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Celtics Vanquish 76ers as Russell Explodes

Jan. 31, 1964 - Someone said something to Bill Russell, or did something, or the arthritis suddenly vanished from his knees at Boston Garden tonight. Whatever the cause, the great Celtic star snapped out of his brief slump, and Boston defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 114-97.

The game was a postponed affair, scheduled the night following President Kennedy’s assassination, and only 2,860 were on hand. For a while, it seemed as though the Celtics were fortunate not to have a bigger assemblage, as the basketball they were playing was woeful. At 7:06 of the second period, the 76ers were leading by 10, and Russell, who had faded in the second half the other night against San Francisco, was letting basketballs slip through his grasp as though they were greased. The crowd — if one can call it that — was on Bill quite hard at this point, and even coach Red Auerbach seemed resigned to another bad evening. Usually argumentative when things are going poorly, Red just sat on the bench with his arms folded and did nothing.

But at that 7:07 point, something happened to Russell. All of a sudden, he threw a defensive blanket over the court and raced down the floor on offense with his men where he had been lagging in the backcourt recently. The transformation worked wonders on the whole team, and through the next 4:54 the 76ers were outscored, 17-2, and were behind by five. And it wasn’t just a momentary spurt by Russell. Opening the third quarter, he scored the first seven points for his mates and had 11 for the quarter. Tommy Heinsohn, who had been carrying much of the offensive load during Bill’s fall-off, worked well with Russell, and at the end of the quarter, the Celtics led by 12, and fans were chanting their familiar “We want Clyde Lovellette” and “We want Jim Loscutoff,” and pretty soon Auerbach was obliging them.

The 76ers were without Larry Costello, who has a bad ankle, and most of the offensive load was carried by Hal Greer, who hasn’t played a poor game in Boston in years. Hal had 25 points, one more than Heinsohn in the game.


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