No one has ever faulted the Celtics' defense. They had always been tough, and from the beginning of Saturday's Game Three they went into a press, slashing and cutting at Washington's running attack. The Bullets were no less fiery, and on offense they still held the hot hand. Washington hit on 12 of 23 shots in the first quarter; Boston on only 10 of 25. But the Celtics picked up 11 points at the foul line and stayed close.
Then, under pressure from the Celtics' defense, Washington's shooters began to falter, hitting only nine of 23 in the second period. With Cowens and Paul Silas again dominating the boards, the Celtics were getting more shots and, with their slightly improved accuracy, led at halftime 60-57.
The third quarter was a disaster for the Bullets. Boston managed to make only 29.6% of its shots and still outscored Washington by 11 points. The Bullets scored just 10 points—their record low for one quarter this year.
At the end, the game turned into a YMCA pick-up rumble, with the two teams managing only eight baskets each in the final quarter. Through one particularly horrendous stretch of steals and bad passes, four minutes and nine seconds went by without a point being scored, and when it was finally over, Boston had won 101-90.
Drained, Heinsohn slumped in one corner of the dressing room and explained that the day's strategy had been simple. "We went out to play them one quarter at a time and try to win each quarter. I thought we played a really fine defensive game."
A local radio man shoved a mike into the coach's face. "Do you think this now makes you the favorite to win?"
Stunned, Heinsohn managed a weak laugh. "Aw, come on," he said, "are you kidding me?"
Across the room, a very tired Havlicek began peeling off his wet uniform. As he had promised, he had come out firing, finishing with a game high of 26 points.
"We've just got up one half of a mountain today," he said. "We still have the other half to climb just to get back on the same level."
"You tired, John?"