Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 34 vs. the Spurs

Celtics (26-7) vs. Spurs (17-16)
December 21, 1979
Boston Garden

The Celtics continued their hot streak as they hosted the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night at the Garden.  The C’s hit the glass, ran the break, and moved the ball exceptionally well in a lopsided 133-114 victory.  The win marked the 27th victory for the Celtics, and improved their winning streak to seven games.

Larry Bird led the Celtics with 26 points and 14 rebounds.  He added 6 assists as the C’s cruised past George Gervin’s Spurs despite the Ice Man’s 36 point performance.  Bird improved to 2-1 against Gervin and the depth of the Green Team proved too much as at least nine Celtics scored eight or more points.

The Celtics held the team Christmas party the day before the game with the Spurs.  Afterward, the C’s prepared to depart for a six game, two week road trip that wouldn’t have Boston back at the Garden until January 9.

To me,” Tiny Archibald said in the preview of the Spurs game to the Globe’s Larry Whiteside, “this is better than 1972-73 when I was scoring a lot of points,” he said.  At that point in my career, I was thinking about individual honors.  But I’d like to win a championship.  Everybody on this team would like to win a championship.”

Bird, who led the team in points, rebounds, and assists against San Antonio, was featured in a Boston Globe story by Steve Marantz on 12/21/79.  Bird was typically humble in the story:

“I’m just a player that fits in with what we got,” said Bird.  “I don’t know about a role player, or this and that.  I fit in with this team.  I do what I’m supposed to do.  I try to do what I do best.”

Marantz’s story detailed the press’ difficulties of connecting with the rookie from Indiana State.

“Larry prefers not to be known,” said Bob Woolf, his attorney.  “He wants to be like everybody else.  He says, ‘The more they write about me, the more people know about me.’”

Marantz did, however, unearth some interesting pieces on information.

There is the Tommy John anecdote.  Last spring, the Terre Haute, Ind. Committee of elders that selected Woolf to represent Bird, wanted to know the salary the Yankees were paying John, who, like Bird, is a Terre Haute progeny.  Bird vetoed the inquiry.

“Larry didn’t feel it was any of his business,” said Woolf.  “He feels people should mind their own business.”

Woolf displays Exhibit B, a $158.56 bill from the Parker House, a souvenir of Bird’s first three days in Boston in April.  There are no room service or telephone charges on the bill.

“I told him he could get anything he wanted,” said Woolf, “but he didn’t want to take advantage.”

More?  Bird played in the Pizza Hut Classic last summer only because he had given his word to the local Pizza Hut Man in Terre Haute.  Bird made sure the Converse people didn’t forget 11-man Eric Fernsten when the free bags were being handed out.  Bird called Woolf during the prolonged negotiations and told Woolf not to worry, it would all work out.  Bird addresses Woolf as “Mr. Woolf” instead of “Bob.”

The story also included Bird’s pranks: He impersonates Dave Cowens on the telephone.  Or Bill Cartwright.  Or Rick Robey.  In a hotel he will order room service under Robey’s name.

(Fitch recalled being victimized by a Bird prank: “The time he took four shots in Kansas City.”)

Dave Cowens, whose season shooting percentage dipped to below 50 percent, shot only 2-of-9 from the field.  Cedric Maxwell contributed 23 points and 8 boards, shot 8-for-11, and kept his slim lead in field goal percentage over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  M.L. Carr also showed the Garden faithful why Red Auerbach was so interested in acquiring the man from Guilford College in the off-season.

Happily for the Celtics, the catalyst was Carr, who for the first time since he severely sprained his right wrist a fortnight ago, looked like the bubbly M.L. Carr who had so captivated this town during October and November.

“I was hoping to get through this weekend without having to do much, so I could rest it up for the West Coast trip,” Carr confided.  “But there wasn’t much sense in saving myself when we needed this win as much as any other one.  We were a little flat, so I mentioned on the bench that I would try to make something happen.

Carr added 14 points off the bench, but as Ryan noted in the game recap for the Globe, his impact went much deeper.

Would that we all had Carr’s determination and will.  For ol’ Mighty Loose came roaring in to disrupt the Spurs.  With the Celtics holding a shaky 40-38 lead, Carr threw in seven straight points, starting with a three-pointer, his first successful bomb since his injury.  Those were the first two of 14 consecutive Carr-oriented Celtics points.  In the next 2:40, Carr would spin in for a one-on-one flipper; take a phenomenal Bird missile for a give-and-go layup; send Bird in for a fast-break goaltended layup, and then bring the customers out of their seats with a behind-the-back pass for a Chaney fast-break layup.  He completed his destruction with four free throws to cap a 12-point, 2-assist, 50-thrill 12 minutes of basketball.

The only discouraging news from the contest was a badly sprained ankle for Archibald.  Suffered just 19 seconds into the fourth quarter, Archibald left the game immediately to receive treatment (Cedric Maxwell quipped to Bob Ryan after the game that, when he saw Archibald injure his ankle, “I saw my playoff money going out the window when he went down.”).  He received a standing ovation from the Garden as he departed, and after the game, he vowed to play the next night against Philadelphia.

Around the league, longtime Western Conference divisional rivals, the Lakers and Warriors, met up at the Great Western Forum.  Robert Parish dropped 28 in a duel against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who finished with 29, as LA defeated Golden State, 114-108.

The road trip began the next night at the Celtics traveled to the Spectrum for round-three with the 76ers.

12_21_79

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.

  • Brianwaterslocker

    Mur. Hew. Is a big fan of Bird updates

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