Celtics Reach 60 Mark, Clinch Division Title

Celtics Improve to 60-17
1981-82 Boston Celtics

Forget about saluting the Celtics with "We Are The Champions" this morning. Instead serenade Robert Parish the next time you see him with "Hail To The Chief."

The Celtics are indeed the Atlantic Division champions for 1981-82. Their 106-103 triumph over the New Jersey Nets at the Garden last night took care of that, since either a Boston triumph or a Philadelphia loss would have ensured Boston's eventual division title by virtue of the tie-breaking system. But it's still nice to win it instead of having it handed it to you, and thanks to Robert Parish they won it, all right.

Parish needed some late help from Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, but until the final three minutes (his only rest) this game belonged to him. Parish merely had 36 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks, not to mention a half-dozen scares. He threw in 16 of his first 19 shots, virtually carrying the Celtics for a half.

But the Celtics had to huff and puff before this one was history, because Larry Brown teams never quit. Trailing, 96-81, with 8:57 left, the Nets hit Boston with a 15-2 run in the next 4:14 to creep within two at 98-96 with 3:43 remaining.

The key plays down the stretch were a Bird lefthanded post-up rolling hook with 1:34 remaining (104-100), a Bird strip of a Buck Williams rebound with 1:14 remaining (the ball going out of bounds and over to the Celtics) and a clutch Cedric Maxwell leaner with 58 seconds to play that created a 106-100 lead.

McHale's contributions were two key rebounds of New Jersey three-point misses, the final one with three seconds to play after a Ray Williams three- point job and an M.L. Carr driving miss had given Jersey one last chance with 11 seconds left. But Foots Walker's tying attempt was off the mark, thus preserving the Celtics' 60th triumph of the season.

The division title was Boston's 17th such bauble in the last 26 seasons and their third in three tries under Bill Fitch. The Celtics also became the second team in NBA history to win 60 games three years in succession.

No Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, no Bill Walton, no George Mikan or no Dutch Dehnert could have looked more awesome to the Nets than did Parish in the first half, which ended with Boston holding a 60-56 advantage.

The Celtics didn't do very much right as a team. They ran poor fast breaks. They had periods of total offensive stagnation. They were burned by some New Jersey offensive maneuvers. But they still led by four because they had Parish and the Nets didn't.

Parish simply owned the middle, scoring 25 points on 10-for-11 shooting and hauling in 10 rebounds. The important thing was that half his first-half points came off the glass, including 10 in the first period. He scored 16 of Boston's 28 first-quarter points as New Jersey spurted near the end to take a brief lead, and he had the first basket of the second period, thus giving him 18 of Boston's first 30. He did it with patented turnaround jumpers. He did it with at least one gorgeous running hook. He did it with one spectacular scoop of a drive. He did it with fast-break slam dunks. He did it with free throws. He wore out a trio of New Jersey centers in a 24-minute performance that ranked with any submitted by a Celtics' player this season.

And the Celtics needed everything Parish had to give against a New Jersey team that came here very much needing the game. New Jersey was scrappy, and had they the physical capability to handle Parish they might have had control of the game. Their finest spurt was a dazzling defensively-oriented run of 41 seconds in which they parlayed a Ray Williams jumper and successive steals leading to fast break layups into a run that, combined with another Williams jumper a while before, gave them eight unanswered points and a 31-26 lead.

But the Celtics pulled themselves together, scoring the final basket of the first period on a Parish spinning jumper, and then outscoring the Nets by a 10-2 margin in the first 3:12 of period two, assuming a 38-33 lead. The Celts led by five on five occasions in the quarter, but only once did they have an opportunity to go up by seven, as the Nets hung in at both ends.

The Celtics also got an offensive lift in the second quarter from Tiny Archibald, who scored eight points and who improvised nicely to give his mates some layups, such as a clock-beating excursion into the lane that resulted in a score for Bird with 24 seconds to go.

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