Hubie Brown to Players: Take Down Cowens

January 12, 1980


The Celtics traded the Atlanta Hawks Dave Cowens for Tree Rollins following a first period brawl between the two centers and it made no difference to the home team at all, as Boston ground out a 108-93 triumph over the visitors before another capacity crowd of 15,320 at the Garden last night.

Cowens and Rollins were thrown out with the Celtics leading by a 15-12 score with 2:37 remaining in the first period, but Rick Robey came off the bench to score a season-high 22 points and grab 10 rebounds in a needed display of inside power. In contrast, Atlanta's other center was the usually reliable Steve Hawes, who scored two points and had three rebounds before fouling out with 4:02 left.

Boston only trailed once (8-6), and led by such checkpoint margins as 21-17, and 54-43 before putting the game away in the final 6 1/2 minutes.

The Celtics, who had only scored seven field goals in the first 16 1/2 minutes of the second half (surviving via free throws), were clinging to an 88-81 lead with 6:45 to play when Chris Ford ignited the key spurt with his only basket of the night - a three-pointer from the left flank. Two more conventional three-point plays, by Robey (a followup) and Nate Archibald (a one-on-one back-in flip over Charlie Criss) boosted the margin to a comfortable 97-85, and that was that.

The Celtics surrendered six tough points late in the half on successive three-point plays by John Drew and Armond Hill, but they still entered the locker room in possession of a 54-43 halftime lead.

The home team survived the early ejection of Cowens better than the visitors survived the loss of their center, Rollins, and with the boards under control, Boston was able to rip off 21 fast-break points in the first half to go with 17 on second shots. With all that going on, who needs a set offense?

The game had erupted with 2:37 remaining in a very rough first period when Cowens and Rollins threw several punches and wound up being ejected by lead referee Joe Gushue. Cowens was off to a sensational rebounding start (five in the first four minutes, including three on the offensive boards), and during a timeout at 6:10, Atlanta coach Hubie Brown delivered the following message to his troops:

"Don't tell me Cowens is going over your backs, 'cause we know he's going over your backs. Knock 'im down."

About three minutes later, trouble brewed between the monstrous Rollins and the ever-combative Cowens.

Boston came out of a weird first quarter leading, 21-17. The teams had running on their minds, but the clubs combined or a miserable 17-for-47 effort from the floor. So many misses led to the offensive rebound opportunities which eventually were the cause of the Cowens-Rollins battle, but that's life, especially in the NBA.

Atlanta led just once, at 8-6, but a fourth-chance jump hook by Cowens restored the lead at 10-8 and the Celtics led the rest of the period by margins ranging from one to five points, with the peak spread being at 15-10.

The absence of Cowens didn't seem to deter the Celtics during the first seven minutes of the second period as they expanded the lead to 13 at 44-31 before a Hawk timeout with 4:33 remaining in the half. At this point, about the only thing the Hawks had going for them was the offense of Drew, who had come off the bench to hit his first three shots and pour in 15 points in his first 10 1/2 minutes on the floor.

Robey was doing a good job on the boards for the Celtics, but the key man was Bird, who seemed to take Cowens' ejection as a personal affront, and who was a visibly more aggressive player when Cowens departed.

The game was no less intense, and emotions were high on both sides. Strangely, the first technical foul of the game was not on Brown, Fitch or one of the combatants, but on Atlanta assistant coach Mike Fratello, no rabble- ouser.

With the centers gone, the team getting the job done underneath was Boston. By the time Dan Roundfield laid in a followup to make it 46-35, Boston, the Celtics had amassed 17 points on second shots.

The biggest Boston lead came with three minutes left when a Gerald Henderson fast-break jumper gave the Celtics a 50-35 lead. But those three- pointers got Atlanta back in the game somewhat.

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