G9 Washington Bullets @ Boston Celtics 114-118
Ainge Leads 1986 Cs to Win over Bullets
Cs Move to 8-1
Final scores don't mean much at the Garden these days, especially ones reading Boston 118, Opponent 114. Wednesday's four-point Celtic spread over the Pacers was laughable, because there was as much chance of Indiana winning that game as Moses Malone has of succeeding William F. Buckley on "Firing Line." And last night's matching final score of Boston 118, Washington 114, doesn't quite explain the nature of this game, either.
That's because there never really was a game. The Celtics led by 20 at the half (57-37), 28 (69-41) with 7:11 remaining in the third quarter, 19 (85-66) at the end of three and 20 (94-74) with 8:53 left. So forget all the nonsense in the final eight minutes. K.C. Jones would certainly like to, because in one stretch, the Celtics missed five consecutive free throws, even as the Bullets were making four three-pointers.
When things were actually being decided, the Bullets didn't have the answer to anything Boston did. Boston punished the visitors inside with the usual Robert Parish and Kevin McHale post-ups, and they likewise tormented them from the outside with arching jumpers by the likes of Danny Ainge (24 points, 9 assists) and Scott Wedman. Even watching Parish depart in the third quarter with a severe bruise on his right arm didn't help them, because Bill Walton was there to provide the Celtics with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks.
The Celtics limited Washington to 35 percent shooting in the first half en route to that comfortable 20-point halftime lead. Any question that it would continue to be Boston's night were quickly answered when Ainge opened up the third period with a 15-footer to start a solid 10-point quarter. Boston quickly expanded the lead to 28 at 69-41, and it would have been history right there with just a little more defensive intensity.
But Boston relaxed enough at this point to allow Washington a 10-point run, a slip-up the Celtics would regret in the final period. Instead of cruising with a 20-plus advantage, they found themselves needing to play to the end when Washington unleashed that three-point-play barrage in the final minute.
The Bullets' first-half highlight: Cliff Robinson misses a 15-foot jumper from the right. Nobody blocks out, and Robinson races in to pick up his own rebound and lay it in. The game is 14 seconds old. Washington leads, 2-0. The rest is a disaster.
Before the game is three minutes old, Parish has twice sprinted downcourt for fast-break baskets. Before the game is four minutes old, Larry Bird has four rebounds. Before the game is nine minutes old, Parish has 12 points. And before the game is 13 minutes old, the Bullets are trailing by 16. As Linda Ellerbee would say, And So It Goes.
There was simply no first-half competition. The Bullets clanked up outside shot after outside shot on the offensive end while proving incapable of stopping the Celtics at the other end. Their offense-to-defense transition was horrible, as the Celtics successfully completed three over-the-top lead passes directly from defensive rebounds. It wasn't hard to see how they arrived here with a 2-6 record.
After conceding that first easy basket, the Celtics just blasted away from the visitors. McHale tapped in his own miss. Parish took lob No. 1 from Ainge and laid one in. McHale fed Parish for another fast-break slammer, and the pattern was established. With Bird assaulting the glass, the Celtics kept running.
It was 32-20, Boston, after one, and only some nice outside shooting by Jeff Malone kept the Bullets that close. And when the second quarter started, the crowd got what it had come to see when Gene Shue inserted Manute Bol.
Bol lasted almost eight minutes, during which time he was credited with two blocks (once by stuffing a Parish running hook) and an illegal defense violation. He also delighted the fans by banking in a runner. But after having an early effect as the Bullets kept the score in the 13-point range for a while, Bol ceased to be a factor as the Celtics ran the score up to such margins as 44-27, 46-28 and 49-31.
The fans had enough first-half flashback highlights to last a Kings' fan for two months. Among the more scintillating maneuvers was an amazing bullet pass from Walton to a cutting Ainge; an Ainge pick-and-roll pass to McHale for a dunk; and any one of the four fast-break lob passes. And this doesn't even include a Bird flurry of three consecutive second-quarter baskets after he returned to the game from a brief rest.