Celtics (51-15) vs. Houston (34-34)
March 5, 1980
The Summit

Competing in a foot race with the Spurs for the final playoff spot in the East, the Houston Rockets fell to the Boston Celtics in overtime at the Summit, 103-99.  Houston came up short despite a 30-18 performance from 24-year-old phenom Moses Malone.

Moses Malone

The Rockets held the Celtics to a 38-point second half, not allowing the C’s to register 100 or more points in regulation for the first time in 23 games.  Cedric Maxwell led the Green with 22 point and 11 boards, and the win marked a new season high for wins in a row with the team’s eighth straight victory.  Bob Ryan from The Boston Globe detailed the 52nd win for Boston:

It was a game only a winning coach could love, and all he could remember about it was the final five minutes, the fateful overtime.

“Regulation?” inquired Bill Fitch after the Celtics’ 103-99 victory over the Houston Rockets last night. “This is one of those nights where regulation time was ancient history.”

Larry Bird had a tough night from the field, shooting only 6-19.  In typical Bird fashion, he found other ways to affect the game, adding 9 rebounds and 7 assists.  Pete Maravich (10 points in 14 minutes) and M.L. Carr (14 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) provided sparks off the bench, while Nate Archibald hit the game-winner and Gerald “Quick” Henderson placed the cherry on the sundae.

The game was available to whoever wanted it for the final 8 1/2 minutes, and when it came to nut-cracking time, as it has in each of Boston’s three Summit visits this season, it was Boston that came up with the big plays.  The two biggest, of course, were the final two Celtic baskets.  The first was a 20- footer from the left by Nate Archibald, who had gotten open after a Bird drive had drawn the usual crowd.  That came with 35 seconds to play and gave the Celtics a 101-99 lead.

The strategical wheels had been turning throughout, and now [Rockets coach Del] Harris made a big decision.  He elected to go for the quick three- pointer (remember Chris Ford’s OT bomb in the first Seattle game?).  Mike Dunleavy got off a clear shot, but he missed, and Bird grabbed the rebound.  Here the Celtics fooled people by not calling timeout, pushing it up instead.  And who should suddenly blast down the lane for a layup with 19 seconds left but Gerald Henderson?  “Remember,” pointed out Fitch, “his nickname is Quick.”

In other Celtics-related news, the Celtics filed a $2 million suit against their landlord, the New Boston Garden Corporation.  The C’s, on the final year of their lease, had already explored building new venues in East Boston and Revere after negotiations stalled in December.  Will McDonough of the Globe broke the story that the team was suing the Garden.

The Celtics, with owner Harry Mangurian trying to get together plans for a new arena at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, want just a one-year lease for less money than they are currently paying the Garden.

The Garden owners, trying to complete plans with the City of Boston to renovate their own building in the North Station area, have been trying to get the Celtics to sign a longer lease. The Garden people feel that the suit is being brought by the Celtics to give the basketball team better leverage toward a new lease.

“Sure we want a new deal and a better deal,” said Mangurian yesterday from Florida. “The Celtics have been treated unfairly by the Garden ownership for years, and we cite some of the things that have gone on in our suit. We’re not going to leave Boston, and we’re not threatening to leave Boston no matter what happens. But we just can’t continue to play in that building under the present terms, and we are going to try as hard was we can to build a new building.”

In the meantime, the Garden remained home.  The Celtics returned to Causeway Street for a date with the Philadelphia 76ers (50-17) on Friday night.