Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 57 vs. the Suns

Celtics (43-13) vs. Phoenix (37-20)
February 13, 1980
Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Phoenix recovered from the Celtics’ 42 points explosion in the third quarter and a twelve point deficit to come back and defeat the Celtics, 135-134.

Larry Bird had his most impressive game in his rookie season, pouring in 45 points.  The Suns gushed over Bird’s performance to the Globe’s Bob Ryan after the victory: [Read more…]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 56 vs. the Pistons

Celtics (42-13) vs. Detroit (14-42)
February 10, 1980
Boston Garden

The headline spoke for itself.


The Boston Globe printed what the 21st sellout crowd (a new franchise record) witnessed at the Garden.  The pairing of Larry Bird and Pete Maravich led the Celtics to victory, humiliating the Pistons, 128-111, delivering Detroit its league worst 43rd loss.  Their loss was just as important as the victory, as the Celtics held the rights to the Pistons’ upcoming draft pick.

Bird led the Celtics with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists, and Maravich contributed 14 points of his own.

Bird and Maravich

[Read more…]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 55 vs. the Pacers

Celtics (41-13) vs. Indiana (27-29)
February 8, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics continued to roll over the competition, squashing Indiana, 130-108, on New Bedford Night at the Garden.  While Olympic boxing hopeful Andre McCoy was being honored and boxing fans were salivating over his future, the Celtics were busy winning their sixth straight game.  This was already the fourth time during the 79-80 season the Celtics had generated a winning streak of at least six games.

Sports News Larry Bird

[Read more…]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 54 vs. the 76ers

Celtics (40-13) vs. Philadelphia (39-14)
February 6, 1980
Boston Garden

In the team’s most impressive win of the season, the Celtics began their post-All Star break schedule by destroying the mighty Philadelphia 76ers, 129-110, in front of a capacity crowd at the Garden.  The win was particularly impressive as the C’s allowed Julius Erving to go off for 36 points yet still defeated the Sixers in a rout.

Nate Archibald

[Read more…]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 53 vs. the Bullets

Celtics (39-13) vs. Washington (23-28)
January 31, 1980
Capital Centre

The Celtics ended the first half of the season by embarrassing the back-to-back defending Eastern Conference champions on their home floor.  The NBA landscape was changing: the Celtics had replaced the Bullets as one of the East’s top two teams, and the second half of the season would provide the Lakers with the same opportunity to replace Seattle as the premiere team in the West.

Larry Bird led the Celtics in their 119-103 victory with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists.  After allowing the Bullets to push them around a week earlier at the Garden, the Celtics responded by amplifying their intense and physicality.  The Celtics won the battle of the boards, 47-38.  Another key for the C’s was the play of Eric Fernstern, who appeared to be on the cutting block the moment Pete Maravich was ready to play.  Fernstern, as Bob Ryan noted in the Globe, made his teammates proud with this performance: [Read more…]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 52 vs. the Cavaliers

Celtics (38-13) vs. Cleveland (23-31)
January 30, 1980
Boston Garden

Bill Fitch must have been happy to be coaching on the home bench for this one.

The Celtics returned to the Boston Garden to defeat the Cavs in their final home game before the All Star break.  After defeating the Bulls the night before, the Celtics traveled back home win and outscored Cleveland, 110-103.  The win marked the 39th victory of the season, which was already ten more than Boston compiled the entire prior season.

Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell each led the way with 21 points, and Bird added 15 rebounds.  As the Green still waited for Dave Cowens’ injured foot to heal, Rick Robey added 16 and 11, and the Celtics continued to move the ball extremely well.  The starting five dished out 18 assists, and the C’s used a big fourth quarter to close out Fitch’s former club. [Read more…]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 50 vs. the Clippers

Celtics (36-13) vs. San Diego (27-28)
January 27, 1980
Boston Garden

Larry Bird exploded for 36 points — a new career high — as the Celtics regained their edge at the Garden and sent the Clippers away with their sixth straight loss by defeating San Diego, 131-108.  Bird added seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

The Celtics controlled the boards, out-rebounding the Clippers, 55-38.  Rick Robey fought through a pulled groin muscle to deliver 23 points and 14 rebounds, and Cedric Maxwell added 13 boards.  Though the Celtics committed four more turnovers than SD, it was a product of their passing.  Led by Tiny Archibald’s nine assists, the Celtics compiled 14 more assists than the Clippers.  Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe captured the connection the Celtics’ fans had for their team: [Read more…]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 49 vs. the Bullets

Celtics (36-12) vs. Washington (20-27)
January 25, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics are always connected with history.

In addition to drafting the first African American player (Chuck Cooper), employing the first African American starting five, and hiring the first African American head coach, the Celtics are in many ways to the sport of professional basketball the complete opposite to what the Red Sox were to diversity in baseball.  This particular night held a little history, as the Bullets ended a six-game losing streak — their longest since 1966 — with a road victory, 118-107, over the Celtics in the Garden. [Read more…]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 48 vs. the Pistons

Celtics (35-12) vs. Pistons (13-36)
January 23, 1980
Pontiac Silverdome

The Celtics hammered the Pistons with 77 second half points and walked all over Detroit for a 131-104 victory.

For the first time all season, Bill Fitch changed his starting five.  Dave Cowens, forced to miss the game after injuring his left foot in the game against the Rockets the prior evening, was replaced in the starting lineup by Rick Robey.  Robey delivered for the C’s, contributing 24 points and 19 rebounds.

Rick Robey

“Robey is the guy,” Fitch told Bob Ryan in the Globe, “that regardless of any circumstance would have had fingers pointed at him, with people saying he couldn’t stand the heat, if we had lost.”

There was no way to overrate Robey’s role in this victory. It was the third time in the last seven games he has had to step in for Dave Cowens, and each time he has come through. He opened up with a 14-point, five-rebound first period while being guarded by Bob McAdoo, who had to start at center in place of the injured Leon Douglas. McAdoo could not contain Robey on the boards, and the Celtics had the good sense to dump the ball in low. By the end of the third period, Robey had compiled 22 points and 15 rebounds.

“When the pressure’s been on him,” said Bird, “he’s come through.” Rookie Greg Kelser gave the Pistons their only source of life by scoring 29 points via a mixture of drives and medium-range jumpers, but none of the others appeared to view the game as a team sport. “They’re amazing,” sniffed one Celtic. “They wouldn’t pass the ball to their mother on the fast break.”

The free-falling Pistons had no answer for the Celtics starters nor, for that matter, their reserves.  Larry Bird added 21 points and 10 rebounds The Celtic bench, led by M.L. Carr (21 points) and Gerald Henderson (16 points, and 5 assists, playing well for a second straight game), scored 47 points.  Robey and Henderson understood the significance of their extra opportunity, wrote Ryan:

Robey recognizes the opportunity he now has to demonstrate his viability as a playoff performer.

“I’m just trying to play hard,” he explains, “and I’ve been learning from one of the best in Dave. When someone asks me about this center or that center, I say that he’s no better than the center I face every day in practice. Dave has prepared me for this job, and the coaches have, too.”

As for Henderson, whom Chris Ford has nicknamed “Quick,” he has been taking two steps forward for every one backward over the past month or so. The rookie with one of the league’s most envied pair of legs has been playing with increasing confidence, and in his 16- point, 5-assist performance on Wednesday, he was able to do pretty much what he wanted to do against the Detroit guards.

“Gerald’s end product should be a total guard,” assesses Fitch. “We have four guards with specific skills now. We’ve got Tiny (Archibald), Chris (Ford), Duck (Don Chaney) and now Pete (Maravich). Gerry can learn something from each of them.”

Former Celtic and current Piston Bob McAdoo shared with Bob Ryan the reason behind about his unsuccessful tenure in Boston:

“I think a lot of the blame of what happened last year has to go to John Y. Brown. The man was just no good for basketball.”

The Pistons would only win three games, losing 27, the remainder of the season.

The Boston media was still abuzz with the Celtics’ signing of Pete Maravich.

After Bob Ryan covered the pros and cons in the Globe, Will McDonough added some additional info on the legend from LSU:


Pete Maravich


The big question about Pete Maravich’s joining the Celtics will not be how he fits in with his new teammates or his playing style but how good his injured knee is. Maravich has been slowed by an injured knee in recent years, and that is why Philadelphia gave him a complete physical when the 76ers tried to sign him the other day. What the doctors discovered could be pleasing to Celtic fans.

“The knee that was injured is now 19 percent stronger than his good knee,” said Celtic general manager Red Auerbach, not bothering to explain how you come up with a figure like 19 percent for a knee.

Besides the knee, others who have followed Pistol Pete wonder why Utah coach Tom Nissalke wouldn’t let Maravich play or even practice with the team in recent weeks. The rumor is that Nissalke’s beef with Maravich goes back a decade to college.

Nissalke was an assistant coach at LSU when Maravich’s dad, Press, was head coach. The next year, Nissalke took the head- coaching job at Tulane. When Pistol Pete and LSU arrived to play at Tulane, Maravich threw in 58 points, completely devastating the opposition. Some say Nissalke never forgot – or forgave.

Boston would have to open a roster spot to make room for Maravich.  In the meantime, the Celtics returned home for a Friday night matchup at the Garden against the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, the Washington Bullets.