Silas Still Making Big Plays

January 21, 1980

He's still the master of the stop watch. Paul Silas has the knack and experience to make the maximum use of the full three seconds. Yet, he always seems to be in the right place - around the offensive basket - at the right time.

- Celtic Coach Bill Fitch

Naturally, his name came up right away. Despite the talents of Dennis Johnson and Gus Williams or the tenacity of Jack Sikma, Paul Silas remains a powerful force around the basket, and the Celtics may long regret they let him get away.

"Sure, I'm still a little disappointed that I'm not with Boston," said Silas, Seattle's veteran forward. "Believe me, they have a good team, especially when you consider how things went last year. I'd love the chance to play with Dave again.

"But I think I'm in a pretty good position where I am. I don't play as much as I did in other years, maybe 18 minutes a night. They count on me to be a leader, sort of. I just go out and do the same things I've done over the years. As long as I feel I can contribute to this team and to winning, I guess I'll still play."

When Silas made his first appearance in the second quarter of yesterday's game at the Garden, there was a scattering of applause from the Celtic fans among the sellout crowd of 15,320. Many must have been wondering why the Sonics were still relying on a 15-year veteran whose 240-pound body hardly seems suited to the Sonics' effective finesse style of play.

However, after the Celtics had lost the game, 108-106, in double overtime, those at the Garden had no doubt about his value. He has turned the skill of offensive rebounding into a science. He also has no peer when it comes to making the "big play."

"Why is he so effective? Because he knows his limitations and never tries to do anything outside of it," said M.L. Carr. "But, he is the best at what he does, and his teammates know that and have confidence in him because of it. He gets great position on the offensive and defensive boards.

"He's got the experience. And the thing he does so well is that he finds a way to get to the ball or keep you from it. I mean, you can screen him out of bounds on a play. But before you know it, he's back and he's got you out of bounds."

The sellout crowd and national television audience saw Johnson hit a sensational three-point goal with one second left to revive the Sonics and send the game into overtime. The Celtics then managed to waste 11 seconds at the end of the first overtime and missed a poor-percentage shot.

"I can't get mad at my team after a game like this," said Celtic coach Bill Fitch. "We got beat by a good team and a player who threw in tremendous shot. What I'm still unhappy about is that we had a play and 11 seconds to get it off, and we wound up with the same shot 11 seconds later. We missed, and they got a better one that they made in two seconds. We didn't run the play."

Even in the second overtime, the game looked as if it would be decided by a Celtic three-pointer from organist John Kiley's seat in the upper deck, or a triple spin and reverse axel basket by Gus Williams as he recited the Lord's Prayer. But these pressure situations are when Silas seems to be at his best.

Boston trailed, 103-101, when the 36-year-old Silas took over. Williams put up a shot with two minutes left. Larry Bird seemed to be in the perfect spot to grab the rebound, apparently having screened out Silas. But Silas slipped inside and sank an easy layup for a 105-101 lead.

"Larry had pushed him out of bounds," said Carr. "But he got back inside and got the basket."

Less than 30 seconds later, Silas sank one of two free throws for 106-101 lead. He'd gotten away from Bird and was fouled by Cedric Maxwell, who had moved over to help out.

"I think Larry was thinking a little about helping out someplace else in that situation," said Silas."He has a tendency to do that. But that's all I need to get a little edge . . . to have my man thinking of somebody besides me."

Silas' poise under pressure is rapidly becoming part of Seattle's philosophy.

"The thing is that we've been in this situation before and we know what we want to do," he said. "We have a good basketball team, one that has been together 2 1/2 years now and know each other very well.

"The only difference now between this team and the good Celtic teams I played on is that we're still letting teams that we are supposed to beat easily beat us. That seldom happened with the old Celtics, but this team has lost a few games to teams we shouldn't have. It is something we've got to work on."

The Sonics won their third straight, and, since they beat the Celtics on the road, that speaks well of the team.

"Even as a player," said Sonic coach Lenny Wilkens, "I believed that you could win on the road. You have to play well, but the rest of it is a mental thing. We played well enough, today. And we got a little luck on Dennis' shot that got us to the overtime. But that is part of it, too."

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