In the fourth quarter, Denver began to close the gap, with David Thompson (33 points) and 5'11" Robert Smith doing the damage. Now the Celtics were running by committee, with everybody from Barnes to Maxwell to Knight to Trainer Frank Challant making panicky suggestions, and Cowens struggling to deal with them all. With 1:16 left, the Nuggets had closed to within two, 116-114. Forty-eight seconds later, with the Celtics up 120-116, Cowens fouled out after a 17-point, 12-rebound performance. He stomped to the bench, wrapped a towel tightly around his face and screamed obscenities, but unwrapped it in time to see his team hold on for a 120-118 win.
Player Cowens frequently couldn't face the press, he'd be so wound up after a game. But Coach Cowens endured a stifling crush in the coach's cubicle, giving coachlike answers to reporters' questions until the accumulated strain finally got to him and he nearly passed out. Later, sitting in front of his locker after everyone had left, he said, shaking his head, "Who ever would have thought it? Me, the coach."