A box score was thrust in Larry Bird’s face not long after the Boston Celtics had completed an impressive night’s work with a 125-103 victory over the Clippers Monday, but the Celtic forward tossed it aside as if it didn’t matter.
Neither Bird nor anyone else in the Sports Arena crowd of 14,977 needed a sheet of paper to determine how well the Celtics played in dismantling a Clipper team that has been trounced by the good and the bad NBA teams.
“What happened (was) we got the rebounds, we moved the ball, we played defense, we played good,” Bird said, succinctly. “We don’t play much better than this.”
The Celtics no doubt expected such an outcome and, if truth be known, the Clippers probably did, too. Only the severity of the blowout was in question, and Celtic Coach K.C. Jones made sure it wasn’t too lopsided by resting his starters most of the second half.
If Bird had looked at the statistic sheet, he would have seen that the Celtics outrebounded the Clippers, 65-37. That was clearly the most telling category in a game the Celtics dominated from the start.
The long arms of forward Kevin McHale were able to snatch almost any rebound within his considerable reach. McHale had 18 rebounds to go along with his 22 points before calling it a night late in the third quarter. It should be noted, though, that the entire Clipper team was able to outrebound McHale in the first half, 17-15.
When it wasn’t McHale doing the damage, you could take your pick among the rest of the Celtics. They all had good games and padded their rebounding averages.
All the Clippers could do was watch and gawk as the Celtics crashed the boards without even excusing themselves. The Celtics did not stop the onslaught until they had racked up their second biggest win of the season and handed the Clippers their 21st defeat in 32 games.
The Celtics, whose 5-5 record in their previous 10 games rated as a certifiable slump, certainly were their dominating selves Monday night. That pleased Jones, who had been worrying a bit.
“We arrived at the conclusion that we have to work hard to win,” Jones said. “When you say play hard, that means playing good defense, banging the offensive and defensive boards and concentrating on running and making your shots. That’s what you call playing hard.” If that is the case, the Clippers clearly have no knowledge of that term. Clipper players rebounded as if their feet had dried in cement, they got whiplash from watching Celtics drive past them, and they had little offensive movement.
“It’s obvious they (the Celtics) are a great team,” Clipper Coach Don Chaney said. “Of course, we helped them. . . . But I have to give credit where credit is due.”
It was due, in Chaney’s estimation, to the Celtics.
Bird complemented McHale’s productive night by adding 21 points and 8 assists. Starting center Robert Parish had a relatively easy night, scoring 9 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in 22 minutes. Guards Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge added 14 and 13 points, respectively, and the Celtic reserves accounted for 36 points.
The reserve that drew the most attention was Bill Walton, the former Clipper who made his first regular-season appearance back in Los Angeles. After being booed in pregame introductions, Walton had 13 rebounds and 9 points and was cheered when Jones replaced him in the fourth quarter.
Monday’s game was only a stopover for Walton. His major gig is tonight at Oakland, when he hosts a New Year’s Eve concert by the Grateful Dead.
“I’m very happy with my situation,” Walton said. “This is a great team, you could tell that tonight. This was one of those games where the rebounds just come our way. Plus, a lot of guys played well at the same time, and when that happens we usually win games.”
That rarely happened when Walton was a Clipper, and that’s still the case even after he has left.
The Clippers’ defense couldn’t stop the Celtics inside, so they clogged the middle. But the Celtics would counter by taking the ball outside and making jump shots.
“We concentrated so much on their inside game we got caught ball-watching a lot,” Chaney said. “We were chasing guys around all night.”
Chaney probably wished the Clippers had that much movement on offense. They could get only one shot per possession and they made only 47% of their 89 attempts. Basically, the Clippers’ offense consisted of Junior Bridgeman’s outside shooting in the first half--he scored 14 of his 16 points then--and Marques Johnson’s open-court play that resulted in 19 points.
Rory White added 18 and Franklin Edwards 14, most of those points coming in garbage time.
The Celtics’ biggest lead was 32 points early in the third quarter, but this one was over not long after Denise Williams sang the national anthem.
Clipper Notes Derek Smith’s sore left knee is better after a week away from basketball, but it still isn’t strong enough to play on. The Clippers hope that Smith will be able to join the team Jan. 7 at Atlanta. . . . Man Bites Dog Dept.: Cedric Maxwell, never at a loss for words, declined all interviews with the Boston media before Monday’s game. In fact, a Boston radio reporter called Maxwell last week for an interview and was turned down. Maxwell, apparently, still has strong feelings about his trade to the Clippers for Bill Walton. Maxwell did, however, exchange pleasantries with Johnny Most, the Celtics’ longtime broadcaster. . . . The Clippers still haven’t signed a player to replace the retired Jamaal Wilkes. General Manager Carl Scheer said that the club is looking for a third center. The Clippers have a little more than $70,000 to spend. Clipper Coach Don Chaney said that Swen Nater, waived by the Clippers in training camp, is a candidate. Chaney also said the Clippers would like to sign a player before they leave Thursday on a seven-game trip.