The Boston Celtics served notice on the Washington Bullets and perhaps all of the National Basketball Association tonight: They are for real.
They may be young and still virtually untested and the mere mention of their name does not strike fear in an opponent like it once did. But the new Celtrics certainly played like the clones of the Celtic greats of the past as they ran circles around the beleaguered Bullets and frolicked to a 130-93 victory.
The undefeated Celtics outshot, outrebounded, outhustled and outpassed the Bullets as they registered their fourth victory.
The lumbering Bullets lost for the third time in four tries.
The celtics ran their fast break and played team defense so well that they got whatever shot they wanted while the bullets were left to forcing off-balance, out-of-range shots most of the game.
As Coach Dick Motts sat in the dressing room looking at the statistic sheet, he just shook his head and said, "you don't like to look at these kind of stats because they are so discouraging."
Indeed they were, to the Bullets. They shot a lowly 36 percent, were outrebounded, 60-41, and the Celtics led in assists, 32-13.
Passing the basketball was what Boston did best and the sellout. Boston Garden crowd of 15,320 ate it up. Five players had four or more assists. The Celtics whipped the ball around so nicely that everybody they put on the floor ended up looking like an all-star. Eight players scored in double figures.
Dave Cowens led the way with 20 points.
"It was just one of those nights," said Celtic Coach Bill Fitch. When you have a night like we did I don't think anyone can beat you. I feel for Dick (motta) because he does have a good team . . ."
The Celtics ran off a 17-2 spurt in the second quarter to break open the game.
That surge started with a pair of baskets by Cowens and ended with an incredible three-point field goal by M. L. Carr.
Carr was trying to throw a lob pass to Cedric Maxwell, but he misfired and the ball swished through the basket. Carr was so surprised he threw up his arms and crumpled to the floor. That basket gave Boston a 54-36 lead.
The Celtics' prize rookie, Larry Bird, got into early foul trouble and his playing time was limited. But he showed why he is perhaps the best passer on what could be the NBA's best passing team.
Some Bird beauties that didn't result in baskets still got the crowd and his teammates going.
One was a behind-the-back pass while faking a hook shot. Another came after Tiny Archibald beat three Bullets to a loose ball by diving for it, and, while on his stomach, rolled it to Bird. Bird, without looking up, threw a 35-foot pass to Chris Ford, who fed it back to Bird for a driving layup.
Elvin Hayes, who led the Bullets with 23 points, scored 16 in the third quarter to cut a 24-point lead to 14. But the Celtics had the lead back to 87-68 by the end of the period.
They opened the final quarter with an 11-0 spurt.
"You have to consider them a contender for the division," Motta said. "They sure kicked our butts tonight. They looked awfully good and we were out of sync. We shot bad and and we didn't match up well."
One reason the Bullets didn't match up well was that Bob Dandridge was home with a foot injury. His replacement, Greg Ballard, is having ankle problems.
We haven't really been involved all year and we weren't again tonight," said Wes Unseld. "We're breaking down everywhere. We're averaging 25 turnovers a game and throwing up bad shots. It's a little early to be really worried, but I do know it's going to be a long season for us."
The Bullets return to Capital Centre Saturday night to face the Detroit Pistons at 8:05.