Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 79 vs. the Bullets

Celtics (58-20) vs. Washington (37-41)
March 25, 1980
Capital Centre

The Celtics inched closer to a 60-win season with a one-point victory, 96-95, over the Bullets in the nation’s capital to secure the team’s 59th victory.

Larry Bird

After dropping the previous meeting with the Bullets, the Celtics exacted some revenge in the final meeting of the season for the two teams.  Pete Maravich capped off the Celtics’ victory with a fourth-chance three-pointer for the winning basket.  The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan detailed the winning sequence:

Like, wow, Pistol, did you really want to shoot a three-pointer?

The Celtics were losing by two points, 95-93.  A sequence begun when Pete Maravich himself had missed a jumper (one of only two fourth- period misses in 10 tries), and there had been a couple of taps, a back-tap across mid-court and another miss.  Now the 24-second clock was again dwindling down and here was Maravich on the right flank, a half-step or so outside the line.  To advance, or not to advance, that was clearly the question.

“The time before I had driven to the right,” Maravich said.  “This time Kevin (Grevey) had taken a step back.  I think he felt I was going to dribble and take a two-pointer.  I would rather take a three- pointer and get us a lead than just get into overtime.  Anyway, if I had taken a step I would have been moving.  This way I had my balance.”

And so Maravich shot the ball and it swished.  On many another Celtic night this season it would not have held up… But this time it held up through an involved set of circumstances and The Pistol was a certified, bona fide and maybe even cannonized hero in The Hub.

This victory produced a bounce-back game for many Celtics.  Cedric Maxwell, mired in an 18-47 shooting slump over his past four games, delivered 21 points and 11 boards, as well as suffocating defense down low on Washington’s Elvin Hayes.  This was a game the Bullets needed to win to jump the Knicks in the standings for the final playoff spot, but  the Celtics wouldn’t let them have it.  Tiny Archibald’s 17 assists (with just three turnovers) and  twenty points from Larry Bird helped the C’s put an end to a two-game losing streak.  Ryan expanded on the win in March 26, 1980 edition of the Globe:

The Bullets couldn’t contend with Boston’s transition game, nor its clever passing in the half court.  Tiny Archibald was choreographing a beautiful offensive attack that had only occasional interruptions.  Tiny capped a fine offensive first half with a penetration and a backward overhead shovel pass to Dave Cowens for a Cowens jumper with 23 seconds left that created the halftime score.

Pistol Pete

Maravich finding his groove proved to be a critical piece of the Celtics grabbing a firm hold on the Atlantic Division.  In Pete Maravich: The Authorized Biography of Pistol Pete, Dave Cowens shared his feeling on the Pistol as a Celtic:

“He was going through a transition in his life and he was trying to figure out what his place was.  He was like the Pied Piper of basketball,” Cowens said.  “He didn’t want to be the show and all that.  He came to work every day and worked hard.  He just wanted to win.”

Maravich expressed to the Globe that he was very impressed with his new team in Boston, as well as touched on his basketball philosophy.

“This team is very much into the game itself,” said Maravich.  “It’s almost like a college atmosphere.  When you have that in the pros, your success seems to be enlightened a great deal.  It’s a basketball atmosphere.  It’s a job, but it’s a basketball atmosphere.  I’ve always said the game is very simple, but it’s played by complex people.  Everybody tries to strategize what the Celtics do.  What they do is hit the open man.  It’s very simple.  They’ve done it for years and it’s been copied by a lot of college and pro teams.”

“This is the only team I’ve played on with this many good passers,” he said.  “Tiny Archibald, Larry Bird, Dave Cowens, just about everybody on the team can pass.  That’s a great outlet, because usually the guy who’s open is going to take the shot.  A lot of times we over-pass, but I think it’s better to over- pass than under-pass.  When you under-pass, you get guys taking shots that are blocked down their throats.”

In other news from the  Boston sports scene in March of 1980, a state legislative commission called on the head of the Boston Licensing Board to stop selling alcohol at Boston Garden events.  The main culprits, in the eyes of commission, were the fans of the Boston Bruins.

“At recent Bruins games and other events there have been numerous altercations in the stands, numbers of people obviously intoxicated, and almost unlimited drinking within the stadium area,” stated a letter to Licensing Board Comr. Jon Straight yesterday.

In the end, however, in a surprise to no one, the Garden did not stop selling alcohol.

Also in the news were some interesting notes from the Globe’s Will McDonough, particularly after the U.S. gold medal run in Olympic hockey:

US Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks has made contact with the Bruins and is apparently interested in coaching the team next year.  But at this point, the Bruins are not interested in Brooks or anyone else to coach the team next year, even though Harry Sinden consciously reminds himself a couple of times each day that he is coaching only until the end of the season.  Brooks is actively pursuing an NHL coaching job.  He met recently with Jerry Buss, owner of the Los Angeles Kings, and has reportedly talked with Ted Lindsay, general manager of the Detroit Red Wings…

Also from McDonough was this nugget of information as the Celtics continued to look for a new home:

Dick O’Connell, former Red Sox general manager and now a liaison man for Celtic owner Harry Mangurian in his quest to build a new arena at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, is spending most of his time courting bankers and influential people in the Boston financial community, trying to build support for the project.

For now, the Garden remained home and the C’s returned the next night for the second half of a back-to-back against the Knicks.

 

3_25_80

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.