Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 78 vs. the Nets

Celtics (58-19) vs. New Jersey (32-46)
March 23, 1980
Boston Garden

Tripping over the finish line, the Celtics gave away a home game to the putrid New Jersey Nets, 101-96.  The defeat gave the Celtics a two-game losing streak, tying the longest stretch they had encountered all season.

Boston 30th sellout in 39 games stood out for the reason that no one Celtic could assume control of the scoring load.  Points were fairly well-distributed with four players in double-digits (Gerald Henderson led the team with 16 points), but the Celtics were burned again by the offensive prowess of Nets guard Mike Newlin.

Mike Newlin

Newlin dropped 52 on the C’s back in December and finished with 38 points in this long, two-hour-and-twenty-minute affair on Causeway Street.  The game felt even longer for Celtics rookie Larry Bird, who shot 1-15 from the field as his mini-slump continued.  The Boston Globe’s Walter Haynes reported on the loss: [Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 77 vs. the Cavaliers

Celtics (58-18) vs. Cleveland (34-43)
March 22, 1980
Richfield Coliseum

The Celtics stumbled, 109-105, in front of a sellout crowd of 19,548 in Cleveland against the suddenly hot Cavaliers.

The win marked the eighth straight for the Cavs, a team facing a future of uncertainty.  The only coach and general manager the team had ever known, Bill Fitch, now coached the league-best Boston Celtics, and a new change in ownership had the NBA wondering whether professional basketball could survive in Ohio.  The Boston Globe’s Steve Marantz reported further on the sale:

Bill Fitch-Cavs

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 76 vs. the Pistons

Celtics (57-18) vs. Detroit (16-60)
March 20, 1980
Pontiac Silverdome

The Celtics picked up a fourth straight victory with a beatdown, 124-106, of the Pistons in Detroit.  Combined with two straight losses by the 76ers (54-22), the Celtics were four games ahead of Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division standings with only six games remaining on the schedule.  The magic number for the Celtics to win the division and secure a first-round bye now stood at three.

Pete Maravich

Larry Bird struggled all night, not displaying the offensive prowess he had shown a year earlier in March of 1979.  He shot 4-14 from the field, and though he grabbed seven rebounds and seven assists, Bird also picked up a game-high eight turnovers.  Bill Fitch talked to the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan after the game about a rare lackluster performance:

“Of all the games this season this is the one I’ll remember because Bird proved he was human,” said Fitch.  “It wasn’t his shooting, it was his passes, his decisions on the floor, everything.  Until tonight, I had never seen him play a bad game.  He quit looking at the hoop in the end.”

But Fitch absolutely sees Bird as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player.  The MVP contest is being hyped as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Bird.

Ryan was able to speak with Bird about the turnovers after the game:

Bird has shrugged off his shooting problems in the Dome.  “I never could get it going here,” he sighed.  “But I’ll come back next year with a good attitude.”  Pressed to comment about his turnovers, which bested his assists by an 8-7 margin, Bird said, “Some passes could have been caught but our concentration wasn’t as good as usual on the break.  And Max (Cedric Maxwell) couldn’t run with his bad ankle, which meant that a few he usually catches went off his fingertips.  I have confidence in those passes and my teammates, and I’ll keep throwing the same passes.”

Dave Cowens and Cedric Maxwell helped pick up the slack, combining for 31 points and 24 rebounds, but the big story for the second straight game was the play of Pistol Pete Maravich.

 

The game was televised as the USA Network’s Thursday Night NBA game, and included a halftime interview with a clairvoyant Bob Ryan, who predicted the Los Angeles Lakers to capture the NBA title.

 

Inserted into the starting lineup again in place of Chris Ford (still on the IR), Maravich led the Celtics with 20 points.

Again Pete Maravich had his shooting shoes on, and he scored 10 points to lead all first-quarter scorers, Bob Ryan wrote.  Included among his four baskets was one in- your-face jumper to the fourth degree.

Ryan also commented on an anomaly on the box score, a three-pointer from Dave Cowens:

The supreme moment in this game came when Dave Cowens took a pass from Rick Robey with 3:09 left and swished a three-pointer from the left corner.  He came downcourt grinning and slapped hands with Pete Maravich.  When he went to the bench for a time out, he was similarly greeted by his teammates.  Such is life with a 58-18 team that had just wrapped up its fourth straight triumph and 25th road conquest of the season.

“It’s great to have a three-pointer under my belt,” said Cowens, semi- seriously.  “But you notice it took a center to get me the ball.”

The Celtics also celebrated Don Chaney’s 34th birthday by placing the Duck back on the active roster.  Chaney openly discussed his disappointment with his role on the team with The Boston Globe’s Walter Haynes:

“Right now I don’t have good feelings about my contribution to the team because I’m not playing.  I feel more like an outsider and not in the swing of things.  Maybe the average person would say I should be content to just sit on the bench,” said Chaney…

“People might call it bitching,’ but I do want to play more,” he continued.  As a player, you feel the game in your whole mind and body, and because you love it, you can’t walk away from it.  For 95 percent of my life, it’s been basketball, and all of it has been learning to play from a competitive standpoint.”

Don Chaney

Chaney did, however, understand why he was not part of the mix of players receiving playing time:

“Hey, I’ve lost a step and some of my stamina,” he admitted.  “But on a good ballclub, guys want to play so badly that when they are on the floor, they try to outplay the starters.  This makes a team stronger.  A player loses it all when he resolves that he can’t beat another player out of a job.

“When I was young, I would think about what it will be like when I have to stop playing.  I don’t think the media can really understand the inner thoughts of a player on something like this.  You can only understand it if you’ve been there yourself.  It’s why even John (Havlicek) will go out and pick up a basketball now.  Just to feel it.”

Chaney scored six points in a dozen minutes against the Pistons.  Regardless of his role, he looked forward to returning to the post-season.

“This team has a very good chance of making it to the finals,” said Chaney, who won a title with the Celtics in 1974.  “It’s a well-balanced team; we have a good attitude, and everyone gets along with each other.  Maybe right now we’re playing a little routinely because of the anticipation of the playoffs.  But the playoffs are like a whole new season, a rebirth.

The Celtics continued the road trip by heading to Cleveland to battle the Cavaliers on Saturday.

 

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 75 vs. the Pacers

Celtics (56-18) vs. Indiana (34-41)
March 18, 1980
Hartford Civic Center

In the midst of legal battles with the Boston Garden, the Celtics returned “home” after a three-game road to the friendly confines of the Hartford Civic Center.  After a career that made stops across Beaver County, Pennsylvania all the way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it really didn’t matter where he played: the only true home for Pete Maravich was the hardwood floor of a basketball court.  Buoyed by a vintage 31-point performance from Pistol Pete, the Celtics avenged a loss from eight days prior and defeated the Indiana Pacers, 114-102. [Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 74 vs. the Nets

Celtics (55-18) vs. New Jersey (32-43)
March 17, 1980
Rutgers Athletic Center

For the second straight game, Larry Bird scored another 29 points to lead the Celtics to victory.  Instead of the Knicks, however, Bird and the Celtics moved narrowed their sights onto New Jersey in a 117-92 shellacking of the Nets.

The win put the Celtics in the driver’s seat for the division, as Philadelphia squandered another opportunity to make a final push at the Atlantic by splitting games in Cleveland (a loss) and at home with the Pistons (The Celtics got to watch the Cleveland- Philadelphia game on television Sunday night after Fitch purchased a portable antenna that allowed the hotel TV to pick up the Philadelphia channel, wrote Bob Ryan on March 18, 1979.  There is no reasonable limit to his industriousness.).

The Boston Globe’s Ryan put the game in perspective: [Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 71 vs. the Rockets

Celtics (53-17) vs. Rockets (35-37)
March 12, 1980
Boston Garden

Whenever the Celtics were in need of a win, they needed to look no further than the Houston Rockets.

For the sixth consecutive time in the 1979-80 season, the C’s dispatched the Rockets, this time by a final score of 121-105.  Larry Bird had a sensational night, finishing two assists short of a triple-double with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists.  Bird shot 67 percent from the field, hit two of his four 3-pointers, and was nearly perfect (7-8) at the free throw line.  Six months into the season, the Rockets still had no answer for the Larry Bird and the Celtics. [Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 69 vs. the Bullets

Celtics (53-15) vs. Washington (32-36)
March 9, 1980
Boston Garden

All good runs come to an end.  The nine game winning streak for the Boston Celtics came to an end in overtime against the Washington Bullets, while the Bullets’ run of being the elite team in the Eastern Conference was also coming to an abrupt end.  The Bullets ended the Celtics streak by defeating the Green Team, 133-128, after dropping 18 points in OT.

Dave Cowens_Hoop Magazine

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 68 vs. the 76ers

Celtics (52-15) vs. Philadelphia (50-17)
March 7, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics took a monumental step to locking up the Atlantic Division by thrashing Philadelphia in front of a capacity crowd at the Garden, 111-92.

“Boston is a very good team,” said Doug Collins, speaking to The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan in his typical articulate manner after the game.  “They’re good in every facet of the game. They rebound, press and pass well.  They have no weaknesses.  They came up with a plus in Rick Robey.  It looks as if (Dave) Cowens getting hurt was a blessing in disguise. It gave Robey the confidence and now Cowens can work his way back gradually.”

Doug Collins SI cover

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 67 vs. the Rockets

Celtics (51-15) vs. Houston (34-34)
March 5, 1980
The Summit

Competing in a foot race with the Spurs for the final playoff spot in the East, the Houston Rockets fell to the Boston Celtics in overtime at the Summit, 103-99.  Houston came up short despite a 30-18 performance from 24-year-old phenom Moses Malone.

Moses Malone

The Rockets held the Celtics to a 38-point second half, not allowing the C’s to register 100 or more points in regulation for the first time in 23 games.  Cedric Maxwell led the Green with 22 point and 11 boards, and the win marked a new season high for wins in a row with the team’s eighth straight victory.  Bob Ryan from The Boston Globe detailed the 52nd win for Boston:

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 66 vs. the Spurs

Celtics (50-15) vs. San Antonio (33-34)
March 4, 1980
Hemisfair Arena

Only five days after playing each other at the Boston Garden, the Celtics manhandled George Gervin and the Spurs, 137-108.  The C’s and Spurs embarked on a scoring spree at the Garden, playing a 38-38 first quarter, but the two teams outdid that performance in Texas: the score was 40-40 after the first twelve minutes of basketball.

Larry Bird

The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan discussed the Celtics’ dominant victory:

[Read more...]