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1981 NBA Season – Conference Powerhouses

August 2, 2013

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The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers played a playoff series for the ages in 1981 *photo courtesy of ESPN

In the 1980 NBA Playoffs, the only team with home-court advantage in a series that lost was the Boston Celtics to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals.  The Celtics made some big changes while Philly made a smaller but impactful change.

In 1979, Boston had given Detroit Bob McAdoo for two first round picks in 1980.  Since Detroit finished last, Boston owned the top pick as well as the 13th pick.  Boston was looking for a big man to compete with Philly’s front line of Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones.  Virginia freshman Ralph Sampson was on their radar but Sampson decided to return to UVA.  So Boston came up with a trade with the Golden State Warriors.  Boston would trade both picks to Golden State for their first round pick (at #3) as well as a young, underachieving big man, Robert Parish.  The Warriors would use that top pick to get another underachieving big man, Joe Barry Carroll.  While Boston, with the #3 pick, selected Kevin McHale.  Just like that, one of the greatest frontcourts in NBA history was formed.  It was fortunate that they had acquired Parish and McHale because after finishing training camp, Dave Cowens decided he had little enthusiasm left to take into the season.  So he retired.

Philadelphia’s impactful change was grabbing Andrew Toney with the #8 pick.  They had acquired that pick from Indiana in a 1976 trade.

There was also division restructuring in the NBA as Milwaukee and Chicago moved from the Western Conference’s Midwest Division to the Eastern Conference’s Central Division.  Milwaukee had its improving 1980 roster in tact (save for Dave Meyers) and had Bob Lanier for a full season.  They won 60 games but would not have home court advantage in the Semifinals versus Philly.  This proved to make a difference.  Chicago would make the playoffs in the East as well.  But this would be their last appearance before Michael Jordan was drafted.

Meanwhile, San Antonio and Houston moved from the Central to the Midwest Division.  They would have a playoff matchup in the West Semifinals a year after matching up in the East Quarterfinals.  The other change was the Dallas Mavericks being added.

While Boston and Philly was battling out at the top of the Atlantic Division, another team was bringing up the rear and looked for a while to be challenging the titans.  The New York Knicks had a young roster with 4th year guard Ray Williams (the brother of Gus Williams), 3rd year guard Michael Ray Richardson and 2nd year center Bill Cartwright.  They had acquired veteran Campy Russell from Cleveland in a trade that off-season.  The Celtics and Knicks faced off a Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day.

December 25, 1980 – Boston Celtics 117 @New York Knicks 108

If you like defense, this isn’t the game for you.. until the 4th quarter.  In the first few minutes, Parish and Cartwright had field goals while Ray Williams and Cedric Maxwell had a pair of free throws.  Williams’ shot in the lane made it 6-4 New York but then Bird got the ball in the post, up-faked Russell, drove around him to the basket, up-faked Cartwright and scored.  The Celtics grabbed a seven-point lead as Maxwell got three layups from three different players.  Later a Chris Ford three put Boston up 26-18 but then Cartwright scored on an offensive rebound, Michael Ray took it coast-to-coast for a layup and then Williams went coast-to-coast and found Russell for another layup.  The Celtics regained an eight-point lead helped by four Cedric Maxwell free throws.  But then Ray Williams got his 12th point on an offensive rebound and layup.  Then Marvin Webster, off the bench, hit a fade-away jumper in the lane.  Richardson got a layup on a Rick Robey goaltend and then Ray Williams hit a jumper from the left wing to tie the game at 34 with 3 seconds left in the 1st quarter.  Boston didn’t score in those 3 seconds.

The 2nd quarter was more of the same as both teams got layups and easy shots.  The Celtics took a six-point lead near the end of the half at 62-56 on a pair of free throws by Bird and McHale.  But then Ray Williams hit another wing jumper and Michael Ray Richardson ended the half going coast-to-coast after a Webster steal to cut Boston’s lead to 62-60.  Williams had 19 first half points while Richardson had 14.  Maxwell led Boston with 14.

The Celtics started the 2nd half strong as Bird found Parish for a slam and then Bird found Tiny Archibald with an outlet who found Ford for a layup.  Cartwright kept the Knicks in the game with 6 points and he drew Parish’s 4th foul.  Robert stayed in the game and committed his 5th a few minutes later.  Cartwright missed 3 of those 4 free throw attempts on Parish fouls but a Ray Williams step-back from the baseline put New York up one and later a Williams double-pump leaner in the lane put the Knicks up two.  Williams and Russell scored the next few Knicks baskets but each were matched by Larry Bird.  Bird had 10 of his 18 points, to that point, in the 3rd quarter.  The Celtics took a five-point lead with a 7-0 run but then Williams hit a three-point play on an offensive rebound and then Richardson got a steal and a layup against Ford.  Bird’s pull-up from the top of the key put Boston up 95-93 going into the fourth.

The lead switched back and forth for awhile.  Richardson’s jumper from the left box put New York up 97-95.  Then McHale tied it with a fade-away in the lane and Bird gave Boston the lead on a double pump layup off a Gerald Henderson whip pass.  New York then went on a 4-0 run finished by Richardson dishing to Webster for a slam on the break.  The Knicks took their last lead at 102-101 before Bird hit a turn-around over Russell from the post.  Then Larry came back with another double-pump in the lane.  Archibald completed the 6-0 run with a high-arcing layup.  Cartwright kept the Knicks alive for a bit with two field goals (including a strong dunk over Parish).  But Bird’s left-handed running hook across the lane put the game on ice as the Knicks couldn’t score down the stretch.

Boston would finish the regular season with 62 wins, which was tied with Philadelphia.  But Boston got the division title with a win over Philly at Boston Garden on the last day of the season.  The Celtics could have faced the 50-win Knicks in the Semifinals, but New York bowed out in 2 games to Chicago in the mini-series, despite home-court advantage.

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (28) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (24) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (9) – Center

Nate Archibald (16) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (16) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (8)

Rick Robey (6)

Gerald Henderson (10)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

New York starters (points scored)

Campy Russell (19) – Small Forward

Larry Demic (0) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (22) – Center

Ray Williams (30) – Point Guard

Michael Ray Richardson (23) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

Sly Williams (6)

Mike Glenn (4)

Marvin Webster (4)

DeWayne Scales (0)

New York Coach: Red Holzman

February 1, 1981 – NBA All-Star Game @ Cleveland: East 123, West 120

It was one of those rare all-star games where assists, steals, and overall floor leadership got the MVP award.  And it wasn’t Magic Johnson, who was out with a cartilage tear in the knee, or Isiah Thomas, who was still at Indiana University for another year.  This happened because despite 14 players finishing in double figures, none had over 19 points.  But it wasn’t one of those 14 players who finished in double figures that won the MVP.

Cleveland at the time was in the Ted Stepien era so hosting the All-Star Game was probably as good as it was going to get for them until the late 80’s.. and when the Cavs representative Mike Mitchell (who was cheered wildly during this game) was traded to San Antonio in December, 1981, he said it was like getting out of jail.

The game went back-and-forth with, as mentioned, many different players scoring.  The West’s biggest lead was 6, the East’s in the first half was 9.  Dr. J got the scoring started with an offensive rebound and finger roll and then Artis Gilmore put in a lefty hook in the lane.  But Paul Westphal answered with a jumper from the top of the key and his starting backcourt partner that day George Gervin got a steal and a slam.  Then after a Reggie Theus jumper, the West went on a 7-0 run as Kareem got a three-point play, Walter Davis hit a corner jumper on a Westphal assist and then Davis found Gervin for a reverse.  The West took that six-point lead on an Adrian Dantley finger roll.  They led 27-23 after the first quarter.

The East would be sparked by their bench, especially Tiny Archibald.  Tiny found Marques Johnson for a jumper that tied the game at 27 and then a Bobby Jones three-point play put the East up 32-30.  After an Otis Birdsong free throw, Archibald scored on a drive and then he found Mitchell on the break with a bounce pass for a layup as the crowd went crazy.  Then Archibald got a steal and dished to Celtics teammate Robert Parish for a jumper.  The East eventually grabbed their nine-point lead on a steal and layup by Michael Ray Richardson.  But the West got back helped by Jamaal Wilkes and Dennis Johnson.  Wilkes hit two jumpers then D.J. hit a jumper and found Wilkes for a breakaway after a steal.  Then D.J.’s wing jumper tied the game at 45.  The scoring then went back and forth until a Dr. J offensive rebound and reverse, plus the foul, put the East up 61-58 at the half.

The East started to roll in the 2nd half.  Erving got another three-point play and then Eddie Johnson found Gilmore for a dunk.  The East eventually took a 10-point lead on an Eddie Johnson steal and layup.  But the West came back led by Westphal, Wilkes and Moses Malone and they eventually cut it to one on a Dantley cutting layup.  Archibald then found Parish for a layup and then while in the air in the lane found Eddie Johnson behind him on the baseline for a jumper.  Then Parish blocked a Dantley layup and Eddie Johnson got a breakaway.  Later, Eddie Johnson’s twisting finish against Walter Davis on the break plus the foul put the East up 89-81.  The East took an 11-point lead towards the end of the quarter when Richardson found Parish for a slam on the break.  But a Gervin slam over Parish with 5 seconds left cut the East’s lead to 97-88 after 3.

The East eventually went up 16 early in the fourth when Tiny found Bobby Jones for a layup and Parish outletted to Mitchell for a slam.  The West started coming back though as Westphal came off a Malone pick and hit a high-arcing jumper.  Then after an Archibald driving basket, Malone hit on a double pump.  Archibald then found Erving for a reverse slam and it was 113-99.  But then Westphal hit on a driving double-pump and then D.J. got a steal and a pass ahead to Malone.  Moses quickly found Westphal who finished the break while being fouled.  The East called timeout as it was 113-104.  The run continued though as Kareem hit a hook in the lane.  After Mitchell and Sikma each hit a pair of free throws, Davis hit on a breakaway running banker and then a jumper on a Kareem kickout after a Mitchell putback.  It was 117-112 East.  Davis then Erving each hit two free throws.  Kareem hit a sky hook, Archibald hit on a drive and Kareem hit another jumper in the lane after a spin.  It was 121-118 with under 2:00 left.  The East forced some shots but the West couldn’t answer.  Finally Davis missed a long two with 45 seconds left and Archibald got a rebound ahead to Eddie Johnson who finished.  Gervin hit a long two from the corner with 27 seconds left and it was back to three.  The East missed and knocked the ball out of bounds with 4 seconds left.  The West called time but Sikma missed a three at the buzzer to tie the game.

Nate Archibald finished with 9 points, 9 assists and 3 steals and was named MVP.

West starters (teams) and point totals

Walter Davis (Phoenix Suns) 12 – Small Forward

Adrian Dantley (Utah Jazz) 8 – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers) 15 – Center

Paul Westphal (Seattle Sonics) 19 – Point Guard

George Gervin (San Antonio Spurs) 11 – Shooting Guard

West bench (teams) and point totals

Jamaal Wilkes (Los Angeles Lakers) 15

Moses Malone (Houston Rockets) 8

Truck Robinson (Phoenix Suns) 6

Jack Sikma (Seattle Sonics) 6

Dennis Johnson (Phoenix Suns) 19

Otis Birdsong (Kansas City Kings) 1

West Coach: John MacLeod (Phoenix Suns)

East starters (teams) and point totals

Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) 2 – Small Forward

Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers) 18 – Power Forward

Artis Gilmore (Chicago Bulls) 11 – Center

Eddie Johnson (Atlanta Hawks) 16 – Point Guard

Reggie Theus (Chicago Bulls) 8 – Shooting Guard

East bench (teams) and point totals

Nate Archibald (Boston Celtics) 9

Robert Parish (Boston Celtics) 16

Bobby Jones (Philadelphia 76ers) 11

Marques Johnson (Milwaukee Bucks) 7

Michael Ray Richardson (New York Knicks) 11

Mike Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers) 14

East Coach: Billy Cunningham (Philadelphia 76ers)

April 1, 1981 – West Quarterfinals, Game 1: Houston Rockets 111 @Los Angeles Lakers 107

It kills me.  It absolutely kills me to say that 3 of the next 4 games on the list I only have portions of from Vintage NBA.  This game and game 7’s of the Semifinals between Houston and San Antonio and Milwaukee and Philadelphia.  Of at least the Game 7’s, I hope the full games surface soon.

Anyways, the Houston Rockets came into the playoffs with a 40-42 record.  They won four of their last five games to hold off Golden State by one game for the final playoff spot.  Houston’s record had actually gone down from the past two seasons (47-35 in 1979, and 41-41 in 1980), but in this year, they would make their deepest playoff run to date.  Moses Malone still led them from the middle and Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich were still around (Murphy was now the 6th man and Rudy rarely played in his last season).

The Rockets drafted Robert Reid in 1977 and signed Mike Dunleavy in 1978 after he was cut by Philadelphia and went to Law School.  In 1979, Houston signed Washington Bullets point guard Tom Henderson as a free agent.  Henderson had been in 2 NBA Finals and won a championship with the Bullets.  In 1980, the Rockets traded John Shumate to San Antonio for Billy Paultz.  Those four players formed the other four starters around Malone in 1981.

Other than Murphy, the bench consisted of good athletic players who got inconsistent playing time.  The players that got the most were probably point guard Allen Leavell, who was drafted by Houston in 1979 and had a 10-year Rocket career, and swingman Bill Willoughy, who was the third player to come to the pros straight out of high school in 1975.. behind teammate Malone and Darryl Dawkins.  The other bench players were Calvin Garrett, Major Jones and Tomjanovich.

The Lakers only big change was chemistry.  Magic Johnson missed most of the year and then when he came back, he seemed to have trouble fitting in with his teammates.  The Lakers finished with 54 wins, three behind Phoenix in the Division.  So Los Angeles had to play a mini-series.

This Game 1 was from Moses Malone’s Vintage NBA, so it was basically a Malone highlight package as he had 38 points in the game.  He got offensive rebounds and hit 10-15 foot jumpers.  Malone’s 6 straight points in the 2nd quarter broke the game open as Houston had a double-digit lead.  At the end of the half, 6 straight Laker points cut the lead to 8 but Malone hit two free throws with 4 seconds left to put Houston up 60-50 at the half.

Los Angeles cut it to 75-73 in the third before Paultz hit a jumper for his 15th point and Malone scored on a 2nd shot after Jim Chones blocked his first shot.  Malone scored on another offensive rebound after a Jamaal Wilkes field goal for Los Angeles.  Then Murphy hit a baseline jumper.  Malone put back his own miss for 28 points to put Houston up by 8 again.  Then Moses got his 30th point when Leavell penetrated and fed him for a slam at the third quarter buzzer.  Houston was up 89-81 at that point.

Houston won Game 1 111-107.  L.A. won Game 2 in Houston 111-106 before Houston stole another one at the Forum in the all-or-nothing Game 3, 89-86.  The last Laker effort was a Magic Johnson airball.  Even with that, Lakers owner Jerry Buss signed Magic to a 25-year, $25 million contract.  This seemed to be the tipping point with Magic Johnson and the Lakers veterans.  After starting 2-4 in 1982, the Lakers went on a 5-game winning streak but Magic still wasn’t happy with coach Paul Westhead and made noise about it.  Buss fired Westhead and hired Pat Riley.  It took a lot of fans and perhaps some teammates most of the year to get over Magic getting Westhead fired, but the Lakers would be back strong in 1982.

Meanwhile, Houston became one of the three underdogs to win the mini-series in 1981.  40-42 Kansas City won twice in Portland to move on and play top-seeded Phoenix.  5th seeded Chicago swept 4th seeded 50-win New York to go on and play Boston.  Each Semifinal series will be covered.

Houston starters (points scored)

Robert Reid (13) – Small Forward

Billy Paultz (15) – Power Forward

Moses Malone (38) – Center

Tom Henderson (6) – Point Guard

Mike Dunleavy (8) – Shooting Guard

Houston bench (points scored)

Calvin Murphy (19)

Allen Leavell (6)

Calvin Garrett (0)

Bill Willoughby (6)

Houston Coach: Del Harris

Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (16) – Small Forward

Jim Chones (12) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (21) – Center

Magic Johnson (26) – Point Guard

Norm Nixon (22) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Michael Cooper (10)

Mark Landsberger (0)

Brad Holland (0)

Jim Brewer (0)

Eddie Jordan (0)

Los Angeles Coach: Paul Westhead

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Moses Malone grabbing a rebound against Kareem as Michael Cooper (#21), Magic Johnson (#32) and Jim Chones (#9) look on.  Photo courtesy of Moses blog

April 12, 1981 – East Semifinals, Game 4: Boston Celtics 109 @Chicago Bulls 103

To put it simply, the Bulls were overmatched.  They played about as well as they could in Game 3 and lost 113-107.  They played about as well as they could in Game 4 and lost to get swept.

It started well for Boston as Bird found Maxwell for a hook and then Maxwell found Bird for a banker.  Chicago’s emerging star guard, Reggie Theus, hit two field goals before Chris Ford hit a three from the corner and then Nate Archibald went coast-to-coast by two people.  The Celtics kept their five-point lead until a 6-0 Chicago run.  The Bulls 2nd year forward David Greenwood hit a jumper from the wing.  Then Greenwood set up point guard Bobby Wilkerson for a jumper.  Then Theus found Dwight Jones in the post to give the Bulls their first lead at 16-15.  Bird hit a jumper from the elbow but Wilkerson found Greenwood for a layup after hanging in the air.  Then the Bulls star center Artis Gilmore hit his trademark left-handed hook.  The Bulls maintained that three-point lead until a free throw by both Archibald and Ford and field goals from Rick Robey and Bird gave Boston a three-point lead.  Two Theus free throws cut the lead to 25-24 after one quarter.

In the 2nd quarter, both teams got sparks off their bench.  Former Phoenix Sun Ricky Sobers got a steal for Chicago and found rookie Ronnie Lester for a layup and it was 28-25 Bulls.  Bird tied the game at 29 with a pull-up jumper from the free throw line.  It was Larry’s 14th point.  Sobers layup on a baseline drive gave Chicago the lead but Robey responded with a long wing jumper at the shot clock buzzer.  Sobers then found Coby Dietrick for a jumper.  Four more Sobers points plus an assist from Ricky countered Kevin McHale and M.L. Carr getting field goals for Boston and it was 41-35 Chicago.  McHale then hit a fadeaway in the post and Tiny went coast-to-coast after a steal.  Sobers responded with a running hook over McHale and then Gilmore blocked a shot and Sobers found Theus on a 3-on-1 break.  The Celtics eventually tied it at 47 on a 6-0 run when McHale hit 2 free throws for his 8th point of the quarter.  Then Robey got a layup on a Carr assist and Gerald Henderson hit a pull-up.  The Bulls re-took a four point lead before a Henderson breakaway tied the game again.  Then Henderson found Carr in the corner for a jumper and Henderson got a steal and slam.  The Bulls cut it to 55-53 at the half when former San Antonio Spur Larry Kenon saved the ball from going out of bounds to Dwight Jones for a slam.

The Bulls took a lead early in the 3rd when Theus and Wilkerson found Greenwood for a three-point play.  The game went back-and-forth as Bird and Tiny got field goals for Boston while Gilmore was leading Chicago.  Boston took a lead when Tiny hit a breakaway layup and was fouled.  Then Ford found Tiny who found McHale to finish a 3-on-1.  But a Ronnie Lester pull-up from the top of the key gave Chicago a 78-77 lead.  Then Greenwood hit his 20th point when Lester found him at the elbow.  However, a Ford steal and dish to Robert Parish tied the game at 80 with 10 seconds left in the 3rd.  The score remained the same going into the 4th.

Bird started the 4th throwing a few arrows.  First he hit a three from the wing and then got a steal and layup for his 27th point.  Boston eventually took a 91-86 lead on a Bird lob to Henderson.  But then Sobers posted up and hit a jumper in the lane and was fouled.  Then Ricky followed up the three-point play with a double-pump in the lane to tie the game.  But Ricky committed his 5th foul on the next possession and had to go out.  Boston took a 94-93 lead on a deep Carr jumper from the wing that banked in.  Then Maxwell found Parish for an elbow jumper and then Tiny found Carr in the corner for a jumper and it was timeout Chicago.  However, when Gilmore hit a banker from the post to cut it back to 98-97, it was timeout Boston.

Jerry Sloan’s team was battling the mighty 62-win Celtics but weren’t helped by free throws.  They finished 19-for-28.  Bird hit a jumper from the post and then Maxwell hit a jumper off a Parish screen that announcer Rick Barry thought was illegal.  Two Sobers free throws cut Boston’s lead to 102-101 and then Theus got a steal and was fouled by Carr with 57 seconds left.  He hit both free throws for a Chicago lead.  Bird had the ball at the wing and as Parish was trying to get position inside, he and Gilmore knocked each other down.  Parish may have been taken out of the play but so was Gilmore, a great shot-blocker.  And Bird responded by hitting a driving layup for a Boston lead with 39 seconds left.  The Bulls called time but Dwight Jones’ hook from the post went in-and-out and Maxwell was fouled with 13 seconds left.  Cornbread’s first bounced in but he missed the second.  But Carr got the offensive rebound and Bird finished the Bulls for 1981 by nailing the last four free throws.

The Bulls regressed in 1982 and Sloan was fired after a 19-32 start (the only time Sloan would be fired from coaching).  Gilmore was traded to San Antonio after the 1982 season for Dave Corzine and Mark Olberding.  Theus would be traded mid-way through the 1984 season and the only Bulls to be on the roster when Michael Jordan made his debut in 1984 were Greenwood and Lester.  Lester would be cut early in the season and Greenwood (the consolation prize for the Bulls after losing the 1979 coin flip to the Lakers for the #1 pick in the draft and Magic Johnson) would be traded to San Antonio after the 1985 season for George Gervin.

For Boston, they would get their rest as this was the only Semifinal series not to go to 7 games in 1981.

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (35) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (9) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (8) – Center

Nate Archibald (14) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (7) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (14)

Rick Robey (6)

Gerald Henderson (8)

M.L. Carr (8)

Terry Duerod (0)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

Chicago starters (points scored)

David Greenwood (24) – Small Forward

Dwight Jones (12) – Power Forward

Artis Gilmore (19) – Center

Bobby Wilkerson (4) – Point Guard

Reggie Theus (12) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

Larry Kenon (4)

Ricky Sobers (17)

Coby Dietrick (4)

Ronnie Lester (7)

Chicago Coach: Jerry Sloan

April 17, 1981 – West Semifinals, Game 7: Houston Rockets 105 @San Antonio Spurs 100

Another non-nationally televised Game 7.  I guess nobody outside of Texas cared.  Anyways, because this is from Calvin Murphy’s Vintage NBA, it’s basically a Calvin Murphy highlight package from Game 7 in San Antonio.  Murphy had been tearing it up all series off the bench versus the Spurs, averaging just under 23 ppg (including just over 30 ppg in the 3 games in San Antonio.. 2 of which were Houston victories).  Murphy got the starting call in Dunleavy’s place for Game 7.

The Spurs won the Midwest Division only three players still left from the 1979 Eastern Conference Finalist team – George Gervin, James Silas and Mark Olberding.  Their new cast of characters included rookies Reggie Johnson and Johnny Moore, former Warriors center George Johnson, rugged inside players Dave Corzine and Paul Griffin and former Blazer Ron Brewer.

The game went back-and-forth to start.  A Gervin double-pump in the post tied the game at 6 (Iceman had 4 of those 6 points).  Murphy’s 1st basket was a corner jumper off a screen to put the Rockets up 8-6.  Then Silas’ pull-up from the free throw line tied it.  It continued as Tom Henderson got a field goal on a George Johnson goaltend and then Reggie Johnson hit from the post.  Then after a flu-ridden Moses Malone hit two free throws, Olberding found Gervin at the wing for a jumper.

Murphy then got it going as he scored on a drive.  Then later Calvin hit a baseline runner then a leaner from the elbow and a banker from the wing then Henderson found him at the wing for another jumper.  Houston had a 28-23 lead at that point.  After Gervin and Malone each hit two free throws, Gervin scored 5 consecutive points, ending with a three-point play on a baseline drive and finger roll.  Iceman had 13 points at that point but Murphy responded with a leaner in the lane for his 14th point.  Houston led 34-30 after 1.

However, San Antonio grabbed a 46-37 lead in the 2nd quarter after Corzine followed a Gervin miss and Griffin got a breakaway after a Moore steal.  Then Murphy drove down the lane for an up-and-under and a foul.  This three-point play gave him 19 points.  San Antonio responded as Corzine found Griffin for a layup on a high-low.  Robert Reid (or Bobby Joe Reid if you were listening to Bill Worrell and Johnny Egan on the Rockets broadcasts) found Murphy in the corner for a jumper.  Griffin then found a cutting Brewer for a layup.  It continued as Reid fed Malone for a slam but Griffin got a tip-in on the 4th tip to keep the Spurs up 56-48.  But then Murphy hit a running hook in the lane and was fouled (yes, the 5’9″ Murphy hit a running hook in the lane).  That three-point play gave him 24 points and then he followed it up with another drive in the lane.  San Antonio still maintained a 66-57 lead at the half.

Murphy came out blazing for the 2nd half.  His pull-up from the wing gave him 30 points and cut the lead to 66-59.  Then Henderson found Murphy for another running hook in the lane.  Then Murphy hit a wing jumper after a fake.  This outburst combined with Houston’s defense helped them grab a 79-78 lead going into the fourth.  It also didn’t help that Gervin was scoreless to that point in the 2nd half.

The Murphy show concluded early in the 4th with Calvin hitting a runner off the glass and then Malone kicking out to him for a wing jumper.  The last of his 42 points came on a 2-on-1 break when Henderson found him for a layup.  Because the highlights were cut to when Murphy scored and there was no graphic scoreboard, I can’t really tell you the situation.  I can tell you that Houston held on to win for the 3rd time in San Antonio in the series and that when one remembers Calvin Murphy’s career, they remember this game.

Houston starters (points scored)

Robert Reid (13) – Small Forward

Billy Paultz (10) – Power Forward

Moses Malone (21) – Center

Tom Henderson (13) – Point Guard

Calvin Murphy (42) – Shooting Guard

Houston bench (points scored)

Mike Dunleavy (2)

Allen Leavell (0)

Bill Willoughby (4)

Major Jones (0)

Houston Coach: Del Harris

San Antonio starters (points scored)

Reggie Johnson (8) – Small Forward

Mark Olberding (20) – Power Forward

George Johnson (4) – Center

James Silas (9) – Point Guard

George Gervin (21) – Shooting Guard

San Antonio bench (points scored)

Dave Corzine (5)

Ron Brewer (15)

Johnny Moore (8)

Kevin Restani (0)

Paul Griffin (10)

San Antonio Coach: Stan Albeck

calvin-murphy-300a

Calvin Murphy had 42 points against the Spurs in Game 7 in 1981 *photo courtesy of nba.com

April 19, 1981 – East Semifinals, Game 7: Milwaukee Bucks 98 @Philadelphia 76ers 99

While I may not have the whole of this game, I have seen and will review the entire 4th quarter (which to non-basketball fans is the only part worth watching. ugh).  Milwaukee was now the king of the Central Division and had won 60 games.  But because Philadelphia had won 62, they had home court advantage in this series.. I’m sure Milwaukee wished they were still in the West.

The Bucks only addition was acquiring Mickey Johnson who replaced Dave Meyers as the starting forward with All-Star Marques Johnson.  Sidney Moncrief had developed into the starting two-guard in Brian Winters place.  The Bucks also had Bob Lanier for the full season.

Nobody had won back-to-back games in this series and if that trend were to continue, Philly would be the Game 7 winner at the Spectrum.  For some reason, only a little over 6,000 fans showed up for this game.  But even with less Philly fanatics, Milwaukee got off to an 0-for-9 start from the field.  But Philadelphia couldn’t take advantage of it and Milwaukee grabbed a 10-8 lead after Lanier blocked a shot and Marques Johnson finished a 3-on-2 break.

This is all of the game I have seen until the start of the 4th quarter.  I can tell you that Philadelphia had a 74-58 lead in the 3rd quarter but Milwaukee had battled back to 79-73 going into the final quarter.  Erving had 22 points and Bobby Jones 19 for Philadelphia going into the 4th.  Marques led the Bucks with 29 (13 of them were in the 3rd), while Lanier had 19 and Moncrief 15.

The Bucks continued their run to start the period as 6th man Junior Bridgeman hit a jumper from the post and Moncrief hit on a drive down the middle.  Lanier split a pair of free throws on Caldwell Jones’ 5th foul and then Bridgeman gave the Bucks the lead with a spin and a banker.  The teams then went back-and-forth before Darryl Dawkins hit from the elbow on a Maurice Cheeks feed to put Philly up 87-86.  Then Dr. J hit two free throws and scored on a pull-up on an isolation from the elbow.  Marques Johnson then hit a pull-up from the baseline and split a pair of free throws.  Lionel Hollins then found Bobby Jones for a baseline jumper but Marques scored on a put-back against Erving.

Then with under 3:00 left and Milwaukee still trailing 93-91, Moncrief drove baseline and went up for a shot.  The ball was pinned between the rim and the backboard by Dawkins.  Dawkins was called for goaltending as per rules at the time in which a player couldn’t pin the ball against the glass.  So with 2:25 left, the game was tied.

Erving was again at the wing on Philly’s next possession and Hollins broke out to the top of the circle off a screen.  Doc hit him and Lionel hit the jumper and the 76ers had the lead.  Marques was then short on a baseline jumper and Caldwell Jones got the rebound and was fouled by Lanier.  Caldwell made both free throws and it was 97-93 76ers.  Bridgeman missed a wing jumper off a screen but Hollins missed at the other end trying to beat the shot clock buzzer.  Milwaukee came back down and Winters missed a three from the right corner.  Marques got the rebound and put it back in.

The 76ers ran the clock down under a minute and Erving missed a banker at 47 seconds.  Philadelphia got the rebound though and ran off another 24 seconds before Caldwell Jones missed a jumper at the buzzer.  But Jones got his own rebound and was fouled at 14 seconds.  Again, Caldwell made two free throws for a four-point Philly lead.  Milwaukee called a timeout and got it in to Bridgeman, who hit a three at the top of the key with 9 seconds left.  Philly called a timeout and inbounded from the back court.  They played keep-away and ran out the clock.

Philly went on the play Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, while Milwaukee spent the rest of the decade trying to beat both teams.

Milwaukee starters (points scored)

Marques Johnson (36) – Small Forward

Mickey Johnson (0) – Power Forward

Bob Lanier (24) – Center

Quinn Buckner (0) – Point Guard

Sidney Moncrief (19) – Shooting Guard

Milwaukee bench (points scored)

Junior Bridgeman (13)

Brian Winters (6)

Harvey Catchings (0)

Len Elmore (0)

Milwaukee Coach: Don Nelson

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (28) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (9) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (11) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (10) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (8) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (21)

Andrew Toney (0)

Steve Mix (6)

Clint Richardson (6)

Earl Curetan (0)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

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Caldwell Jones going against Bob Lanier *photo courtesy of hupu

April 19, 1981 – West Semifinals, Game 7: Kansas City Kings 95 @Phoenix Suns 88

In the 2nd game of the Game 7 Sunday double-header on CBS, the 40-42 Kansas City Kings faced the top-seeded 57-win Phoenix Suns.  Phoenix had acquired Dennis Johnson from Seattle for Paul Westphal but on paper looked like a weaker team than in 1979 and 1980 without Mike Bratz and Don Buse.  Buse leaving meant Walter Davis went to the back court.  Phoenix still had Alvan Adams and Truck Robinson but had Jeff Cook starting at the other forward spot.  Their bench didn’t seem as strong but had a good stretch in Game 7.

Kansas City had been Midwest Division champions in 1979 but before beating Portland in round 1 in 1981, they had not won a playoff series since 1964 (when they were the Cincinnati Royals).  Their starting back court was injured.  Phil Ford was out with an eye injury while Otis Birdsong sprained his ankle in Game 1.  He would return for his first action since in Game 7 but was not effective.  Forward Scott Wedman moved to the back court to go along with Ernie Grunfeld.  Those two along with veteran center Sam Lacey and unheralded power forward Reggie King led Kansas City to a 3-1 lead before Phoenix won the next two.

The teams battled to a 10-10 tie early as King, Lacey, Grunfeld and Wedman had each gotten into the scoring column at that point while Dennis Johnson and Walter Davis each had 4 points.  After a Lacey whip pass to King for a layup gave the Kings a 12-10 lead, D.J. found Truck Robinson for his only points of the game and then Adams hit a free throw line jumper for one of his three field goals of the game (in fact, other than D.J. and Davis, nobody on Phoenix had more than three field goals and only one other player reached double figures).

Robinson wasn’t helped by committing 3 early fouls and after Phoenix tied it at 16, Kansas City ran off a mini-run.  Grunfeld hit a free throw and then started a fast break after a Wedman block.  The break was finished with a Birdsong pull-up for his only field goal.  Then King kicked out to Grunfeld for a jumper to give the Kings a 21-16 lead.  The Suns cut it to 22-18 at the end of the 1st but weren’t helped by two missed free throws from D.J.

The Kings maintained a 6-point lead early in the 2nd as Lacey got two field goals and Wedman one to give the Kings a 29-23 lead.  But Phoenix then went on an 11-0 run, 9 of their points came from the bench.  Big man Rich Kelley scored on an offensive rebound and then rookie Kyle Macy hit his 2nd field goal of the quarter.  Then guard Johnny High got a fast break layup before Davis gave Phoenix a lead with a pull-up from the free throw line.  The run was capped by a Macy three from the right wing.  The Suns maintained their 5-point lead at 44-39 late in the first half when Lacey fed to King for a layup.  Then the Suns put up three shots when they should have been running down the first half clock.  The last of which was a Cook leaner with 11 seconds left.  Kansas City finally got the rebound and moved the ball around before Grunfeld made a three from the right wing at the buzzer.  Just like that, the game was tied at 44.

Four points by Adams gave Phoenix a 48-45 lead before King hit on two strong inside moves.  A left-hand driving layup by D.J. gave Phoenix its last advantage of the game.  Forward John Lambert (who had replaced Wedman as the starting forward in this game after Leon Douglas had been starting since Birdsong’s injury) put back his own miss and then Wedman hit two free throws.  A Reggie King layup and a foul (a play in which Phoenix thought he traveled) gave the Kings a 56-52 lead.  Then Wedman followed his own miss on the break and Lacey got a steal and slam.  Phoenix called timeout and eventually cut it to 62-56 when D.J. found Alvin Scott for a slam.  That was Phoenix’s last point of the third.  Kansas City methodically closed them out as Lacey from the elbow hit Grunfeld for a backdoor layup.  Wedman then found Lambert for a slam and hit a jumper off a Grunfeld feed.  It was 68-56 Kansas City going into the 4th.

The story of this game and perhaps series was that Kansas City was a plodding slow-down team (especially without Ford and Birdsong) while Phoenix was a running team.  Kansas City for the most part though had favored the pace of the series and in the fourth quarter in Phoenix, they repeatedly held off Phoenix rallies by running the shot clock down and getting a good shot at the buzzer and hitting it.  Phoenix had cut it to 70-64 when D.J. and Davis finished a 2-on-1 but Lacey hit a leaner from the elbow at the buzzer.  King led the Kings to a 78-68 lead with two field goals.  Davis hit a pull-up in the lane but Grunfeld answered with a wing jumper at the buzzer.  Davis hit another pull-up from the top of the key but Lacey hit another elbow jumper at the end of the shot clock.

This proved to be a critical stretch.  Phoenix cut the lead to 83-76 with 2:50 left on a D.J. wing jumper.  But Wedman found Grunfeld with a cross-court pass as, again, the shot clock was running out.  Another Suns chance came when Kansas City turned the ball over with 1:19 left.  D.J. had scored 5 points to cut the lead to 87-81.  After a timeout, Adams threw the ball away.  Grunfeld hit four consecutive free throws to give the Kings a 91-83 lead.  With 51 seconds left, D.J. hit a three from the top of the key.  After Lacey finally missed at the shot clock buzzer, Phoenix rebounded and Davis launched a pull-up three from the wing that would have cut it to 91-89.  He was just short and Lacey’s rebound and two free throws iced the game.

40-42 Kansas City was on the Western Conference Finals to play 40-42 Houston.  While Phoenix fielded some strong teams in the next few years but this may have been their best chance of the early 80’s to sneak into the Finals.

Kansas City starters (points scored)

John Lambert (8) – Small Forward

Reggie King (23) – Power Forward

Sam Lacey (18) – Center

Ernie Grunfeld (23) – Point Guard

Scott Wedman (19) – Shooting Guard

Kansas City bench (points scored)

Otis Birdsong (3)

Leon Douglas (1)

Kansas City Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons

Phoenix starters (points scored)

Jeff Cook (4) – Small Forward

Truck Robinson (2) – Power Forward

Alvan Adams (8) – Center

Dennis Johnson (28) – Point Guard

Walter Davis (18) – Shooting Guard

Phoenix bench (points scored)

Johnny High (4)

Kyle Macy (11)

Rich Kelley (5)

Alvin Scott (8)

Joel Kramer (0)

Phoenix Coach: John MacLeod

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Scott Wedman was moved to the back court after Otis Birdsong was injured *photo courtesy of hupu

April 26, 1981 – Eastern Conference Finals, Game 4: Boston Celtics 105 @Philadelphia 76ers 107

The Boston Celtics came into this Game 4 having lost their last 10 games in the Spectrum.  Since Philadelphia had won Game 1 in Boston by virtue of their new hero, Andrew Toney’s, two free throws.  Toney had averaged just under 27 ppg in the first 3 games off the bench.  This output helped give Philly a 2-1 lead going into Game 4.

The teams started back-and-forth before a Lionel Hollins up-and-under elbow jumper, plus the foul, gave Philadelphia a 15-12 lead.  Later Hollins found Erving ahead of the field for a slam.  Philly gained a five-point lead when Erving spun and scored on a finger roll and then Bobby Jones scored on an offensive rebound.  The Celtics stayed within striking distance in the 1st despite Larry Bird getting off to a cold start, not hitting a field goal.  Philly led 34-27 at the end of the quarter.

Philly started rolling in the 2nd quarter.  Darryl Dawkins scored on a power move against Rick Robey.  Then after Bobby Jones hit two free throws, Erving finished a 2-on-3 ‘break’ with a gliding finger roll over Bird.  After Tiny Archibald came off a screen and hit a jumper from the top of the key, Bird committed his 3rd foul and Toney hit two free throws.  Then Toney got a slam on a Cheeks lead pass.  Caldwell Jones’ wing jumper put Philadelphia up 47-31 before Tiny hit on a driving three-point play and then on the next possession, found Robey for a layup.  But Philly maintained its double-digit lead led by Bobby Jones and Toney.  Erving found both of them for breakaway layups to give the 76ers their biggest lead at 57-38.  After four straight Celtic points, Bird finally got his first basket on a put-back.  He had missed his first 7 shots.  A Robey put-back with 10 seconds left cut Philly’s halftime lead to 65-48.

Early in the 3rd, Bird committed his 4th foul but stayed in.  Meanwhile, when Dawkins committed his 4th foul, he went out.  The runs seesawed before Boston had the big one.  A Bird lead to Cedric Maxwell capped a 6-0 run and the lead was 66-54.  The 76ers maintained a 72-59 lead despite Bobby Jones picking up his 4th foul.  But then Bird hit an open shot from the top of the key for his 2nd field goal that got him going.  Larry then found Archibald on a 3-on-2 and Robert Parish hit a turn-around jumper from the post over Caldwell Jones and it was 72-65.  But then the 76ers responded as Cheeks found Erving for a slam and then Hollins found Caldwell Jones for a slam.  The 6-0 run was capped by a Caldwell Jones hook.  Then Chris Ford got going to start the Celtics’ big run.  He hit three consecutive jumpers as Parish, Maxwell and Archibald got assists on those field goals.  Then Parish hit a jumper from the post and Bird got a cutting layup on a Ford assist.  Then Bird hit from the top of the key and suddenly it was 78-77 Philly.  Then Parish committed his 5th foul and free throws gave Philadelphia an 82-79 at the end of the 3rd.

Maxwell found Bird for a cutting layup to start the period.  Then after a Toney free throw, Archibald tied it with a wing jumper from Ford.  Boston then took the lead at 84-83 on a Robey free throw.  It was the last lead Boston was to enjoy.  Bobby Jones scored on a left-handed drive and then the inconsistent Dawkins went through a good-Dawkins stretch.  He hit a fade-away from the post over Robey and then a free throw line jumper.  He then hit two free throws to cap an 8-0 run but he committed his 5th foul on a Maxwell three-point play that cut the game to 93-89.  The scoring from then until the last few minutes went blow-for-blow and literally back-and-forth on every possession.

First, Bird hit a pull-up from the wing and then M.L. Carr took it himself on a 3-on-1.  Toney hit two free throws and then Carr hit a turn-around from the post.  Toney hit from the elbow for his 17th point and then Tiny fed to Maxwell for a slam.  The game was tied at 97 at that point.  Cheeks then hit a reverse layup on the drive and then finished on a break-away for a 101-97 76ers lead.  Bird fed Parish in the lane for a hook before Erving hit a layup over Maxwell and Parish.  Immediately, Tiny pushed the ball to Carr for a layup.  But Cheeks fed Erving for a slam over Parish.  Maxwell scored on an offensive rebound before Erving hit two free throws.  It was 107-103 Philly at that point when the scoring barrage stopped.

Parish missed with 2:00 left but Erving missed a tough layup on the break.  Tiny came right back down but was called for a charge on a middle drive.  Philadelphia ran down the 24-second clock before Bobby Jones’ missed from the corner.  Archibald again pushed the ball and scored a layup down the middle with 1:12 left.  It was 107-105.  After a Philly timeout, they committed a 24-second violation.  However, Parish missed from the post and Philadelphia had the rebound with 34 seconds left.  Again they ran down the 24-second clock before Bobby Jones missed on a drive with 10 seconds left.  Boston got the rebound but did not call timeout.  Tiny tried to push the ball before releasing a lead pass to Bird.  But Bobby Jones got back and stole the ball to preserve the win.

In a haunting repeat of 1980, the Celtics had split the first two games in Boston before losing the next two in Philadelphia.  In 1980, they lost Game 5 back at Boston.  Would 1981 be different?

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (18) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (20) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (10) – Center

Nate Archibald (18) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (16) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (4)

Rick Robey (9)

M.L. Carr (10)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (20) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (13) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (14) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (8) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (11) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (18)

Andrew Toney (17)

Steve Mix (6)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

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Andrew Toney coming off a Darryl Dawkins screen with Chris Ford trying to fight over it *photo courtesy of WBUR

April 29, 1981 – Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5: Philadelphia 76ers 109 @Boston Celtics 111

There are two key elements of this game from the Boston Garden that I do not have the information to report on.  The first half of the 3rd quarter and the entire 1st quarter, but the ending will make up for it.

Boston led 24-22 after the 1st as Larry Bird got off to a good start.  Each team had a bit of an issue though as Parish was strapped with 3 fouls for the Celtics and for Philadelphia, Maurice Cheeks went out early in the 2nd quarter with a migrane.  He would not return.

The 76ers would regain the advantage though when Bobby Jones found Darryl Dawkins for a cutting layup and a foul.  Then Toney hit in the lane.  McHale and Carr off the Boston bench contributed but Philly kept a slim lead.  Dawkins got a slam on a Hollins lob and then Erving got a breakaway layup on a Carr goaltend to give the 76ers a four-point lead.  Archibald scored 6 straight points to keep Boston in the game.  Philadelphia got a contribution from little used Clint Richardson in the back-court.  He scored 7 points and had 2 assists in the 2nd quarter, the last 3 points were big.  He got an offensive rebound and scored on a putback while he was fouled with 4 seconds left in the half.  The three-point play put Philadelphia up 59-49 and the 76ers almost increased that lead.  A long Celtics pass was intercepted and Erving threw a long pass to Steve Mix who missed a jumper at the buzzer from the top of the key.  But even with that, Boston didn’t look confident and the Garden was quiet.

At the point where the game was picked up, Parish kicked out to Archibald who hit from the top of the key.  That cut the Philly lead to 72-68 with 5:10 left.  The Celtics then cut it to one several times before a Chris Ford jumper on a Maxwell kickout put Boston up 78-77.  Archibald then found Ford again at the top of the key for a jumper.  Archibald then hit two free throws for a five-point lead.  Philly came back with a 8-0 run as Parish got his 4th foul.  The run concluded with 12 seconds left in the period as Erving scored a finger roll on the break.  Boston came right back as Archibald dribbled down found McHale for a short hook.  The 76ers led 85-84 after the quarter.

The score went back-and-forth to start the 4th.  Dawkins hit a turn-around in the post.  Archibald then got a steal and dished to McHale for a slam.  Erving then found Toney for a breakaway and then later Bird found Archibald for a breakaway.  Then trouble started for the Celtics.  Dr. J found Toney for a slam on the break and then Archibald got an offensive foul for his 5th.  Then Parish committed his 5th foul and Dawkins hit two free throws that made the score 93-88 Philly.  Parish stayed in while Tiny didn’t.  The Chief (Parish) hit a jumper from the post and then McHale hit a jumper in the lane after Dawkins committed his 5th foul.  Philly regained a four-point lead at 99-95 on a Hollins pull-up from the baseline.  A Bird put-back gave him 28 points and cut the lead to two.  The teams traded points.  Bobby Jones hit a wing jumper.  Maxwell got a layup on a Bird feed.  Toney got a breakaway after a Bobby Jones block.  Ford hit a corner jumper.  A Hollins pull-up from just inside the elbow put Philly up 105-101.  Bird’s two free throws cut it to two.  Dawkins then hit two free throws before Bird came back and missed a forced shot.  Philly came down and on a loose ball, Bird was called for a foul on Dawkins.  With 1:51 left, Chocolate Thunder hit two more free throws to put the 76ers up 109-103.  Boston called a timeout.  Again the crowd was quiet.

Boston’s season most certainly looked over when a Bird pass to Parish in the post was intercepted by Dawkins.  Toney got a pass wide open under the basket with 1:29 left.  But Maxwell came out of nowhere for a block and Tiny, back in the game for a few minutes, got the board.  Archibald pushed the ball and then took Toney in the post.  He then hit a layup while Toney fouled him and his free throw cut the lead to 109-106 with 1:20 left.  Then Toney had his shot blocked by Parish and Bobby Jones lost the carom out of bounds.  With 48 seconds left, Bird hit a driving finger roll in the lane and it was a one-point game.  Philly came down and called timeout with 39 seconds left.  This didn’t prove to be a wise strategy as the Celtics deflected the first two inbounds passes out of bounds.  Philly finally got it in but were pressured and the Celtics deflected another one out of bounds at the baseline.  Then the 76ers third inbounds pass in 15 seconds was intercepted by Bird.  Larry took it all the way but missed the banker.  M.L. Carr got the offensive rebound and was fouled with 20 seconds left.  He hit two free throws and Philly called time.

The 76ers worked the ball around until Bobby Jones drove in the lane and his left-handed shot (almost deflected by Parish – which would have been goaltending in my opinion) was short.  Boston got the rebound and almost killed the clock but Carr was fouled by Erving with just under 2 seconds left.  Carr made the first.  He missed the last two intentionally (this was the last season of the 3-for-2 free throw rule) but Philly got a timeout with a second left.  Fortunately for Boston, the inbounds pass was thrown right to Parish outside the three-point line.  For one more day, the Celtics had survived but had to win at the Spectrum, where they had lost 11 straight.

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (21) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (0) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (21) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (0) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (23) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (17)

Andrew Toney (20)

Steve Mix (0)

Clint Richardson (7)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (32) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (16) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (10) – Center

Nate Archibald (23) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (11) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (12)

Rick Robey (0)

Gerald Henderson (0)

M.L. Carr (7)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

April 29, 1981 – Western Conference Finals, Game 5: Houston Rockets 97 @Kansas City Kings 88

In the other conference final, the Houston Rockets had used their slow-down game (and Moses Malone) to take a 3-1 lead over Kansas City.  Phil Ford was back for the Kings and Otis Birdsong was still recovering and coming off the bench.

Ford went coast-to-coast on a drive off a Sam Lacey rebound to give the Kings a 4-0 lead.  Reggie King started off by hitting four free throws.  Ernie Grunfeld got a cutting layup from Lacey to put the Kings up 8-4 before Malone hit his first basket on an elbow jumper.  A Malone jumper in the lane cut the lead to 11-10.  But Moses missed two free throws after Lacey hit two.  This was followed by Lacey kicking out to Ford for a wing knuckleball jumper.  Ford then hit a pull-up and Birdsong hit a driving, twisting banker on the break.  Malone’s putback finally killed the run but Scott Wedman’s elbow jumper put the Kings back up 21-12.  Kansas City took their biggest lead when Wedman hit a leaner off the glass.  But Houston came back when Bill Willoughby (starting for the injured Mike Dunleavy) penetrated and found Malone for a slam.  Tom Henderson then hit an elbow jumper and Malone a turn-around in the post for his 10th point.  Ford killed the Rockets run with an underhand layup but Wedman missed two free throws.  Calvin Murphy’s jumper from the top of the key with 4 seconds left cut the Kings’ lead to 25-20 at the end of the 1st quarter.

Birdsong scored three quick field goals to put Kansas City up 31-23.  But Malone capped a 6-0 response with another turn-around jumper from the post.  The Kings maintained their lead before Malone and Allen Leavell sparked the Rockets and cut the lead to two.  Birdsong responded with an elbow jumper on a Lacey kickout.  Birdsong then found Lacey for a slam.  But back-to-back field goals from Leavell cut the lead back to 46-44.  But King found Birdsong for a breakaway.  This was Otis’ 13th point of the 2nd quarter and 15th of the game.  Leavell responded with a two-hand under-hand layup and then he found Murphy for a breakaway.  Leavell then got a steal at half-court and found Malone for a layup to tie the game at 50.  That would be the halftime score.

Ford found Wedman at the wing for a jumper to start the half.  Leavell responded with his 10th point on a pull-up from the free throw line.  But Wedman scored on a put-back and King did the same while he was fouled.  Grunfeld’s wing jumper put Kansas City up 59-52.  Houston eventually cut it back to three on two Malone free throws.  Then disaster struck Kansas City.  Birdsong passed to King in the post and cut down the lane.  As he was cutting, Birdsong grabbed his back and fell down.  He ended up getting a spasm and was out for the game.  King hit two free throws but Henderson found Malone for a slam and a foul.  The free throw, plus two subsequent Malone free throws tied the game at 67.  Wedman and Robert Reid then matched jumpers.  Wedman hit again from the wing and Lacey did too after the Kings kept the possession with great hustle.  The Kings maintained that four-point lead at 77-73 going into the 4th.

The Kings after 25 in the first 2 quarters and 27 in the 3rd started to miss repeatedly and Houston started on a 6-0 run.  The capper of Willoughby’s two free throws put Houston ahead for the first time.  The Kings only field goal in the first half of the 4th was a Wedman fade-away from the post over Reid that put the Kings up 80-79.  It stayed there for awhile but with 6:00 left, Reid blocked a King layup and at the other end, Malone scored over Lacey in the post while Sam fouled him.  Wedman countered with a baseline pull-up but Reid then drove baseline, scored and drew Lacey’s 5th foul.  He missed the free throw but Murphy got a steal and went coast-to-coast.  It was 86-82 Houston.  Lacey hit two free throws before Malone split a pair.  Lacey missed a jumper at the other end and Henderson connected from the elbow.  Wedman then missed a three and Houston had the ball with under 2:00 left up 89-84.  Paultz got two consecutive offensive rebounds after Houston ran down the shot clock.  Then on the third possession where they ran down the clock, Calvin Garrett rebounded his own miss and Reid finally hit a driving layup with 43 seconds left to kill the game and the Kings.

The Kings had come into the 1981 playoffs not having won a playoff series since 1964.  It would be another 20 years before they would do it again.  By then they would be in the 4th city of the franchise’s history, Sacramento.

Houston starters (points scored)

Bill Willoughby (2) – Small Forward

Billy Paultz (12) – Power Forward

Moses Malone (36) – Center

Tom Henderson (11) – Point Guard

Robert Reid (14) – Shooting Guard

Houston bench (points scored)

Calvin Murphy (11)

Allen Leavell (10)

Calvin Garrett (1)

Houston Coach: Del Harris

Kansas City starters (points scored)

Scott Wedman (20) – Small Forward

Reggie King (18) – Power Forward

Sam Lacey (8) – Center

Phil Ford (17) – Point Guard

Ernie Grunfeld (8) – Shooting Guard

Kansas City bench (points scored)

Otis Birdsong (15)

Joe C. Meriweather (0)

Leon Douglas (2)

Frankie Sanders (0)

John Lambert (0)

Kansas City Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons

May 1, 1981 – Eastern Conference Finals, Game 6: Boston Celtics 100 @Philadelphia 76ers 98

The goal for the Celtics for this game was to get off to a good start and not fall behind.  They got off to a good start but eventually did fall behind.  Off the tip, Tiny Archibald found Chris Ford for a wing jumper and his only points of the game.  After Maurice Cheeks got a steal and dish to Darryl Dawkins for a slam, Robert Parish hit a jumper in the post and then Bird got a reverse layup on a breakaway give and go with Ford.  But then Philly got its game going.  Cheeks again fed Dawkins for a slam over Parish and a foul.  Cheeks then hit a driving double-pump in the lane.  Dawkins hit a corner jumper to put the 76ers up 9-7 and then Darryl hit his 4th shot in 4 attempts from the top of the key.

With the 76ers up by one, Hollins hit a pull-up from just inside the elbow and was fouled.  He missed the free throw but Philly got the rebound and Hollins drove and dished to Caldwell Jones for a slam.  Then Cheeks got a steal and fed Hollins on a 2-on-1 for a layup.  Boston called a timeout at that point with Philly up 17-10.  But Philly increased its lead to ten before an Archibald pull-up from the free throw line bounced in and cut the lead 25-18.  Then Caldwell Jones hit a hook from the post and Andrew Toney penetrated and found Bobby Jones for a slam.  Then with the quarter running out, Toney missed a pull-up with 5 seconds left.  Bobby Jones got an offensive rebound and missed but Caldwell Jones’ tip almost hit the top of the backboard but went in at the buzzer and Philly led 31-18 after the quarter.

The 76ers grabbed a 37-20 lead early when Mix hit a fade-away from the post.  But then Boston made the first of their many mini-runs.  M.L. Carr got a steal and a slam and then Parish got a layup against Caldwell Jones.  The 6-0 run was capped when Bird found Maxwell for a layup and then the scoring went back and forth.  Then the Celtics went on an 8-0 run capped when Gerald Henderson got a rebound and fed Maxwell for a breakaway layup.  The score was 43-38 Philadelphia.  But the 76ers finished the half on an 8-4 run to lead 51-42 at the half.

Darryl Dawkins started the 2nd half unleashing ‘good’ Darryl Dawkins.  He scored first with a finger roll over Parish and then Cheeks found him for a slam.  Cheeks then found him at the wing for a jumper and a 57-42 Philadelphia lead.  Bird then got a three-point play on an offensive rebound for his 10th point.  Bird then came off a screen for a jumper at the wing.  It was 57-47 Philadelphia.

Then the big unfortunate moment of the game came.  Parish missed a shot and Maxwell battling for a rebound first elbowed Toney and then knocked the ball out of bounds while Dawkins pushed him into the crowd.  Maxwell ran into somebody, got into an argument with the guy, started to walk away, and then came back to the fan and attacked him after the fan said something.  This caused a fraces for a few minutes but nobody was ejected (the fan even came back).  This fraces energized Maxwell as he made a few key defensive plays.  First he deflected a pass out of bounds in which Erving would have had a layup if it got through.  Later, he deflected a ball off of Erving and then in a later possession took a charge from Bobby Jones.  Erving was held to 7 points in the first 3 quarters with primarily Maxwell guarding him.

The Celtics slowly cut the lead down led by Bird and Archibald.  Archibald eventually sprained his ankle though when Dawkins accidently stepped on it.  He was out for the rest of the 3rd.  Bird had 11 points in the 3rd.  Cheeks and Bobby Jones both committed their 4th fouls.  A Parish three-point play cut the lead to 70-68.  But then Parish committed his 5th foul and Philadelphia ended the quarter up 73-70 after Toney hit a shot in the lane with 16 seconds left.

Erving started the 4th quarter strong as he got a three-point play with a double-pump in the lane.  But it was then that Archibald came back in and hit a jumper immediately from the wing.  Then after a Clint Richardson tip-in, McHale got a three-point play on a step-through and a hook.  Then Tiny dished to Maxwell for a hook.  After an Erving put-back, Bird tied the game with a put-back and a foul as bodies were scrambled on the floor on the offensive rebound.  But then Bobby Jones got a break-away slam over Bird as somebody threw ice on the floor.  Philly led 83-80 after Jones’ three-point play.  Maxwell then found Carr for a layup and Bird hit from the top of the key off a screen.  The lead then seesawed back-and-forth.  Archibald continued to spark Boston while Dawkins put some points up for Philly.

Cheeks then fouled out and Parish’s two free throws put the Celtics up 91-89.  But Erving tied the game with a breakaway driving finger roll over Parish and then Dawkins’ two free throws put Philly up by two.  Parish, who had been struggling in the series for the most part, hit a big jumper from the post over Dawkins while Darryl fouled him.  The three-point play gave him 21 points three games after he went 1-for-14 from the field.  It also gave the Celtics a 94-93 lead.  Dawkins responded with a slam after Erving hung in the air under the basket and found him.  But then Hollins committed his 5th foul and Archibald hit two free throws for a 96-95 lead.  But then on the Celtics next possession, Parish fouled out on an illegal screen with 1:44 left.  Dawkins then missed a layup and Boston worked the ball around.  The ball eventually swung to Bird at the right wing.  He pump faked and launched a leaning jumper that hit the front rim and bounced in to give the Celtics a 98-95 advantage.

Toney came back with an elbow jumper with 52 seconds left and then got a steal from Bird with 29 seconds left.  But the ball found the rookie with the 76ers looking for the lead.  Toney drove from the left side but had his shot blocked by McHale with 15 seconds left.  Boston got the ball and almost killed the clock but Maxwell was fouled with 2 seconds left.  The Celtics were in the same situation in Game 5 with Carr at the line up one.  Carr missed the 2nd intentionally and Boston only led by two but this time Maxwell hit the two shots.  Philly got the ball at halfcourt down three but the Celtics fouled Erving before he could launch a three.  Dr. J missed the first but made the second and after a timeout the Celtics inbounded it safely and killed the clock.  They had broken their 11-game losing streak in Philadelphia and were going home for Game 7.

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (25) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (17) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (21) – Center

Nate Archibald (19) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (2) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (5)

Rick Robey (1)

Gerald Henderson (4)

M.L. Carr (6)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (16) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (6) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (24) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (6) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (7) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (13)

Andrew Toney (9)

Steve Mix (9)

Clint Richardson (8)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

May 3, 1981 – Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7: Philadelphia 76ers 90 @Boston Celtics 91

Even with this game back at Boston Garden, it was no cake-walk for the Celtics.  Nor should it have been.  They played even with the 76ers early.  Erving got the first point on a free throw but then Bird scored on a put-back.  The 76ers scored four straight points ended with Hollins dishing to Dawkins for a breakaway slam.  Archibald came back with a free throw line jumper and Bird found Maxwell for a layup after an offensive rebound.  The two teams battled this way until a Dawkins basket on a Parish goaltend put Philly up 15-13.  Caldwell Jones then followed with a rebound slam on a missed reverse layup from Cheeks.  The 76ers eventually took a 27-19 lead when Cheeks fed Erving for a reverse.

Cheeks seemed to be back for this game after missing most of Game 5 with a headache and being in foul trouble in Game 6.  Boston got back in the first with offensive rebounds.  Maxwell scored his 8th point on a put-back to cut the lead to 31-24.  And then to end the quarter, Robey rebounded a Bird miss but missed as well.  But Maxwell followed it up again as the quarter went out.  It was 31-26 Philly.

Back to back field goals by Toney put the 76ers up 45-34 in the middle of the 2nd quarter.  But Gerald Henderson came off the bench and scored 6 points in the quarter to help bring Boston back.  They cut it 53-48 with 10 seconds left on two Parish free throws and that’s what Philly’s lead was at the half.

The 3rd started off well for Boston too as Bird hit a corner three to cut the lead to 53-52.  But then later, Parish got his 4th foul and Dawkins made two free throws to put the 76ers back up 61-54.  Maxwell got a layup after a pass from Bird and a spin but Cheeks responded with a step-back from the elbow.  Then Bird had the ball knocked away by Dr. J at the other end.  Erving took it all the way and missed a double-pump finger roll but Cheeks got the rebound, faked Robey in the air, made the basket and drew the foul.  Along with that came a technical on Bird who thought Erving fouled him on the steal.  So Bobby Jones hit the technical and Cheeks completed the three-point play and Philly had a 67-56 lead.  The Celtics eventually cut it back to seven on two Archibald free throws and then a Maxwell put-back cut the score to 69-64.  The 8-0 run completed when Maxwell hit a runner after Bird got a defensive rebound and led the break.  But Philly held their lead at 75-71 at the end of the 3rd.  The quarter ended with Robey and Steve Mix almost getting into a melee, which punctuated the intensity of the game.

Parish started the 4th well as he hit a jumper from the elbow and then put back a McHale miss to tie the game.  Then Archibald hit a pull-up from the top of the key and Carr hit a long wing jumper at the end of the shot clock.  That was the end of the 8-0 run as Erving’s banker rolled in.  Then Erving hit an underhand scoop down the middle after Parish committed his 5th foul.  Cheeks’ two free throws gave Philly an 81-80 lead.  Maxwell then missed two free throws (he had hit 25 in a row in the series before missing in Game 6) and Bobby Jones popped a jumper from the free throw line.  A few possessions later, Cheeks found Erving for a slam on the break and it was 85-80 76ers.  With 6:22 left, Erving hit a wing jumper to put Philly up seven.  Archibald responded with two free throws before Erving scored on a reverse.  That would be the last 76ers field goal.  With 4:30 left, Bobby Jones got his 5th foul and Maxwell split a pair of free throws.  Then Bird got a steal and Tiny was fouled on the break.  His two free throws cut it to 89-85.

With 3:41 left, Parish’s turn-around from the post cut the lead to two.  Then Parish blocked a Dawkins shot but Maxwell was called for traveling after a long pass.  One could feel the intensity in the building.  Tiny Archibald got a steal and Bird was fouled by Erving on a baseline drive with 2:51 left.  It was Dr. J’s 5th foul.  Bird made the two free throws to tie the game at 89.  Erving missed from the wing, Caldwell Jones got the offensive rebound but Hollins missed at the end of the shot clock.  Boston came down but Archibald missed at the end of the shot clock after Parish threw an airball.

Philly tried to force it inside to Dawkins as Boston slumped off Erving at the wing.  Dawkins tried to score through traffic but missed and Bird came down with the rebound.  He pushed it himself on the left side and with 1:03 left hit a pull-up banker to put Boston up 91-89.  After a Philly timeout, Carr stole a cross-court pass.  But Cheeks got another steal and a breakaway chance.  Maurice was fouled on a ‘is it a charge or a block’ call and just missed the layup.  The momentum of the break and the foul knocked Cheeks into the basket support.  He re-gathered himself but missed the first free throw.  He made the second cutting it to one with 29 seconds left.  Boston ran down the clock and Carr missed at the shot clock buzzer.  Parish had control of the rebound for a second but lost it and Bobby Jones called time with 1 second left.

The inbounds play was supposed to be a lob to Dr. J but the pass hit the top of the backboard and caromed out to Maxwell who touched the ball to kill the second and complete the comeback.  This was the 4th time that a team came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA.  It would not happen again for another 14 years.

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (23) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (12) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (16) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (12) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (2) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (13)

Andrew Toney (8)

Steve Mix (4)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (23) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (19) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (16) – Center

Nate Archibald (13) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (7) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (1)

Rick Robey (4)

Gerald Henderson (6)

M.L. Carr (2)

Eric Fernsten (0)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

1981.celtics

photo courtesy of sikids.com

May 5, 1981 – NBA Finals, Game 1: Houston Rockets 95 @Boston Celtics 98

After an emotional comeback and series versus the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics were apt to take a breath.  They did early in Game 1 and the underdog Rockets jumped on them led by Billy Paultz and Robert Reid.  Paultz started it with a hook in the lane over Bird and then Tom Henderson found Reid on the baseline with a whip pass for a jumper.  After Bird connected in the lane, Paultz hit another jumper in the lane.  And then Maxwell threw a lazy inbounds pass that was intercepted by Reid who scored.  Just like that it was 8-2.  It continued as Paultz scored on an offensive rebound and a Parish goaltending and then Reid hit a jumper from the free throw line to put Houston up 12-2.  The Celtics finally got a few buckets but they were matched by field goals by Reid and Paultz.  The Rockets took their biggest lead when Reid hit a banker from the elbow at the end of the shot clock and then Tom Henderson (the first Rocket to score other than Reid and Paultz) hit from the elbow and it was 22-8.  The Celtics came right back though as Archibald found Parish ahead of the field for a layup and then two Bird field goals and a Maxwell pass to a cutting Chris Ford for a three-point play sliced the score to 26-17.  And then M.L. Carr got a long offensive rebound and hit a fade-away in the lane while he was fouled.  The score was suddenly 26-20.  Houston held a 29-24 lead after one quarter.

The Rockets started the 2nd period well as Reid got a steal and a break-away versus Carr while M.L. fouled him.  It was Reid’s 16th point so far.  Then Calvin Murphy got his third field goal off the bench on a baseline jumper and Houston was up 34-24.  But then Gerald Henderson came in off the bench and sparked the Celtics.  He hit a baseline jumper while he was fouled and then a pull-up from the elbow and, all of a sudden, the lead was cut in half.  Gerald ended up scoring 11 points in the 2nd quarter but Houston was able to keep its lead with effort, highlighted by Moses Malone chasing down two of his own misses near the basket before finally putting one in.  Even with that, Moses was held down in the first half but the Rockets still led 57-51 at the break.

The Celtics got back into it in the third as Cedric Maxwell got going.  After Reid hit the first basket of the 2nd half on a pull-up banker after an Allen Leavell steal, Maxwell got two layups on two Bird feeds.  Houston went back up by nine briefly on a Reid three-point play, but then Archibald found Parish for a layup and then hit a driving layup himself.  Then after Leavell found Malone for a slam, Parish hit a turn-around in the post and Chris Ford’s wing jumper got a high bounce off the side of the rim.  The score was 66-63 Houston.  After Dunleavy hit a wing jumper, the Celtics went on a 6-0 run to take their first lead.  Parish dished to Archibald for an up-and-under layup and then Maxwell fed Ford for a wing jumper.  Then Maxwell’s two free throws gave Boston that lead.  The scoring went back-and-forth for the rest of the period before Murphy’s up-and-under floater from the wing plus a Malone free throw put Houston up 81-76 at the end of the quarter.

After Murphy started the 4th with a corner jumper, Bird hit a left-handed shot after driving down the right baseline.  McHale scored on a put-back and then Maxwell scored on the 4th Celtics shot of the same possession.  It was 83-82 but Reid’s floater in the lane put Houston back up by five.  Then Bird found Carr for a corner jumper before the highlight that many NBA fans have probably seen.

Bird attempted a jumper from the right wing that was short and was going out-of-bounds.  But Bird ran it down and then, while falling out of bounds, hit a left-handed under-hand floater.  Great play.  Then Bird got a defensive rebound and Maxwell pushed the break to Parish for a slam.  This gave Boston an 88-87 lead.  But the Rockets reponded again as Reid hit another jumper from the elbow and Murphy hit another from the wing.  But then Parish scored on an offensive rebound, Bird hit a corner jumper off a screen, Maxwell dished to Carr on a 2-on-1 for a layup, and then Bird got a rebound and a lead to Maxwell for a slam.  Houston called timeout down 96-91.  Tom Henderson’s two buckets cut it to 96-95 with 1:29 left, but Boston had the ball.  Tiny missed and Houston had the rebound but lost it with two players battling and it was back-tapped to Ford.  The Celtics ran off more time before Parish missed.  Again the ball went through the hands of a few Rockets and Ford saved it from going out-of-bounds and kept the possession alive.  Parish missed again at the end of the clock.  Bird got the rebound and missed a layup, but got it again, went to the other side and hit a reverse with 19 seconds left.  Boston had killed off 1:10 and led 98-95.  Houston’s last chance came when Rudy Tomjanovich missed a three with 8 seconds left.  Reid got the rebound and missed a two before Boston rebounded and killed the clock.

Despite the Game 1 loss, the underdog Rockets proved they were here to stay in this series.

Houston starters (points scored)

Robert Reid (27) – Small Forward

Billy Paultz (14) – Power Forward

Moses Malone (13) – Center

Tom Henderson (11) – Point Guard

Mike Dunleavy (6) – Shooting Guard

Houston bench (points scored)

Calvin Murphy (16)

Rudy Tomjanovich (0)

Allen Leavell (6)

Bill Willoughby (2)

Houston Coach: Del Harris

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (18) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (10) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (16) – Center

Nate Archibald (12) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (13) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (4)

Rick Robey (5)

Gerald Henderson (11)

M.L. Carr (9)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

May 14, 1981 – NBA Finals, Game 6: Boston Celtics 102 @Houston Rockets 91

Houston had stolen Game 2 in Boston.  This had woken up Boston from their ‘we’ll coast until the 2nd half and then we’ll find a way to win it’ mentality.  They had won two of the next three games in blowout fashion to take a 3-2 lead going back to Houston.  Despite this success, Bird had scored 8, 8, and 12 points in those three games as Robert Reid was staying with him.  He would break out in Game 6.

But first Houston got an early lead when Reid found Malone for a layup in between Parish and Maxwell and then Paultz hit a turn-around in the lane.  Then Malone got a tough offensive put-back versus Parish and Houston led 6-0.  But Parish responded with two straight buckets and Archibald hit a pull-up.  The Celtics took a 14-12 lead when Tiny found Parish on the break for his 8th point.  Then Bird fed Maxwell who tipped in his own miss.  Boston took as much as a seven-point lead when Bird got his first field goal on an offensive rebound.  Houston cut it back to 25-24 after the first when Reid hit a pull-up on the break with 5 seconds left.

Bird started the 2nd quarter with an elbow jumper from Tiny and then Ford got a runner from the baseline to bounce in.  The scoring then went back-and-forth for awhile as the Celtics bench contributed while Malone contributed offensive put-backs and Reid scored 12 points in the quarter.  M.L. Carr’s driving layup down the lane from the left side gave Boston a 51-47 lead and then with time running out Archibald got a driving layup after a crossover.  The Celtics led by 6 at the half.

Maxwell and Bird got quick field goals for Boston but Dunleavy and Paultz responded.  Then Ford found Maxwell for a slam and Parish hit a turn-around in the post to give the Celtics momentum.  They took a 64-53 lead when Tiny found Bird for a wing jumper in transition.  Back-to-back Dunleavy and Paultz field goals cut the lead back to seven.  But then Maxwell kicked out to Tiny who swung it over to Ford in the corner for a jumper.  And then on the break, Ford dished to Bird who in one motion flipped a behind-the-back pass to Parish for a jumper.  Later Bird hit back-to-back field goals over his previous game tormentor Robert Reid.  First, Larry hit a turn-around jumper in the post while Reid fouled him and then he hit a turn-around baseline fade-away over Reid and Boston led by 13.  With 2 seconds left in the quarter, Tiny Archibald hit a double-pump banker from the elbow to put Boston up 82-67 after three.

After each team started their first few possessions with misses, Parish’s turn-around in the post gave Boston their biggest lead at 84-67.  But then Boston went cold and Houston’s athletic lineup of Tom Henderson, Malone and swingmen Reid, Bill Willoughby and Calvin Garrett got things going.  Garrett’s driving layup cut the score to 84-74 and Boston called its first of three timeouts in the run.  Reid hit a jumper in the lane and then found Garrett for a wing jumper in transition.  It was 84-78 and Boston called its 2nd timeout.  After a Tiny miss, Reid hit 1-of-2 free throws.  Then Parish finally broke Boston’s drought with a turn-around in the post but Willoughby then hit two free throws and got a steal and Henderson finished in transition.  It was 86-83 and the crowd was going bonker nuts.  After the Boston timeout, Bird hit a baseline pull-up and then he popped out to the elbow for a jumper.  Two free throws each by Garrett and Malone cut the lead back to three.  Bird then lobbed an inbounds pass to Maxwell for a layup before Garrett hit another wing jumper for his 8th point of the quarter.  The score was 92-89.

On the next possession, Tiny had the ball up top and swung it to Ford at the wing.  Ford hit Bird in the corner beyond the three-point line.  Larry launched in his only three of the series and Boston led by six.  With 1:22 left, Reid got a basket on a Parish goaltend but then Willoughby committed a backcourt foul and Maxwell hit two free throws with 1:19 left.  Houston’s last gasp was an airballed three from Dunleavy.  The Celtics finished the game and the championship with free throws.

For Boston, it was a satisfying 14th championship after a grueling last two series.  For Houston, the unexpected run to the Finals did not generate success for this team.  After finishing 6th in the west again in 1982 and this time losing the mini-series in 3 games, Malone was traded to Philadelphia for Caldwell Jones and a 1st round pick that turned into Rodney McCray.  Moses would be the final piece to Philadelphia’s puzzle while Houston wouldn’t regain relevance until they used back-to-back number 1 picks to draft Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon (Akeem Olajuwon at the time).

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (27) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (19) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (18) – Center

Nate Archibald (13) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (11) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (2)

Rick Robey (6)

Gerald Henderson (0)

M.L. Carr (6)

Eric Fernsten (0)

Terry Duerod (0)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

Houston starters (points scored)

Robert Reid (27) – Small Forward

Billy Paultz (14) – Power Forward

Moses Malone (23) – Center

Tom Henderson (8) – Point Guard

Mike Dunleavy (6) – Shooting Guard

Houston bench (points scored)

Allen Leavell (0)

Calvin Garrett (8)

Bill Willoughby (5)

Major Jones (0)

Houston Coach: Del Harris

bird celebrating

Larry Bird took Red Auerbach’s cigar in celebrating his 1st NBA Championship *photo courtesy of total pro sports

From → NBA

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