Miracle On Causeway Street

Facing their own ghosts of the past, the Bruins just gave up last night, meekly submitting to the Toronto Maple Leafs as Boston completed its collapse from a 3-1 series lead. Appropriately enough, the Bruins were done in by Phil Kessel, as the former first round pick of the Bruins scored to make it 3-1 two minutes into the third period and then assisted on the final Toronto goal three minutes later which made it 4-1. The Bruins had no energy, could not generate scoring chances and at times appeared disinterested. Look for coach Claude Julien to pay for this epic collapse with his job.

How many columns with sentiments similar to the above do you figure were in the process of being written during the third period last night?

The Bruins instead pulled off a historic comeback, scoring three times in the third period, including twice in the final 90 seconds to force overtime and then won on Patrice Bergeron’s wrist shot in the extra period (Dave Goucher audio) to take the series four games to three and move on to face the New York Rangers.

It’s hard to imagine two more different scenes than the one right after the fourth Toronto goal, and immediately following the game. Dirt was being shoveled onto the Bruins grave, and then fans had Mike Felger calling for backup and fearing for his safety in the studio across the street from the Garden. There was also an F-bomb dropped on the air coming in from a break as they wondered if the window was going to be broken.

Bruins Win Overtime Thriller, Toronto Left Staring Into Nothingness  – Deadspin has the NBC video, the NESN video and reaction from the Toronto crowd. For some reason they also do a finger wag at NESN (New England Sports Net Switches To Toronto Feed In Ultimate Dick Move) for briefly showing the Toronto crowd. What Deadspin seems to miss is that NESN was showing those Toronto crowd shots all night long, especially after Maple Leaf goals. Many complained on Twitter after the game winner that NESN didn’t show enough of the Toronto crowd after things went bad for them.

Hope Was Lost Until The Bruins Restored It – Kevin Paul Dupont compares this game to Carlton Fisk’s home run in the 1975 World Series. (Except here, Patrice Bergeron  played the role of both Bernie Carbo and Fisk.)

Bruins display heart of champions in comeback – Joe Haggerty looks at the unlikeliest of game seven comebacks.

Bruins pull off epic turnaround – Joe McDonald has the Bruins making history again.

Bergeron delivers in face of mounting criticism – Stephen Harris has Bergeron delivering after his line had been criticized all series.

Leafs endure heartbreaking collapse in Game 7 overtime loss to Bruins – From North of the border, Bruce Arthur is as good as they come.

Bruins Pushed To The Brink By Leafs

A snide comment from Kevin Paul Dupont last week suddenly looks prescient as the Bruins, once up 3-1 in this opening round series, find themselves fighting for their playoff lives tonight in game seven against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bruins have lost wiggle room – Joe McDonald says that the formula for the Bruins is simple, they need more shots, more traffic, more players in front of the net to cause havoc.

B’s flaunting inconsistency to the end – Joe Haggerty says that based on this season, we have no idea which version of the Bruins will show up tonight. Haggs also notes that this band of Bruins are familiar with the pressure of a game 7.

Tuukka Rask hopes for best – Stephen Harris has the Bruins goaltender putting the 2010 playoffs out of his mind as he readies for tonight.

Undying loyalty to Seguin, Marchand might lead to Bruins’ early demise – Matt Kalman thinks that Claude Julien’s loyalty to his young duo might end up costing him his job.

Toronto got the better of Boston twice yesterday, as the Blue Jays pounded Ryan Dempster and the Red Sox 12-4 at Fenway Park. Boston has now lost eight of ten.

The Red Sox’ reality: The lineup’s problems, and potential solutions – Rob Bradford looks at how the Red Sox can turn things around as they now face a nine-game road trip through Tampa, Minnesota and Chicago.

May has brought lots of problems – Tony Lee notes that since the calendar switched from April to May, it’s been all bad for the Sox.

It’s getting to be a grind for scuffling Sox – Ron Borges looks at how things have faltered for the Sox as of late,  suggests they take  a lesson from the Mayans, and has a new nickname for Dan Shaughnessy.

David Ortiz is 1-for-17 since The Cooler asked him to defend himself because apparently 40 allegedly negative drug tests for performance enhancers weren’t good enough.

How much longer Ortiz struggles is anyone’s guess, but you don’t have to know much about baseball to understand he wasn’t going to continue to hit .450, because if he did, The Cooler wouldn’t be the only guy asking him questions about how that was happening.

Not bad, not bad. Whenever things are going well, we can count on Dan Shaughnessy going in to insert himself into the equation and foul things up however he can.

Of course, “the Cooler” is a phrase that Shaughnessy himself had some fondness for, as he used it in at least three different columns as a nickname for Adrian Gonzalez.

Unkind Reactions To Shaughnessy Column on Ortiz

While Dan Shaughnessy gets lionized among local media for his David Ortiz column from the other day, especially among sports radio hosts, a few people displaced from the local scene see the column for what it really was: garbage.

The worst baseball writing of the month -Rob Neyer says that the column takes muckraking to a whole different place.

You know what’s really a shame? I mean, aside from the fact that Shaughnessy gets paid a great deal of money to compose this drivel, year after year? He might have spared himself this particular embarrassment if he weren’t so bloody afraid of statistics that his grandpappy didn’t teach him.

And more.

Nowhere in the column does Shaughnessy offer even the tiniest shred of evidence, not one, that Ortiz’s bat speed is higher now than when he was 34. Nothing from an Internet database, no quote from some grizzled (and anonymous) scout. Just the argument that Ortiz’s bat speed must be higher because hey look! .426!

From Deadspin: Dan Shaughnessy Invents Some David Ortiz PED Rumors

Except, this isn’t a column accusing David Ortiz of PED usage. It’s a column about David Ortiz denying accusations of PED usage. Except there are no active accusations, so Shaughnessy has to create them, confront Ortiz with them, and then run his denials. The truly incredible part is that at some point, this logic ran through Shaughnessy’s brain and he decided it would be a good idea for a column.

He concludes:

The Red Sox have been in first place for most of a season in which they’re supposed to finish last. If there’s not enough there for a local sports columnist without having to resort to sorry-I’m-not-sorry defamation after a month, I feel for Dan Shaughnessy’s shriveled black writer’s soul. But Boston’s lost three in a row, seven of 10, and Ortiz is hitless in his last 13 at-bats. Shank can happily go back to blasting the team for being bad, which is a lot easier and more straightforward than this tortured bit of “I’m just asking questions.”

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 1 vs. the 76ers

Celtics (0-0) vs. Philadelphia (0-0)
April 18, 1980
The Boston Garden

The Celtics began the  Eastern Conference Finals at the friendly confines of the Boston Garden against the Philadelphia 76ers.  The two teams split the six regular season meetings, with each team winning their home games.  Rumors that Philly could not win in Boston proved premature as the 76ers dominated the game’s third quarter and stole the opening game of the series, 96-93. [Read more…]

Bruins Take 3-1 Lead After OT Victory

David Krejci seems to be a guy who steps his game up to another level when the postseason begins. During the Bruins 2011 run to the Stanley Cup title, Krejci was the leading scorer of the postseason. He’s on that pace again as he scored a hat trick, including the game-winner in overtime as the Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 to take a 3-1 series lead.

Krejci continues postseason heroics – Joe Haggerty looks at another big playoff performance for Krejci.

David Krejci on top of his game – Joe McDonald notes that “in 63 career playoff games, Krejci has 25 goals and 32 assists for 57 points, including a plus-26 rating. Those are some sick numbers and his teammates know it.”

Meanwhile, not everyone is happy with the victory and series lead. Kevin Paul Dupont tries out a little Dan Shaughnessy schtick to open up his column today:

The Maple Leafs are all but finished, although we only need recall Boston’s 3-0 series lead over Philadelphia in 2010 to remember that sure things can turn into dreaded, torturous black holes of despair in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Duly noted.

Also this morning, the noted hockey experts on the WEEI morning show were declaring that the Bruins trade of Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs has now proven to be a bad deal, and it was noted that Kessel has outplayed Tyler Seguin in this series. A caller informed them of the following stats:

Kessel the last three seasons:  -33
Seguin the last three seasons:  +53

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Elsewhere, there continues to be some confusion over the status of Rob Gronkowski’s arm, and the number of surgeries needed. I was under the impression, and I’m not the only one, that the plate that is currently in Gronkowski’s forearm would need to be removed at some point, and so another surgery to take it out seemed to be a given. Thus when I see every outlet reporting that he might need a 4th surgery, I thought it was just hysteria.

I haven’t seen it clearly reported, (perhaps I’ve just missed it) but apparently the plan all along was that the plate would be left there permanently. Now, when the current batch of antibiotics runs its course, the arm will be evaluated for infection, and if needed, they would go in, remove the current plate and put another in, which of course would be a setback.

Whether that plate needs replacing hasn’t yet been determined officially.

***************

A few other links/items of note:

Celtics myths miss point – Steve Bulpett does a masterful job dispelling a number of myths surrounding the Celtics such as “they’re a better team without Rondo” and “the Celtics could’ve traded KG to the Clippers” and “the Celtics could’ve beaten the Knicks if they signed a true point guard after Rondo went down.”

It almost seems like Bulpett is taking aim at a certain 98.5 afternoon drive show…

Papi’s performance speaks for itself – Along the same lines of taking aim, Gordon Edes offers an alternate view of David Ortiz’s performance this season to that suggested by Dan Shaughnessy yesterday. (He must be on steroids!)

Speaking of Ortiz and Shaughnessy:

Sox Swept, Washburn Explains, Celtics To Be Gutted?

The Red Sox spent a rough weekend in Texas, getting swept by the Rangers, including a walk-off loss yesterday at the hands of old friend Adrian Beltre.

The Red Sox offense fell silent this weekend, and Tim Britton notes that they’ve shown themselves vulnerable to most breaking pitches, especially the slider.

Clay Buchholz looks to play the role of stopper tonight against the Twins at Fenway Park. Alex Speier says the Sox need a strong (and long) outing from Buchholz to give some key bullpen members a bit of rest.

Despite the sweep, Michael Silverman says that the coming back optimistic and ready to get back on a winning track.

*******

LeBron James was named NBA MVP and it was revealed that he came one vote shy of becoming the first unanimous regular season MVP selection ever. Some speculation had Miami look-at-me radio star Dan Le Batard as the one who didn’t vote for LeBron, but instead, we found out today that it was none other than the Boston Globe’s own Gary Washburn who voted for Carmelo Anthony rather than LeBron.

Why my MVP vote went to Carmelo Anthony – Washburn explains his thinking, almost apologetically. He insists that this was not a “statement” vote and that he really didn’t think he would be the only writer in the entire country who didn’t vote for LeBron.

I’m really not sure whether Washburn should be admired or ridiculed for the vote. On one hand, writers in other sports have made picks that made headlines, yet were never revealed publicly. At the very least, Washburn deserves credit for raising his hand and saying it was him.

********

It’s yet another spring where we’ve got the numerous “end of an era” columns written about the Celtics from the likes of Jackie MacMullan (who absolutely LOVES to predict dark days ahead for a franchise) and Dan Shaughnessy. It seems like these columns have been written annually since 2010, but this year, it seems like it really might be the end.

Maxwell: Doc, Garnett, Pierce won’t be back – WEEI Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell went on CSNNE to say that it is his belief that Doc Rivers will leave the team, needing a breather, and that the Celtics will buy out Paul Pierce’s final year and that Kevin Garnett will retire.

*********

If you missed it last week, J.T. “The Brick” and his national show is back on overnights on WEEI starting today. The show airs from 1-6 a.m. weekdays and the program can currently be heard on approximately 260 affiliates across the nation.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 4 vs. the Rockets

Celtics (3-0) vs. Houston (0-3)
April 15, 1980
The Summit

The Celtics punched their ticket to the conference finals by sweeping away the Houston Rockets, winning the fourth and final game of the series, 138-121.

M.L._Carr

The C’s shot a scorching 63 percent from the field and featured four players in double-digits.  Larry Bird led all scorers with 34 points.  Bird, who also pulled down 10 rebounds and picked up 7 assists, came within just three assists of picking up his first playoff triple-double.  Even now, 33 years later, M.L. Carr still gushes when discussing playing alongside Bird.  In his recent interview with BSMW, Carr touched on the skills that allowed Bird to make an immediate impact in the NBA:

Larry’s understanding of the game made him so special.  Bill Russell used to say, “the game of basketball is not how high you can jump or how fast you can go, it’s how quick you can cut off angles because the game is a game of angles.”  Larry understood that probably better than anyone at the time.  He wasn’t a great leaper but he cleared out space for rebounding opportunities.  Defensively, he used angles to outsmart some of the quicker guys.  He had an incredible basketball IQ for a kid that young.  And put that together with his offensive skills, and I’m talking more than just shooting, because his ability to see the floor and pass were uncanny for a guy his size at that time.

Carr had a solid game of his own, coming off the bench to add 23 points in just 21 minutes.  Though the team was, both figuratively and literally, still centered by Dave Cowens, and the whole league was buzzing about Larry Bird, the Celtics were still very much Chris Ford’s team.  In just his his second season with the Celtics, the 31-year-old Ford had earned the trust of Bill Fitch.  Ford was no longer at the point where he could average 15 points in 4 assists per game, the numbers he posted during the 1979 season, but his gritty style of playbuilt a reservoir of  faith in his coach’s eyes.  Fitch relied on Ford’s steadiness, whereas the same could not be said for Fitch and Pete Maravich.  After enduring some miserable seasons with Detroit as well as a losing season in his first year with Boston, Ford made the most of his opportunity in 1980.

Chris Ford

Carr explained Ford’s impact to the team:

We had an unbelievable bond among the guys, but I can still remember Chris Ford being one of our driving forces.  Chris had never been this close to a championship.  He was unbelievable, from the first day of practice to the first time on the bus, every time you saw him, he was all about winning.  He was the real driving force behind everything we did.

Ford was also the MVP of the series against Houston. 

The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan touched on Ford’s two-sided play and overall effectiveness in the conference semis:

No Celtic has done his job better in this series, and thus far he’s the playoff MVP.

“His hands are moving all the time,” marveled Cedric Maxwell, “and if he isn’t stealing a pass, he’s deflecting one.”

“We all know what is on the line,” said Celtic guard Chris Ford.  “We know we have to do it right now.  This is a unique team and the guys are all unselfish.  You may stop one or two guys for awhile, but somebody else will take up the slack.

Ford, currently a coaching consultant for the New York Knicks, and the rest of the Celtics looked forward to a trip to the conference finals.  After disposing of Houston in ten straight games during the season, the challenge from the opposition was about to become considerably steeper.  All other Celtic-related issues, like trying to build a new home away from the Boston Garden and a relentless pursuit of Ralph Sampson (who decided to remain in school), were replaced with a sole focus on the Philadelphia 76ers.  Bob Ryan detailed the ensuing encounter in the Globe:

The tidal wave named Philadelphia is about to meet the avalanche named Boston.  The confrontation everyone from Chatham to Cape May has been begging for since Thanksgiving will start on Friday night at the Boston Garden, now that the 76ers have laid the Atlanta Hawks to rest.

The Sixers knocked out the Atlanta Hawks in five games, and Hawks coach Hubie Brown explained to the Globe that the impending series between the Celtics and Philly would be a clash of the titans.

“The Boston-Philadelphia series,” said the vanquished Brown, could go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, if both teams continue to play the way they are now.”

The Globe also picked the brains of a couple of the Rockets on how the Celtics would match up with Philly:

“It should be a fantastic series,” said Rudy Tomjanovich.  “They both have high-powered offenses, each team has a great forward, and they can both hit the boards.  I was really impressed with Maxwell, and Carr could start for anybody else in the league.  I think the Celtics have more depth, so I’d probably pick them.”

Forward Robert Reid voiced a dissenting opinion, claiming that the ease with which the Celtics dispatched Houston will work against them.

“I’ll go with Philly,” said Robert Reid.  “Because they have more experience in tight playoff situations, and we didn’t give Boston that much of a workout.  They don’t know how they will react under pressure.  And Philly can give Boston more trouble with the running game, whereas we didn’t have the speed to do it.”

Reid’s prescience aside, the Celtics opened the best-of-seven series against Philadelphia at the Garden on Friday, April 18.

 

Game 4 vs. the Rockets

Perfect Night For Boston Sports

It was one of those terrific nights in Boston sports, as all three active local teams were in action – two of them in playoff games – and all three were victorious.

The New York Knicks ran their mouths often as they jumped out to a 3-0 series lead on the Celtics. Even after dropping game four in OT to the Celtics, they promised to finish out the series in game five, and Kenyon Martin even encouraged his teammates to show up in all black last night, to prepare for a Celtics “funeral.” Whether that suggestion was in poor taste to begin with given recent events is open to discussion, but when your franchise has not won a playoff series in 13 years, perhaps its best to just focus on closing things out, rather trying to humiliate your opponent and bring attention to yourselves.

The move backfired, as the Celtics erased an 11-0 start to the game, and defeated the Knicks 92-86 before a stunned crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Paul Flannery has a great column on this one – Celtics survive and push Knicks’ swagger into the grave.

Get all the Celtics coverage and stories from CelticsLinks.com.

For week, Bruins media and fans have worried about the team, and what version would show up for the playoffs. If last night is any indication, the Boston could be on an extended postseason ride. The Bruins suffocated the Maple Leafs in game one of their playoff series, beating Toronto 4-1 at the TD Garden.

Bruins start 2nd season right – Mick Colageo has Wade Redden as the first unlikely hero of the postseason for the Bruins.

Just like Bruins of old – Stephen Harris has the Bruins showing both the effort and confidence that made them champions two seasons ago.

Bruins flip the switch at just the right time – Joe Haggerty has the club able to turn things on last night.

Bruins flip a switch and must keep it on – DJ Bean says that if the switch is on, it needs to stay that way.

Bruins turn on energy – Joe McDonald credits the line of Paille, Campbell and Thornton with helping the team turn things on.

The Red Sox also played Toronto, and hit five home runs in beating the Blue Jays 10-1 behind Clay Buchholz, who improved to 6-0 on the season with an ERA of 1.01.

It’s finally safe to say Clay Buchholz is one of the best in the business – Rob Bradford looks at why the Red Sox righty is among the best pitchers in baseball.

Clay Buchholz hard to match – Gordon Edes has the start that Buchholz is on this season similar to that of another Texan who used to pitch for the Red Sox.

Long shots just Napoli being Manny – Michael Silverman looks at the monster home runs from the Red Sox first baseman last night, which brought back memories of Manny Ramirez.

It’s not online yet, but the 5/13 issue of ESPN The Magazine has a great feature on Tom Brady by Seth Wickersham. It’s about his drive to win another Super Bowl, and also to keep his kids grounded despite their extraordinary circumstances - This is not the way the rest of the world is.

Celtics Voice Sean Grande ( @SeanGrandePBP ) To Fill In On Red Sox Radio Broadcasts

WEEI announced this morning that John Ryder has been named as the pre and post game host of the station’s Red Sox radio broadcasts, replacing Jon Rish, who left to pursue a career as a computer programmer. Ryder will also continue his duties of hosting Red Sox Review and Celtics Rewind.

In addition, the station announced that mid-day co-host and former Red Sox utility player Lou Merloni and Celtics radio play-by-play voice Sean Grande will fill in for Dave O’Brien on the game broadcasts when the latter is away for ESPN duties.

Merloni has already appeared on several broadcasts and acquitted himself quite well in a format that requires him to draw on his baseball knowledge and experience.

Grande has been the Celtics voice since 2001.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 3 vs. the Rockets (M.L. Carr Speaks With BSMW)

Celtics (2-0) vs. Houston (0-2)
April 13, 1980
The Summit

The Celtics took command of the Eastern Conference semi-finals series against the Rockets with a 100-81 victory at the Summit in Texas.

Led by 20 points and 10 assists from Nate Archibald, the Celtics moved one step closer to advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Similar to the Celtics’ current playoff opponent in the New York Knicks, the 1980 Rockets had firepower in Moses Malone (28 points, 9 boards) and Robert Reid (23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists). but the rest of the team was rendered ineffective.  The Celts were able to find Houston’s weaknesses.  Even though Malone was constantly double-teamed, he did not accumulate one assist the entire game.  In an interview with BSMW, longtime Celtic M.L. Carr — who was capping off a very successful first season with the Celtics — spoke about his team’s success against Houston.

Our team’s talent was unbelievable, but the other part of it was that there was a hunger among the guys.  Tiny had not won, Cowens had, but hadn’t won in a while and he was trying to get another one, Chris Ford had never won a championship, Pete Maravich had never won, I had never won, so there was an incredible hunger, along with the collection of talent, and we were truly about the team.

ML Carr

Coming in that year, the Celtics were rebuilding.  Obviously, they’d had one of the worst years of their time, but Red was adamant about bringing the team back to where it should be.  The team went out and drafted the Larry the year earlier, brought Chris Ford in the year before it, and signed me and Gerald Henderson as free agents.  We had no idea it would go as well and as quick as it did.

I always wanted to be a Celtic.  Saying that could have hurt me in negotiations, but they really pursued me hard.  Red was very, very good, and sold me on the fact we could turn this team around.  He laid out a role for me, and I had been a Celtics’ fan since I was a child growing up.  Red was very involved, and that helped us get on track.  After we won the division, we were so excited after the game.  We were jumping up and down, and Red walked into the locker room.  Red asked, “what are you all doing?”  We told him we were so excited to have won the division and had the best record in the league.  “We don’t celebrate division titles here,” Red said.  “We only celebrate championships.”  He brought us right back to reality.

We had Cowens, Max, Tiny, these guys who had gone through a very tough time the year before.  But, for me, it was a chance to come from the Detroit Pistons.  In three years there, I’d been to the playoffs only once.  I knew this was a chance to be a part of something special.

Rockets coach Del Harris had predicted his team would shoot close to 50 percent from the field back at the Summit.  That number never came to fruition, as Houston shot 41 percent from the field (32-for-78) but allowed eight more shots and twelve more successful attempts for the Celtics.  The C’s, who only made eleven free throws and went 1-5 from long distance, hit 51 percent of their shots and stretched an eight point halftime lead to 14 after three quarters, and then went for the jugular in the fourth and final frame.  Chris Ford stood out with his third consecutive superb game, finishing with an all-around line of 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.

The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan detailed the Celtics dominance in the series:

The Celtics are simply burying the Rockets with superior team play at both ends.  When Tiny Archibald got hot, for example, Chris Ford passed up a wide-open 18-foot jumper from the right to pitch the ball back to Archibald at the top of the key.  Tiny obliged by swishing a jumper.  But perhaps the most impressive displays were on defense.  One, in particular, pleased Bill Fitch.

“It came in the third quarter,” Fitch said.  “Rick Barry made a good penetration, and he wanted to throw the ball back out to an open man.  It was a smart play.  But Tiny did the thing we’re always preaching – he pursued.  He picked the pass off and turned what would have been a good offensive play by Barry into a good defensive play for himself.  And there were two other times when Rick Robey came from behind Malone to intercept passes.  The reason he could do it was the pressure on the ball, which prevented the pass from getting there until Rick could get in front of Malone.”

Jan Volk

Jan Volk, who served as the team’s general manager from 1984-1997, started with the Celtics organization in ticket sales in 1976.  By the spring of 1980, his role evolved to assisting team president Red Auerbach in the front office.  Volk was also gracious enough to share some time with BSMW discussing the season, the playoff run, and how the team emphatically removed the losing culture that had crept into the Boston Garden.

There was a renewed appreciation for what winning was all about that season, said Volk.  We began asserting ourselves with a new cast of characters.  The team, centered around Larry Bird, had many great players.  We were a contender and the appreciation, particularly by the fans, was even more intense because they now really appreciated what they had.  I think that’s pretty common to appreciate what you have after you lose it, and we had got it back.  We had a period of time where we were in transition both on the court and in ownership.

Though it was a small sample size, Bird performed brilliantly in the playoff spotlight.  He shined in game three with 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists.  Volk admitted that even the Celtics were impressed with Bird’s immediate impact in the league, but also noted that this was not Larry’s team, a fact that was freely accepted.

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

Larry came in recognizing this was Dave Cowens’ team.  Larry is a very confident guy, but he did not assert himself in deference to Dave Cowens the way he ultimately did subsequently after Dave retired.

Volk also touched on a couple of areas where the rookie from Indiana State surprised even Red Auerbach:

I don’t think anybody knew Larry was going to be as good as he turned out to be for his entire career.  Red would say that he was particularly pleased that Larry was such a good rebounder.  He did not realize, at that point [when Bird was drafted], he was such a good rebounder.  And, despite the fact that he didn’t look to be a terrific defensive player, he was a very good team defensive player.  So those were two aspects of his game that were underappreciated by the time he was drafted.

Draft Bird early and waiting a season may look easy now, but the Celtics suffered through a miserable season while Bird dominated at ISU.  And there was no guarantee that Bird would sign with the Celtics, though thanks to the Bob McAdoo move with Detroit, Boston could have actually drafted Bird with the top choice in the 1980 draft.  Fortunately, he signed and revitalized the Celtics with an MVP-caliber year that earned him Rookie of the Year honors.  Volk recalled the process that led to drafting Bird:

Portland had two picks.  They picked Mychal Thompson with their first pick, and they had the seventh pick.  We had the sixth and the eighth.  If we didn’t take Bird with our first pick, that sixth pick, he would have gone to Portland.  Portland was the only other team we felt could take a chance, more reasonably take a chance than the other teams, but there was a reasonable likelihood that the other teams couldn’t wait the year, and there was an argument to be made that we couldn’t wait, either.  But we did.

We sold out a game on a Wednesday evening early in the season against the World Series.  If you went out on the street, you couldn’t have found one-out-of-a-hundred-people who could name two players playing [on the opponents].  And yet, we sold out.  That was a testimony to what we had, which turned out to be extraordinarily special.

Volk still admires the relationship that Bird and Auerbach formed, beginning in the fall of 1979.

Red respected Larrry, not only in his abilities, but also his work ethic.  I know Larry respected what Red had accomplished.  I don’t think there is much an understanding of historic perspective today, but Larry knew what it was.  Larry was happy to be here: he didn’t want to be any place else and we didn’t want him to be any place else.

Ryan touched on Bird’s impact in his first playoff series in the Globe:

Larry Bird hooked up with his roommate, Rick Robey, for three consecutive baskets in one stretch, and each was different in nature.  The first was a bullet pass from the right wing to a cutting- across-the-lane Robey.  The second was a great left-to-right, fast- break lead.  The third was an artful little pick-and-roll bounce pass.  “When Rick comes out, sets his pick and rolls quickly,” explained Bird, “I can see the whole floor.  If he sets his pick and stands there, it clogs things up.  But he knows how I play now, and we work together real well.”

Larry Bird_Boston Celtics

Fitch on Bird’s offense in this series: “I’d give him a 7 on a 10 scale, but only a 5 on a Bird scale.  The encouraging thing, however, is that he’s coming.  He’s going up instead of down.”

The Celtics were still trending upward, though no one, even those in Philadelphia, had the prescience to know that was going to change any time soon.  The C’s remained in Houston and looked to sweep the Rockets the following night.

 

 

Game 3