On March 3, 1985, Kevin McHale, one of the Celtics’ famed “Big Three,” had a performance of his life against the Detroit Pistons. McHale left the game with 1:25 remaining with 56 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, and four assists. The Celtics crushed the Pistons 138-129 at the Garden.
McHale's 56-point game was the most by a Celtic in the organization's history. But his record ended up being short-lived. Because, just nine days after McHale's iconic display, Larry Bird put on a shooting performance for the ages.
60 points against the Hawks
Bird torched the Hawks and set a Celtics franchise record with 60 points in a 126-115 win -- he dropped 32 in the second half alone, including the final 16 for the Celtics. Bird finished the game shooting 22-of-36 from the field and 15-of-16 from the line.
"The way he was shooting the ball was like living in a video game. It couldn’t be real. But it was," said Hawks star Dominique Wilkins, who scored 36 points in defeat.
Bird got in the zone. It was one of those games where everything he shot went in and his teammates loved it.
"He told us at halftime that nobody could stop him, so just give him the ball and get out of the way. Then he went out and started taunting the Atlanta players on the floor, the ones on the bench, their coaches, even the referees. He was talking so much trash he was buried in it. It was one of those nights when he could have drop-kicked the ball in. I loved it.”
Bird got the Hawks' bench fined
The most shocking stat from this game is that Bird only made one 3-pointer. But the most memorable one was the one that didn't count. Just ask Scott Hastings, Tree Rollins, Eddie Johnson, and Cliff Levingston, Hawks' players who went berserk after Bird drained a tough three-point shot after getting fouled. Before shooting the ball, Bird said, 'Who wants it?' and shot a high rainbow falling away jumper that went in. Needless to say that nobody wanted it. There was no way of stoping him that night.
What made that game even more memorable was what Hawks' coach Mike Fratello did to some of his players after the game. Bird's performance was so impressive it even had the Hawks' players jumping out of their seats. Some literally, and the coach didn't appreciate it.
“We're trying to beat these people. We're not going to the movies to enjoy a show. This is our competitor. I didn't appreciate the way they handled it, I let them know that, and we moved on. A lesson learned. Their lesson was that they got fined.”
Coach Fratello fined his bench guys $500. And the way they were acting, it doesn't come as a surprise at all. Some of them erupted like they are Celtics' fans -- a couple of them even ran off the bench. It wasn't a sight your coach likes to see, and he made sure they pay for it -- literally.
You completely understand the sentiment behind his action, but it must be hard to keep your cool when a historic scoring display is happening in front of your very eyes. We've seen benches react a similar way to opposing players' performances, and Coach Fratello made sure that it was the last time his team responded like that.
At the end of the day, that was the only thing he could control. Because when Bird caught fire the way he did that night, you knew that there was no way to stop it.