Celts Mow Down Moses-less Sixers

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 102, Sixers 98

Record 34-9
January 26, 1984

It wasn't quite the same. Beating the 76ers when they don't have Moses Malone is like winning Olympic hockey gold without playing the Russians or attending a Pips concert without seeing Gladys Knight. Still, the Celtics' fandom had to be happy with Boston's ragged, grinding 102-98 victory over the world champs last night. The win pushed the Celtics into a whopping five-game Atlantic Division lead and assured a comfortable All-Star break for K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

This wasn't an epic like the first three Boston-Philadelphia games this season. In a bumbling fourth quarter, the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 15-12, while the two teams shot an aggregate 25 percent (10 for 40). If it had been Cleveland vs. Indiana, folks would have asked for their money back. Since it was Boston and Philadelphia, it made you wish we could dispense with the 82-game formalities and get on with the Eastern Conference finals.

Malone's absence tarnished the evening. Without him in the game, you had a feeling that the Celtics would be able to control down the stretch. Sixers coach Billy Cunningham kept tossing sandbags named Sam Williams (a presence with 12 points and eight rebounds), Marc Iavaroni and Clemon Johnson into the surf, but in the end, he couldn't hold off the Green Tide. As always, the fourth quarter dictated the outcome. In a memorable display of offensive strangulation and ineptitude, the Sixers went six minutes without a basket, and made only 3 of 19 shots (.157) in the final 12 minutes. The scariest part was that the Sixers were actually able to mount a comeback in the process.

Asked to explain Philly's Big Chill, Dennis Johnson said: "I'd like to say it was all us, but they might have had a little to do with it." Andrew Toney went 3 for 12 from the floor and scored only 14; Malone's backup, Clemon Johnson, was 3 of 13; Julius Erving missed 6 of 12 free throws. "That's something that shouldn't happen," admitted the Doctor. "As long as I've been around, I'll have to take the demerit." Larry Bird was another rim clanger, making only 5 of 18 shots. The Celtics were led by heroic Robert Parish, who came through with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks. Kevin McHale added 17 points (8 of 11) and 11 rebounds, and Quinn Buckner and Danny Ainge played like starters.

It was 31-31 after one. The second quarter featured 16 lead changes and ended with the Celtics leading, 60-58. In the third period, Boston looked as if it might put it away when it went ahead, 76-64. The Celtics capped a 16-6 drive when Gerald Henderson stripped Iavaroni and fed Bird, who found McHale for an easy layup. The Garden rocked, the Celtics led by 12 with 5:21 left, and Cunningham called for time. Boston's euphoria was short-lived. After a pause, Clint Richardson (10 points in 3:40) led a 14-4 Philly run that closed the gap to 80-78 with 2:01 left in the third.

The Sixers tied it at 82-82, and again at 86-86, but one free throw by Buckner with three seconds left gave the Celtics a scary 87-86 lead after three. DJ, Buckner, Cedric Maxwell (6 of 7 from the floor) and Clemon Johnson all had four fouls when the fourth quarter started. Parish pushed the Celtics to a 95-88 lead early in the fourth quarter. Erving brought the Sixers back to within three (95-92), before the Celtics effectively put it away with a 6-1 run. The fourth quarter's only surge started when Parish blocked Clemon Johnson's shot. Then McHale followed up a DJ miss, and Ainge (eight points and no turnovers in 22 minutes) hit from the top of the key after an Erving free throw. While wearing Bobby Jones, Bird canned one from the top of the key with 3:30 left to make it 101-93. It was Boston's final basket.

It was 101-94 when, with 2:15 left, the Sixers started their final comeback. They cut it to four and had Erving at the line with 48 seconds left. Again, Doc missed one of two. After a hideous turnover (Henderson's pass to a not-looking McHale flew out of bounds), Parish blocked Johnson's shot and came up with the loose ball. The Celtics led, 101-98, only 27 seconds remained, and the game was finally safe.

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