1981 NBA Championship Series – Celtics and Rockets

By Ron Griffitts - Contributing Columnist

After a six year absence the Boston Celtics 62-20 returned to the NBA Finals to face the Houston Rockets 40-42 one of the fewteams to reach the finals with a losing record. It was the Rockets’ first appearance in the finals.

They were coached by Del Harris who spent ten years as Earlham’s head coachbefore advancing to the NBA. Houston was led by Moses Malone 27.8 ppg/ 14.8 rpg, Robert Reid 15.9 ppg and Calvin Murphy 16.7 ppg.

The Celtics were coached by Bill Fitch with Red Auerbach still the general manager and featured Larry Bird playing in his second NBA season 21.2 ppg/10.9 rpg/5.5 apg, Cedric Maxwell 15.2 ppg and RobertParish 18.9 ppg/ 9.5 rpg.

Fitch would not remain as Boston coach for long but two moves he made had long lastingeffects for the team’s future success. He acquired Robert Parish from Golden State in a trade as well as the draft rights to Kevin McHale both of whom would have long successful careers for the Celtics and be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Game one took place in the historic Boston Gardens with its parquet floor and the visiting team led after the first quarter 29-24, at halftime 57-51 and after three quarters 81-76 but a Celtic 22-14 run in the fourth quarter gave Boston a 98-95 win.

Houston was led by Robert Reid with 27 points and Malone with 15 rebounds but Moses was only 4 of 17 from the field while Larry Bird led Boston with 18 points/21 rebounds andRobert Parish added 16 points/10 rebounds.

Game two was still in Boston and Moses Malone played an inspired game going all 48 minutes and scoring 31 points and pulling down 15 rebounds but it was a field goal by Alan Leavell that provided the margin of victory for Houston 92-90 to even the series at 1-1.

Bird led the Celts with 19 points and 21 rebounds and game three moved to the Summitt in Houston as the first finals’ contest ever played in that city. The home team however could not find the range from the field and scored only 71 points compared to Boston’s 94 to give the Celtics a 2-1 edge.

Cedric Maxwell led the winners with 19 points and 11 rebounds while Chris Ford added 17 points. Malone had 32 points and 15 rebounds for the losers.

Still in Houston Moses Malone again went all 48 minutes, scoring 24 points and pulling down 22 rebounds with Robert Reid adding 19 points and 13 boards to lead the Rockets to a 91-86 win.

The Houston defense held Larry Bird to just eight points as Maxwell led Boston with 24 points and Robert Parish added 18 as the series tied at 2-2 shifts back to Boston for game five.

The Celticstook a 34-19 first quarter lead and never looked back for a dominating 109-80 victory. Houston madeonly 35.7% of its field goals and was outrebounded 54-41-teams don’t win many games with those statistics.

Boston forward Cedric Maxwell was emerging as a star in the series as he was 10 of 13 from the field and pulled 15 rebounds while Larry Bird had 12 rebounds and Robert Parish 18 points/10 rebounds. Moses Malonehad 20 points/ 15 rebounds for the losers as the Rockets are on the verge of elimination as they head back to Houston.

Before a hometown crowd at the Summitt the Rockets played better than in game six making 41.9% of their field goals and outrebounding the Celtics 41-37 but they didn’t count on Boston making 55.1% of their field goals and as a result the Celts dominate to win the game 102-91 and the series for their 15th NBA title.

Moses Malone and Robert Reid played 47 minutes each in a valiant effort and had23 points/16 rebounds and 27 points respectively but the other Rockets did little against the Boston defense.

For Boston Larry Bird had 27 pints/13 rebounds, Tiny Archibald 13 assists, Cedric Maxwell 19 points and Robert Parish 18.

Cedric Maxwell got the series MVP award and the Celtics were back in the finals in 1984 with the Rockets returning in 1986 in a rematch with Boston.


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing Columnist

Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate

Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate