Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 62 vs. the Hawks

Celtics (46-15) vs. Atlanta (38-25)
February 26, 1980
Hartford Civic Center

The Celtics traveled to the newly opened Hartford Civic Center for a road game with Hubie Brown’s Atlanta Hawks to continue a tough stretch of games for the Green.  After traveling for a five game road trip, making stops with Western Conference staples in Seattle, Portland, and Phoenix, Bill Fitch was on record that he considered this stretch a seven game road trip: five on the road, one “home” game in Hartford, and a tough match-up back at the Garden with the San Antonio Spurs.  Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe reported on Fitch’s philosophy:

Fitch contends that the Celtics are off on a seven-game road jaunt. There are five indisputable road games… [including] the tough Atlanta Hawks.

“We’d better put our road faces on for that one,” Fitch says.  “That’s the equivalent of a road game.”  He’s right, of course.  Traditionally, the Celtics view these home-away-from-home games in Hartford, Providence, Springfield, etc. with all the enthusiasm of a vegetarian ordering up a Big Mac.  Finally, there is the home game of Wednesday, Feb. 27.  Fitch is a firm believer in the theory that states that the first home game after a long road trip is actually the last game of the road trip.  Presto – a seven-game road trip.

With the way the Celtics were playing, however, it really didn’t matter where the game was held.  Boston ripped through Atlanta, 108-97, to improve to 4-1 against the Hawks.  The win stretched the C’s winning streak to three games, and the team was paced by a dominant effort from the front line.  Cedric Maxwell finished with 15 points and 9 boards before fouling out, but Larry Bird (25 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists) and Rick Robey (27 points, 13 rebounds) dominated Atlanta’s big men.  Nate Archibald and Chris Ford kept feeding the ball to the big men, combining for a dozen assists, and even though Pete Maravich did not make an impact (4 minutes, 2 points), the Celtics remained successful — and picked up their first victory in Connecticut, as Bob Ryan noted in that next day’s Globe, in years:

Last night’s game at the Civic Center marked Boston’s first appearance here since the infamous roof collapse in January 1978. In their last game in the “old” building, which seated 3000 less than the rebuilt edifice, they were beaten by the Phoenix Suns as Paul Westphal (43) and Walter Davis (40) shot them down…

The game also marked the return of Dave Cowens to the lineup.  Fitch promised that he would easy Cowens back into the rotation, and the head coach was good to his word: Cowens logged fourteen minutes off the bench.  In order to make room on the roster, Don Chaney was placed on the five game injured list.  Remarkably, he managed to pull a hamstring at the exact moment the Celtics proclaimed Cowens was ready to return.

The Celtics returned home — this time to the Garden — for a game the very next night with the San Antonio Spurs.

 

 

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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.