Bird’s Rookie Year – Game 20 vs. the Nuggets

Celtics (15-4) vs. Nuggets (9-15)
Wednesday, November 28
Boston Garden

Good things seemed to happen at the Garden when Dick Bavetta refs.

The last time Bavetta reffed a game in Boston, Larry Bird put up a triple-double.

Bird followed up that performance with a dominating 29 point, 7 rebound, 8 assist night in a 119-97 win over the Nuggets.  He shot 12-for-18 from the field and even canned another 3-pointer.  Overall, the story of the night was the three-point shot.  The Celtics lit up Denver by hitting a team-high six 3’s, including five from Chris Ford.  Ford had quietly contributed all season, but now was starting to break out with back-to-back standout games.  The future Celtics head coach poured in 27 points, as well as added 4 steals and 3 assists.  Known for his defensive spark, the 29-year old from Atlantic City was really adding a lot to the shooting guard position.

The starting five for the C’s pushed around the Nuggets.  Along with superb nights from Bird and Ford, the Green Team’s first five outscored their counterparts, 84-60.  Cedric Maxwell had a quiet game offensively, but contributed to the victory with 9 boards and 4 assists.  The Celtics were all filling their roles so well at such an early junction in the season, and Tiny Archibald did his job at the point with 10 points and distributed 13 assists.  Dave Cowens added 12 and 10.

The prior season, the Celtics did not reach their fifteenth victory until January 19.  Cowens, Archibald, Ford, and Maxwell were all part of that team, but the addition of Bird helped bring out the best in all of his teammates.

Fellow NBA rookie Earvin “Magic” Johnson was quoted in an aforementioned Sports Illustrated story by Douglas Looney, and he discussed the power of passing:

For his part, Magic says, “I discovered as a kid that the way to win was not to have a bunch of guys who could shoot 20-foot jump shots. What we’d do is get five average guys who could shoot layups. Then we’d pass—and win.”

Now, as the top team in the Atlantic and the Eastern Conference, Bird’s teammates — though these Celtics were far from average players, as Cowens and Archibald were two of the league’s finest and Maxwell sacrificed much of game to fill a defensive/rebounding role the team desperately needed — were likely to agree with that assessment.  After taking an Indiana State team further than anyone possibly conceived, Bird was now surrounded by talented teammates and seemed ready to take the league by storm.  The win, which featured Bill Fitch’s first ejection of the season, marked the Celtics’ fourth straight victory.  A rematch with the Knicks awaited on Friday at the Boston Garden.

 

About Justin Barrasso

Justin Barrasso has worked in the Boston sports scene in various different capacities since 2001, including writing for the Boston Herald and WEEI.com.