G8 Indiana Pacers @ Boston Celtics 114-118
1986 Cs Move to 7-1
DJ's Hot Hand Overcomes Bird's Bricks
Larry Bird was a junior at Indiana State, Robin Young was the star of "Evening Magazine," the Red Sox had just acquired Dennis Eckersley from Cleveland and Ed King was plotting a successful dethronement of Gov. Michael Dukakis when the Indiana Pacers last won a game in Boston Garden.
Boston beating Indiana in the Garden is one of pro sports' sure things. It's like the Dolphins over the Patriots in the Orange Bowl, or the Yanks over the Red Sox in September.
The Celtics stumbled somewhat, but still beat the Pacers, 118-114, last night. Bird was locked in the ice box (6 for 21, much to the dismay of French Lick folks watching back home on WTTV), but Dennis Johnson came to the rescue with a pretty fair impersonation of Oscar Robertson.
DJ had 30 points - his greatest output as a Celtic - plus six steals and zero turnovers in 37 minutes. He had nine points and an assist when the Celts cracked open a 91-91 tie with an 11-2 run midway through the final period. Now we know why Johnson was singing "Indiana Wants Me" during his free agency summer.
It was Boston's seventh straight victory, and the Celts' 17th consecutive Garden conquest of the Pacers. Overall, it was Indiana's 18th straight road loss and 41st consecutive failure in an Atlantic Division arena. The Pacers' last victory here was accomplished during the salad days of the Sidney Wicks era (April 2, 1978).
Jerry Sichting, who played for the Pacers for five seasons before joining Boston, had the best perspective on the non-rivalry.
"When I played with the Pacers, we knew we had to be perfect to have a chance here," recalled Sichting. "I can only remember one time when we went down to the wire. Boston always seemed to pull away at the end."
It was 91-91 with nine minutes left when DJ took over. In succession, he canned an 18-footer from out top, a running hook, a three-point play on a follow-up and a 14-foot baseline fallaway jumper. Then he fed Robert Parish (23 points) for a fast-break stuff and a 102-93 lead.
"Dennis gets the game football," said coach K.C. Jones. "Larry was shooting bricks, so DJ said, 'I'll hold you up, fella.' "
"Don't ask me to explain," said Johnson, who made 13 of 21 floor shots. "I was hitting and hitting well tonight."
It was an otherwise uneventful evening on Causeway Street. While Bird (18 points) missed his first five shots, the young Pacers had the temerity to take a 14-12 lead. The Celts then scored nine straight, forcing an Indiana timeout after a transition jumper by DJ. The Celts led, 35-24, at the end of one, but a 34-point second period pulled the visitors to a 58-58 halftime tie.
"The first half was awful," said Jones. "They took advantage of our ugly defense."
Boston's backcourt exploded for 15 points in the first four minutes of the second half. DJ (11 in the third) registered his sixth steal and teamed with Danny Ainge to shoot the Green to a seven-point lead.
Herb Williams (27 points, 13 rebounds), Clark Kellogg (21 and 11) and Vern Fleming (22) kept the Pacers close (88-81 at the end of three), but there still didn't seem to be any doubt about the outcome.
Indiana tied it for the last time on a reverse layup by Kellogg with 9:19 left. The Celts called time, then DJ went berserk.
"He hurt us when we did not sign him and he hurt us tonight," said Pacer coach George Irvine.
"I think we are a lot better than last year," added Irvine. " . . . and we are going to get better."
"It's just a matter of time for that young team," said Parish. "So get them while they're young."