Justin Barrasso will be perusing the box scores of the Boston Celtics during the Larry Bird years, starting with Bird’s rookie year in 1979-1980. We’ll be posting the box score as well as some commentary each game day as we re-visit the ’79-’80 season. Enjoy.
Celtics (4-2) vs. Rockets (2-3)
Wednesday, October 24
Having lost two straight, the Celtics continued their six game road trip in Houston. The Rockets were wrapping up a three-game homestand, and earned Ws in the first two affairs against Indiana (who defeated the Celtics) and Atlanta. Houston had a lot at stake: the chance to avenge their season-opening loss against the C’s, work their way to a .500 record for the first time this season (they would finish with one at 41-41), and improve their winning streak to three games. Bill Fitch’s bunch, however, wouldn’t stand for a three-game losing streak of their own. In fact, although the Celtics would drop two in a row on three different occasions during the regular season, they never allowed themselves to lose three in a row.
Chris Baker’s 1998 story in the LA Times focusing on an upcoming Pacers-Clippers game (coached by Bird and Fitch) spoke of the relationship Fitch built with Bird early in the ’79 season:
When Larry Bird came into the NBA with the Boston Celtics in 1979, Bill Fitch took him under his wing and helped to mold him into one of the league’s greatest players. “He was a special coach,” Bird said. “He was my first coach in the NBA and I’ve always admired him. Bill Fitch was by far the best I’ve seen.”
Bird faced Fitch for the first time as a coach Sunday in the Indiana Pacers-Clippers game at the Sports Arena.
“It was like when I played and he was coaching the other team,” said Bird, who has rebuilt the Pacers as a first-year coach. “I admire and respect him more than any other coach I’ve ever had, but I didn’t want him to beat me.”
Bird wouldn’t lose in Houston on October 24, either. Houston’s Robert Reid paced the Rockets with a 20/8/5 effort, and the Celtics struggled all night with Moses Malone, who had his way in the paint with 19 points and 18 boards (including an impressive eight on the offensive end). The Celts jumped out to 9-point lead after the first quarter, but Houston had the game tied by the half and Coach Fitch was T’d up during the letdown. The Rockets continued their assault in the third, taking a 80-75 lead after three. The C’s, who were led by Cedric Maxwell’s 20 and Dave Cowens’s 17, managed to out-rebound Houston and take the game, 100-99. Bird finished just shy again of his first triple-double, recording 15/10/6. Six Celtics finished in double-digits, and the team held on for the victory.
The win placed the Celtics in second place of the Atlantic Division at 5-2, trailing the undefeated 76ers. The Knicks were in third at 4-3, followed by the Bullets (2-4) and Nets (1-4).