Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 55 vs. the Pacers

Celtics (41-13) vs. Indiana (27-29)
February 8, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics continued to roll over the competition, squashing Indiana, 130-108, on New Bedford Night at the Garden.  While Olympic boxing hopeful Andre McCoy was being honored and boxing fans were salivating over his future, the Celtics were busy winning their sixth straight game.  This was already the fourth time during the 79-80 season the Celtics had generated a winning streak of at least six games.

Sports News Larry Bird

The Celtics were looking to eliminate areas of weakness in the second half of the season.  The second quarter represented an area of concern, as the C’s had been tied or simply out-scored in 31 of the 54 games.  That wouldn’t be an issue on this particular evening, however, as the Green Team pulled ahead in the second, out-scoring the Pacers, 43-30.  A fourteen point lead at the half evolved into a 21-point lead after three frames.  The Celts were 35-2 when tied or leading after three, and improved that mark to 36-2 by finishing off Indiana in front of another capacity crowd on 150 Causeway Street.

Bob Ryan examined the reasons behind Boston’s ability to put teams away in the February 8, 1980 edition of the Boston Globe:

Fitch said the reason for Boston’s third-quarter success is hard work in practice and superior conditioning.

“I had them in solitary confinement in training camp,” said Fitch, “and very little has changed for them since that time. We work at practice now just as hard as we did then. We ask some guys to do extra since you can’t cover all the necessary things an individual needs during practice and he must do it on his own.”

A case in point this week was center Rick Robey, whose strength has been a power game consisting of hook shots and second-effort baskets. Fitch asked Robey to shoot 100 jump shots after Tuesday’s practice off feeds from Maravich. Robey received some much-needed practice from 15-18 feet out, but also got a tip from Maravich which Robey feels may make him a better shooter.

Starting in place of the injured Dave Cowerns, Robey put together another strong night of play with 17 points and 7 rebounds.  Larry Bird delivered 14 points, 6 boards, and 8 assists in just 23 minutes before fouling out, and Cedric Maxwell dominated with 23 points and 9 boards.  In addition to Bird’s eight assists, Tiny Archibald delivered nine more.  The Celtics tallied a total of 34 assists, fourteen more than Indiana, while the Pacers also committed seven more turnovers than the Celtics.  No one had an off-night for the Celtics (though Chris Ford did not hit a 3-pointer, ending his most recent nine-game streak), but the story of the game was the arrival of Pete Maravich in Celtic green.

The Globe’s Larry Whiteside detailed the moment:

 

Pete Maravich

The chanting began in the third period.  “We Want Pete!” But it was having a reverse effect on Bill Fitch, who gave serious thought to leaving his newest Celtic on the bench for the entire game last night.

“I didn’t really want to put him in a game at garbage time,” said Fitch, who finally unveiled Pistol Pete Maravich – to the delight of 15,320 screaming fans at the Garden. “He’s not ready to play. I’d much rather the game have been close so that I could have taken advantage of it psychologically. But the crowd was yelling and I sent him in.”

The Celtics were without Gerald Henderson, sitting out with a hairline jaw fracture suffered earlier in the week at practice.

The Pistol made his Celtic debut at 7:04 of the final period…  A pass to Eric Fernsten brought the crowd to its feet.  The Pistol then fired three times and hit one bullseye.  That also prompted a standing ovation, since Fitch then removed Maravich after a six- minute stint.

“I thought I’d be real tight when I first went in there,” said Maravich.  “But the moment I got in there I was loose.  I heard the crowd calling for me and I appreciated it very much.  It came as quite a surprise and made me feel great.”

The Pistol’s arrival marked what the Celtics hoped to be one of the final ingredients to the team’s championship aspirations.

The Celtics wrapped up their three-game, post All Star homestand with a 1pm tip off on Sunday afternoon against the Pistons.

 

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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.