Celtics (18-5) vs. Pistons (8-16)
December 4, 1979
The Celtics continued a brutal stretch of travel for their fifth game in the past seven nights to play a dreadful Detroit Pistons team. In front of a crowd of 11,839, the ninth largest crowd ever up to that point for a Pistons game, the Celtics had trouble finding any kind of shooting rhythm and turned the ball over a season high 20 times in the first half, but persevered to overcome a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won, 118-114, in overtime. The Celtics flirted with disaster the entire night, but found a way to beat a poor Pistons club for the nineteenth victory of the year and improved to 2-1 in OT.
Dick Bavetta and Jim Capers officiated the contest, and Larry Bird did not disappoint. After only scoring four points in the loss to Kansas City, Bird bounced back with a customary Bird night — and customary implies the finest rookie play in the league that season — with 18 points, 12 rebounds (4 offensive), three assists, and four turnovers. The Celtics put together a balanced attack on offense: Cedric Maxwell finished with 16 points (though struggled badly in the field by shooting only 3-for-10 and picked up 10 points from the free throw line) and nine boards; Dave Cowens delivered 15 and 10; and Tiny Archibald dished out 14 assists, shot 7-of-10, and only turned the ball over twice while fouling out but still ended the night with 19 points. On a cold night in Motor City, the bench packed a punch with 22 points from M.L. Carr (the original microwave as he was able to heat up immediately upon entering the game) and Rick Robey, who had his finest night of the season with 16 points and 10 boards.
The Pistons’ attack was a three-fold strategy: pass to Bob McAdoo (29 points), Bob Lanier (23 and 12), or John Long (32 and 11). Detroit didn’t attempt a 3-pointer, while the Celtics hit four by getting a pair each from Chris Ford and Carr. The Celts saved their night by only allowing six turnovers through the second half and OT, and forced the Pistons into 26 of their own. The Celtics took their first lead of the game in OT, and though Detroit had a brief lead in the extra frame, the Celtics reclaimed the lead and held on for the win.
The Celtics returned to the Garden the night next to play the Atlanta Hawks, marking their sixth game in eight nights. They were also scheduled to play at home against Phoenix on Friday, travel to Cleveland for a game on Saturday, and spend their day of rest on Sunday battling the Milwaukee Bucks.