The Boston Celtics canned all the fancy plays and pretty moves yesterday and came at the Bullets as a mass of intimidating, hulking green giants.
The defending National Basketball Association champions blocked 16 shots, forced Washington into shooting 35 percent and came away with a convincing 92-83 victory before 15,035 at Capital Centre. Boston has a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series. Game 4 will be this afternoon at Capital Centre at 1:05; it will not be televised locally.
This was not vintage fast-break Celtic basketball, merely strength against strength inside. The Celtics were stronger this day, particularly 7-foot center Robert Parish, who scored 25 points and had 13 rebounds and six blocked shots.
"This was a great individual performance by Parish," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue. "They only went with one or two plays and the rest of the time they were just going to Parish."
Parish, who took only 11 shots in Wednesday's 103-102 Washington victory, said he was letting the Bullets "body me out of position" in the first two games of the series, moving him out of range for his usually reliable turnaround jump shots. That was not the case yesterday, when Parish was also a dominating presence on defense, preventing the Bullets from taking their usual shots.
"He was roaming and trying to block everything," said Rick Mahorn of the Bullets. "That's what a center is supposed to do."
The Celtics scored first on a three-point play by Cedric Maxwell. They never trailed and the score was never tied thereafter. Both teams were in foul trouble virtually the entire game, and 61 fouls were called by Paul Mihalak and Jess Kersey.
They also called three technical fouls, one on each coach and another on Mahorn. The Bullet center was ejected from the game for hitting Gerald Henderson with the ball after a play was over late in the fourth quarter. Both benches emptied during the scuffle that followed, but no punches were thrown.
The Bullets were hurt more by the fouls than were the Celtics, who have stronger reserves. The Celtics' Larry Bird committed his fifth foul with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third period and did not come back until 4:46 remained in the fourth. The Celtics were up by eight points when he left, and by 11 when he returned.
The Bullets were not as fortunate. When Don Collins committed three fouls in the first six minutes, he was replaced by Kevin Grevey, already bothered by a pulled abdominal muscle. Then Grevey was accidentally poked in the eye by M.L. Carr soon after entering the game.
Grevey started experiencing double vision, so Shue was forced to go with Garry Witts, who committed three fouls in seven minutes. Shue's next move was to try Greg Ballard at guard; he was zero for two while at the position.
As surely as the Celtics won the game up front, the Bullets lost it in the back court, with only 13 total points from six guards. Frank Johnson, the hero of Wednesday's victory, had the worst shooting day of any Bullet this season, missing 19 of his 22 shots. Collins was zero for two and didn't score, Grevey was zero for two and scoreless and Witts didn't take a shot. John Lucas made one of three field goals.
"I guarantee I'll shoot better than that tomorrow," said Johnson.
"Three for 22, that's not bad, 16 of them were blocked," Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry said to Johnson. After someone said Johnson had seven rebounds, Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said, "Those were from the blocked shots, Frank. You got them back."
Shue said that Johnson was penetrating well with the ball, "but he kept getting them blocked. He's got to pull up and take the jumper sometimes."
Cedric Maxwell scored 11 of his 20 points in the first quarter as the Celtics took a 28-18 lead. They held that 10-point advantage in the second quarter and led, 48-38, at halftime.
Boston led by as many as 13 points in the final period, the last time at 84-71, on a move inside by Maxwell with 4:28 to play.
The Bullets made the best run of the day at that point, closing within 84-78, with 2:31 remaining. Jeff Ruland started the 7-0 run with a layup, Frank Johnson made a three-point field goal and then Ballard scored on a layup after a feed from Johnson.
Following a timeout called by the Celtics, Parish ended the rally with a 10-footer. After a Bullet miss, Tiny Archibald made a 15-foot jump shot for an 88-78 lead with 1:36 remaining and the Bullets were done. They vented their frustration in the bench-clearing episode that came after Mahorn threw the ball at Henderson.
"I thought the big difference in the game was in the first half," said Shue. "They hit the offensive board, got that lead and never let us in the game. We just couldn't dig into the lead. They had complete control. It was a typically hard-fought defensive game. The big difference late was that they were going to Parish and he was fantastic."