Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 51 vs. the Bulls

Celtics (37-13) vs. Chicago (18-33)
January 29, 1980
Chicago Stadium

The Celtics continued to build some momentum before the All Star break with a 103-99 victory in Chicago over Jerry Sloan’s Bulls.

 

The win was anything but easy.  A 23-minue delay in the third quarter due to a broken clock allowed Bill Fitch some extra time to devise a plan to pick apart the Bulls’ defense.  The Globe’s Bob Ryan wrote of the impressive victory, which improved the Celtics record on the road to 16-9:

It was a golden five-plus minutes, the stuff of which the highlight film is made. Trailing by four points against a charged-up team playing before a roaring capacity crowd, the Boston Celtics stunned the Chicago Bulls and their followers with a brilliant 17-2 run in the final period to go off with a 103-99 victory.

The quintet of Rick Robey, Cedric Maxwell, M.L. Carr, Don Chaney and Gerald Henderson took an 89-85 Chicago lead and turned it into a 102-91 Boston advantage in just 5:47, and it did it with an aggressive defense that completely took the Bulls out of their game. Considering all the circumstances, beginning with the absence of Dave Cowens, continuing through the foul trouble of both Robey and Larry Bird and concluding with the fact that the Bulls had momentum and have been a good home team of late, this was a very sweet triumph for the Celtics…

A flu-ridden Tiny Archibald still managed to deliver 8 assists, but rookie Gerald Henderson was outstanding running the offense in only 14 minutes of play.  The Celtics made their fourth quarter push with Larry Bird (14 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists in a night where he fouled out), Chris Ford, and Archibald were all on the bench.  Larry Whiteside provided additional coverage on the win for the Globe:

“After the problem with the clock,” said Fitch, “we regrouped and told them that it was just a 13-minute ball game. We wanted everybody to go at them as hard as they could. And when they got tired, we’d go to the bench. We did go to our wide open offense. But we won the game mainly with our defense. This was a big, big victory.”

To win the game before the 18,508 at the Stadium, the Celtics played physical, bruising basketball. After the game, Rick Robey had a dark spot over his left eye, the result of an elbow by Artis Gilmore, who scored 17 points while bullying his way through the middle.

“If you look at the lineup for most of the fourth period,” said Robey, who fought Gilmore to a standstill most of the night and lead the Celtics with 23 points, “you’ll see Gerry Henderson, Don Chaney, M.L. Carr and (Cedric) Max(well). That’s not only our quickest lineup. But it is also our best defensive one.”

Henderson said that his recent success is more a result of growing confidence. “I think it comes from having practiced and gaining confidence there, then carrying it onto the court,” said Henderson. “When you’re new, you’re afraid of making a mistake. Once you get to play, you develop confidence in your own game.

Boston (now a game and a half in front of Philadelphia) withstood a 30-point effort from Reggie Theus.  They played the second of three consecutive games on Wednesday back at the Garden against the Cavaliers.

 

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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.