1985 - 1986 Boston Celtics
G6 Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics 101-125
Bird Returning to Form as Cs Pummel Suns
Representatives from the Grateful Dead, the E Street Band and the Naked Eye invaded practice; Larry Bird finally closed the book on the famed Chelsea's incident; and the entire team lived through a chapter of "The Crucible" after a mysterious bust in Brookline.
Last night Bird and the Celts found shelter in the comfortable old Garden, beating the sloppy (36 turnovers), winless (0-6) Phoenix Suns, 125-101.
The best news for Celtic fans is that Bird was his 1984-85 self - shooting without hesitation from the outer limits, diving on the parquet and setting up his mates for a series of layups and dunks. Bird finished with 24 points (20 in the first half, when the game was won) and 10 assists, and served notice that his MVP trophy is not yet up for grabs.
"He's playing great basketball right now," said teammate Danny Ainge.
Robert Parish (25 points, 10 rebounds in a mere 24 minutes) was the other dominant force. He destroyed Phoenix's pivotmen at both ends, brought Red Auerbach out of his seat with a fourth-effort follow and put the game away with 12 points and six rebounds in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, folks in Phoenix should take a long look at the talent that'll be available in next spring's draft lottery. There is no doubt about it: The Suns have set in the West.
"We're not using good judgment," said veteran coach John MacLeod. "We're trying to push the ball into cracks where it won't go. Right now we're struggling, but we're a better team than we've shown."
It took a while for the Green to hit its stride. The Garden legions were treated to the James Edwards show in the opening minutes as Phoenix rolled to a 16-9 lead. One wondered if perhaps the Celts had needed more than five days to prepare for the mighty Suns.
Then the bomb dropped. Over the next seven minutes, Boston outscored Phoenix, 26-4. Bird (15 in the period) started the torching with a one-handed lean-in, then kept it going with a three-pointer from the left corner, a mortar from out top and two eye-of-the-needle fastbreak feeds to Kevin McHale. When Jerry Sichting converted a dazzling three-point play off the break, Boston led, 35-20, with less than a minute to go in the first.
It was 38-25 at the end of one. MacLeod gave the crowd a thrill by inserting rookie forward Georgi Glouchkov at the start of the second. The Bulgarian beef brother immediately impressed the masses with a couple of Maxwellian inside hoops, a defensive rebound and an assist (he was also the last member of the the Suns to commit a turnover). While Glouchkov was hot, the Suns closed the gap to six and prompted a K.C. Jones timeout.
After the pause, Glouchkov cut it to four with a stuff off a drive down the lane (Air Georgi?).
The Celts responded with 10 straight. McHale started the run with with a pair of hoops. Dennis Johnson got the lead back up to 10 (49-39), then Bird dived across the baseline to keep a ball alive, and made a no-look feed to Parish for a stuff. Boston led, 63-51, at intermission.
Parish put it away with some inside work in the third period. The Chief rattled train tracks all the way to Dudley Station with a show-stopping slam to make it 76-58.
Ainge shot the Celts to a 20-point lead. Bird started show time with a behind-the-back-feed to McHale, and it was 86-64 with 5:22 left in the third. The Celts led by 22 when Parish came out. The only memorable moment in the closing minutes of the third quarter came when Rick Robey careened out of bounds and collapsed a press table behind the Suns' basket. It was 94-70 at the three-quarter pole.
Fans were chanting for Sam Vincent at the start of the fourth. Jones elected to open with Sichting and Rick Carlisle, and Boston led by 25 when Vincent finally got the call.
Vincent's long-awaited first NBA point was a free throw with 5:11 left. The Celts led by 25. Vincent missed the second free throw, and by the time Sam stuck a transition jumper in the closing seconds, most of the crowd had filed out of the Garden.