1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 102, Sixers 98
January 27, 1984
With the four day All-Star cease-fire in effect, the Celtics and 76ers have a lot of time to digest the first half of the 1983-84 regular season. The 34-9 Celtics own a healthy five-game lead over the 29-14 defending world champions. After Wednesday's 102-98 Garden victory over the Moses Malone-less Sixers, Celtic guard Dennis Johnson said, "We really wanted to win so we'd go five games up. That gives us a little cushion, which will be nice to have after the All-Star break."
"Being up by five is very important for us," added coach K.C. Jones. "We still have to make the West Coast trip, and Philly's already done that." Boston's midseason lead is a bit deceiving. The Celtics are playing well, but not much better than they were at this time last year. Boston has won five straight, 11 of 12 and 25 of 29, yet the 34-9 record is only one game better than it had after 43 games last year.
The Sixers, however, are eight games behind their torrid pace of 1982-83. "Last year, we were on a mission, but we're not this year," admitted Bobby Jones. Wednesday's loss was Philly's third straight. The Sixers hadn't lost three in a row since March 21-25, 1982. In '82-83, Philadelphia averaged 16.3 offensive rebounds. They're down to 13.9 this year. Malone and Andrew Toney have been turning the ball over. Prior to his ankle injury in New York Tuesday, Malone committed 11 turnovers in a 66-minute span. Toney averaged one turnover every 4.6 minutes in the last three games, and shot only 36 percent in his last four. Maurice Cheeks has been up and down. He's averaging 8.3 assists when the Sixers win, but only 3.6 when Philly loses.
Meanwhile, it's hard to find any holes in the Celtic situation. A second- half collapse and playoff fold seem unlikely this time around. Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale are having All-Star seasons, and Cedric Maxwell is playing his best basketball since the '82 playoffs. Boston's ever-controversial backcourt situation has stabilized and produced beyond all expectations. DJ is everything he was when he was playoff MVP for the SuperSonics, and Gerald Henderson is hitting 56 percent of his shots in 43 starts.
If that isn't enough, Quinn Buckner and Danny Ainge have suddenly jelled into an effective and speedy second unit. Both are getting more minutes, and they worked extremely well together against the Cavaliers and Sixers this week. Since his embarrassing DNP (Did Not Play) against Washington, Ainge has played 128 minutes in nine games and committed only one turnover. He has no turnovers in his last 76 minutes. Before the Sixers left Boston, Philly coach Billy Cunningham freely admitted, "The Celtics are playing the best ball of anyone in this league."
In four games against Philadelphia, Bird is shooting only 39 percent (35-91). He's still hitting a white-hot .887 from the free throw line this year . . . Boston's contingent in Denver includes Parish, Bird, McHale, coaches Jones, Chris Ford and Jimmy Rodgers, plus player reps M.L. Carr and Buckner . . . The Celtics are 10-1 in January, 18-3 at home and 16-6 on the road . . . Boston has outrebounded the opposition by 50 in the last five games . . . Since the start of the 1979-80 season, the Celtics and Sixers have met 47 times in regular-season and playoff competition. Philly leads, 24-23. If you think that's parity, check this out: In 59 regular-season meetings since 1976-77, the Celtics have outscored the Sixers, 6153-6150.