Celtics (24-7) vs. Nets (12-19)
December 16, 1979
Rutgers Athletic Center
A night after the Celtics stole a game in Madison Square Garden on Walt Frazier Night, the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan continued to be amazed with this Celtics team. In the Sunday edition of the Globe on December 16, 1979, courtesy of the Boston Globe Archive access, here is how he began his recap of the C’s victory in MSG:
The Designated Saviour scored 31 points and hauled in 13 rebounds. The Captain again gave a demonstration of how to shoot 3 for 19 while playing otherwise fabulous basketball. The Playmaker submitted a valuable 19 points and 7 assists. And – get this – The Bench shot a collective 11 for 12. And, oh, yes, two steals in the final 23 seconds provided the star-struck Celtics with a 99-96 triumph over the amazingly self-destructive New York Knicks last night before a sellout crowd in Madison Square Garden. It was, in other words, just another routine evening in the life of the NBA’s most lovable team.
Celtics (23-7) vs. Knicks (14-17)
December 15, 1979
Madison Square Garden
Though the Celtics were in a grueling stretch of basketball, timing was in their favor. After catching Milwaukee twice during their losing streak, the Celtics focused their attention on Red Holzman’s Knicks. The night before, New York hit a new low point, losing their fourth straight game to drop to three under .500. To make matters worse, the loss was suffered in humiliating fashion across the Hudson to the New Jersey Nets. Buoyed by an eight point fourth quarter by old friend Don Chaney, the Celtics kept their winning streak — and NY’s losing streak — alive to hold on in NYC to defeat the Knicks, 99-96.
Celtics (22-7) vs. Bucks (19-13)
December 14, 1979
The Celtics opened their third straight weekend set of three-games-in-three-days with the Western Conference’s Milwaukee Bucks. The two teams squared off just five days earlier at the MECCA and were set to conclude the season series at the friendly confines of the Boston Garden. Don Nelson’s Bucks had started off the season with championship aspirations in November, winning 15 of their first 20, but were stumbling through the month of December. Including the loss at home to the C’s, Milwaukee had dropped five in a row and six of their previous seven. This game at the Garden would not provide any the remedy to the Bucks’ woeful streak, as the Celtics provided its sellout crowd of 15,320 some holiday spirit in 97-94 victory.
The San Francisco 49ers are coming into town this weekend for a Sunday Night Football Matchup on NBC. Locally, the media seems convinced that the 49ers will offer a much more strenuous test for New England than did the Houston Texans. That wouldn’t be hard to do, but I worry that we won’t learn anything about this team during this game.
One of the most accomplished members of the Boston sports media is Dale Arnold. Arnold is currently working with NESN, hosting NESN Daily and pre/post game coverage of Bruins games. Previously he co-hosted The Dale & Holley Show show middays on WEEI, although he still hosts weekend shows, including NFL Sunday on Sunday mornings. Before coming onto the Boston scene he did play-by-play for the New Jersey Devils for two seasons. Arnold, a graduate of Bowdoin College is the only person in Boston sports history to do play-by-play broadcasts for all five of the area’s major professional sports franchises. Boston Sports Media Watch had the chance to catch up with Arnold, touching on a number of subjects.
BSMW: What does it mean to be the only person in history to call play-by-play for all five major Boston sports teams?
In some cases, guys like Curt Gowdy, guys like that could have done anything but there was no soccer when they were around. I was lucky enough to be here when there were five teams to do. Now that there’s lacrosse I should have tried to work that in there as well. The fact that no one’s ever done it, all five teams, means a lot to me that I was able to pull it off.
BSMW: Do you have a favorite moment or game that you’ve called?
It’s so hard. There were individual things here and there. The Red Sox last game of the regular season in Baltimore (2011) wasn’t a favorite, but it was memorable. The Doug Flutie “icky balloky” game wasn’t a favorite, but it was memorable in that regard. I’ve had the opportunity to do some games that mattered in the NHL both here and in New Jersey. Truly if I looked back on the whole thing, from start to finish the most fun I had doing a game was a Maine Mariners-Sokol Kiev (from the then Soviet Union) game. It was the end of the Cold War, and the Russian’s just started coming over. I worked with a state department translator for about a month to get the pronunciations, and just being able to do that was unique at the time.
BSMW: You’ve called play-by-play, hosted radio shows, anchored television shows and worked pre and post game shows. Do you have a favorite or a preference?
Anybody who has done play-by-play will always tell you they always think of themselves as a play-by-play announcer. I mean I like a lot of the other things, I enjoy doing the radio, I’ve enjoyed hosting Bruins, but there is something about calling a game live, for guys who do it they’ll tell you it’s the most fun they have.
BSMW: Everyone knows what happened at WEEI a few years ago, are you happy with the way things turned out at NESN, or do you wish you were on the radio everyday?
I wish I was doing both. I’m thankful for NESN because they gave me an opportunity to stay in the market and do something that I really love, but it’s not like it’s an either or proposition. The time frame of doing Bruins and the time frame of when you host middays you could do both easily.
BSMW: How long did it take you to get over not being on the radio everyday?
I’m not over it now. It’s something that I liked, egotistically I thought I was reasonably good at it. I wish I was still doing it now.
BSMW: You’ve worked with a number of different people over the years, do you have a favorite person you’ve worked alongside?
Probably Michael (Holley). Neumy (Bob Neumeier), he and I got along great and I don’t mean to slight him when I say that, but Michael and I developed a pretty unique and pretty interesting chemistry. I thought it worked pretty well.
BSMW: What are your future plans? There have been rumors of you being interested in the play-by-play gig with the Patriots, would you be interested in going back there?
What rumors? … Nobody has ever asked me. I am not sure that there is a rumor that’s true, no one has ever asked me. As I’ve said, anyone who has been a play-by-play announcer thinks of themselves as a play-by-play announcer. I enjoyed the time I had with the Patriots, the three years I was there. I am certainly a different, and better broadcaster now than I was then, that was a long time ago. Like I said, nobody has ever talked to me about it, nobody has ever said anything to me about it.
BSMW: What are your thoughts on the NHL lockout and do you think there will be a season?
I do. Maybe I am just whistling past the graveyard here, I guess I think they are too close to kiss off a season at this stage. I mean my feeling is that they are not that far apart. I’m not sure they are as close as Donald Fehr says, but I also don’t think they are as far apart as Gary Bettman says. Everybody I’ve talked to in the hockey media, everybody I’ve talked to in the hockey community, is convinced that somewhere around December 31 or January 1 there will be a deal and they will be playing again.
Celtics (21-7) vs. Nets (11-17)
December 12, 1979
A fully-rested Celtics team built off the win in Milwaukee and improved to 13-1 at the Garden with a 116-102 win over the New Jersey Nets. After splitting six games, the Celtics won their second in a row and looked to poised to kick off another lengthy winning streak. This game already marked the third time Boston faced New Jersey, and the Celtics were feasting on the inferior competition. For two vastly different teams in terms of talent level, it is mind-boggling to think that New Jersey had eight more wins than the Celtics the previous season. That, of course, was life before Larry Bird, who acted as a one man gang against the Nets, torching the troubled franchise for 21 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Before becoming a mildly successful coach in the Continental Basketball League (bringing the Alany Patroons their first title) and Puerto Rico’s National Superior Basketball, Phil Jackson rode the pine for the Nets. He only played in 16 games before retiring in 1980, and the once-important piece to the Knickerbockers’ two championships was now a shell of himself. Jackson was connected to Celtics coach Bill Fitch. In another phenomenal article, Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum explains:
An ambitious young basketball coach named Bill Fitch first visited with Jackson on a bitter spring afternoon in Williston, where, in Fitch’s car with the heater running, the coach persuaded Jackson to come to the University of North Dakota. Williston’s cold, windy weather—”You can fly a kite there forever,” says Fitch—made the people tough and competitive, and the loose-limbed Holy Roller was as tough and competitive as anyone. Jackson’s fastball drew the attention of baseball recruiters, but Fitch wanted him only for basketball. “It was the right choice,” said Fitch, who went on to coach in the NBA with Cleveland, Boston, Houston and, now, New Jersey. “He couldn’t find home plate with a Geiger counter.”
Unlike Jackson, who couldn’t stay on the court, Dave Cowens still had a place on the court. Cowens paced the Celtics with 24 points and 10 boards, again showing how dangerous the Celts could be with strong play in the post. Cedric Maxwell added 7 boards and 13 points off a tidy 6-for-8 from the field, Chris Ford drilled three more 3-pointers in an 18-point night, and Tiny Archibald kept humming with seven more assists. Sixth man Gerald Henderson, playing only 13 minutes, dropped in 12 points. The game did not sell out.
Although they allowed over 100 points, the Celtics played lock-down defense, forcing the Nets to shoot under 40 percent from the field. New Jersey’s Cliff Robinson (not the headband-wearing Clifford Robinson, who played 18 seasons in the NBA and made the playoffs all 18 years, who didn’t enter the league until 1989) was the only Net to reach 20 points. The Celts won the rebound and assist battle (though both teams scored 18 points off turnovers), and high scoring first and third quarters put NJ in a whole from which they could not recover.
Philadelphia defeated Milwaukee to improve to 22-7, the same record as the C’s. The two teams were set to square off at the Garden on Wednesday, December 19. In the meantime, the Celtics returned to action for a rematch (and the start of another three consecutive games) with the Bucks at home on Friday night.
(I can’t wait to see how many angry emails and tweets I get from people who only read the headline.)
It’s hard to find to find much fault with the Patriots performance last night, so those who wish to force doom and gloom on their audience the next few days will have to work a little bit. I’ve seen a few references to the 45-3 December win over the Jets a couple years ago, and how that turned out, I’ve seen the phrase “peaking too soon” – how do we know the Patriots are peaking? Still seems like plenty of room for improvement, right? I’ve seen worries about the two fumbles – both recovered by the offense, mind you – and continued worries about the kicker, who didn’t attempt a field goal last night.
But if you’re going through those items and fretting over them, I’d say you’ve got issues. The Patriots ran roughshod over the Houston Texans, who were an NFL-best 11-1 coming into this game. New England jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, and kept the pedal down in a 42-14 thumping.
The CSNNE interview with Wes Welker last night ended pretty awkwardly, as the receiver was asked about his tough night connecting with Tom Brady (targeted 9 times, 3 catches) and Felger suggested the drops got into Welker’s head. He wasn’t amused, nor was he interested in Troy Brown’s suggestion that being on the punt returns messed him up as a receiver. Felger also managed to chastise “sensitive” Patriots fans who interpret them listing out all the ways the opponent gives the game to the Patriots as taking away from how the Patriots played.
For all those marveling that Dan Shaughnessy called this one, as if he actually had any knowledge or foresight, I just have to shake my head. If you read his column yesterday, he was insulting to Robert Kraft, to the Patriots and especially to their fans, and the column was written in a completely disingenuous manner, hoping the Patriots could somehow lose a game that he said they should win easily, and then he could thus blast them. Really it was genius. It was a no-lose proposition for Shaughnessy. Win, and he gets credit for “predicting” the win. Lose, and he gets to blast them. Pure genius.
Alright, let’s enjoy this one for a few days before we worry about the 49ers. Can we? Is that allowed?
Patriots’ defense comes of age – Jackie MacMullan says that earlier in the season, the idea of a Super Bowl run was “pure folly, simply unfathomable.” Why is it so hard for some to catch on to the pattern that New England defenses almost always get better as the season goes on.