Miracle Celtics Down Philly; Earn Shot at 14th NBA Crown

If there's a basketball God, then the Boston Celtics are his chosen people.

Down by as many as 11 points in the second half, the Celtics regrouped behind Larry Bird and scratched their way to a 91-90 win over the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday, capturing the NBA East championship and earning a try at their 14th league title.

The 76ers--who led, 89-82, with 5:23 to go--watched helplessly as the Green scored nine straight points, the last four by Bird. Maurice Cheeks missed one of his two free throws with 21 seconds left, and Philly couldn't score again.

Boston Garden shook with cheers throughout the amazingly physical game, the third win in a row for the Green, which had been oh, so close to elimination just a week ago.

Like every game but one in the series, Boston trailed at the half--this time by five. And when Boston failed to explode as the second half began, the hometown fans were beginning to grumble about luck running out.


But great late defense--Darryl Dawkins, for instance, scored 16 Philly points, but none of them came in the final stanza--saved the game for the Bostons.

And now it's Houston the Celtics must face. On paper, there's no question--the Rockets are 40-42, and the Celtics--62-20--already have 13 green and white banners hanging from the ceiling. The Rockets depend on one big man: the Cettics need Biru, but they have a truly great team. Del Harris sounds like a '50s rock star: Bill Fitch sounds like a basketball coach. And in the Celtic stands there's this man named Red Auerbach. And he'll be sitting in his box during four of the seven games.

But one can never be too sure. If the Celtics are the chosen people, how come Moses leads the other guys? Philadelphia  33  22  22  15--90 Boston  26  22  23  20--91