are. I just know that this ballclub has to have everybody heading in the right direction. We can't just have bits and pieces doing it. "It's not going to be a problem for me anymore. I'm going to be on them all the time, whether at practice or a game. I will insist that we maintain the effort, concentration and execution."
His 76ers probably disappointed Cunningham last night once again. They were overmatched for most of the first half by the Celtics and seemed destined to lose a second straight road game until the final three minutes. But Cunningham will be hard-pressed to find fault with his team that, down the stretch, came through with the perfect blend of intensity and precision on offense and particularly defense. To wipe out a five-point deficit against the Celtics at the Garden is almost unthinkable. But when Andrew Toney hit a three-point goal with only 13 seconds left, the 76ers came back from the dead. Toney had two tries at it, missing the first, and then sinking the second after Bobby Jones (Who else?) tipped the rebound to him. That tied the game at 98.
"I should have made them both," said the cocky Toney. Victory for Boston still seemed assured when Larry Bird hit a jumper with five seconds left, only to watch helpless as Julius Erving sank a runner three seconds later. "We didn't have any time outs left," he said, "and Moses (Malone) found Doc way down there. It was just a great effort, hitting that shot. Bird at one end, Doc at the other. That's what they get paid for, though." The last shot was certainly not routine to Erving. "There was no key to it," he said. "I just caught the ball and shot it. No set play, just pro basketball. Larry came down and went off the pick. It was a broken play for them. He made the jumper, and we turned around, and we just countered with a shot.
"It just flowed the way that so much of the game flows, and the talent flows whenever these two teams meet. You move away from playing the game on paper, and you actually play it on the court. I think it is a beautiful thing to watch and to participate in." Cunningham did agree that perfection is Bobby Jones, who had seven steals, 19 points, two blocks and five rebounds, including the one that set up Toney's shot. "People talk about Bobby's defense," said Cunningham. "But he is most effective for us when we're moving the basketball and we're playing, team- wise, as an offensive ballclub. When we're doing that, we get good shots every time down the court. When we're not, then people like him, Marc Iavaroni and Mo Cheeks become statues.
" Tonight, we swing the ball, Bobby hits a jump shot off the weak side. Bob moves without the basketball, and Doc hits him. We have not been in a good groove in that sense the whole year. "They only thing that has help us and allowed us to have the kind of record we have is that we have been able to play the good, consistent defense when we had to."
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