For Cousy, assist record was just another game in passing
Bob Cousy reached back 51 years into the memory banks and said the game at the time didn’t seem all that important.
It was Sunday afternoon Feb. 27, 1959, and the Celtics were hosting the Minneapolis Lakers in Providence. The game didn’t matter much in the standings, since the Knicks were miles behind the Celtics with five games left in the regular season. And besides, the Celtics knew they’d see the Lakers in the NBA Finals. The game just didn’t have any buzz.
But Cousy said, “It just got to be a wild game.’’
“It was a schoolyard-type of game where nobody was paying any attention to defense,’’ Cousy said.
By wild, he meant 312 combined points. The Celtics pounded the Lakers, 173-139, and the numbers were so eye-popping that commissioner Maurice Podoloff looked into the possibility of point tampering. Everything was clean, including the 28 assists Cousy doled out.
“It wasn’t a meaningful game so we just ran up the court and shot the ball a lot,’’ Cousy said. “Obviously, we had a hell of an offensive night.’’
Cousy’s dish total still stands as the Celtics’ game record, though Rajon Rondo did his best to rewrite the books Friday night.
Rondo’s 24-assist, 10-rebound, 10-point game helped push the Celtics to a 105-101 win over the Knicks. The 24 assists were a career-high, and the second-highest total in Celtics’ history — eighth in league history.
“It means a lot, but I’m just going to try to catch him,’’ Rondo said. “Hopefully, I’ll be here for the next five years. With these guys on my team I should be able to [try]. They’re making shots. [Glen Davis], Kevin [Garnett], and [Shaquille O’Neal], they’re making me look good.’’
“At 82 years old, I just say, ‘Good luck,’ ’’ Cousy said. “Especially because I’m a fan. They say records are made to be broken. I’m assuming if Rondo doesn’t do it someone else will do it.’’
Rondo’s already erased one of Cousy’s marks. Last season, he claimed the season assist record with 794, breaking Cousy’s mark of 715.
Cousy said his playoff numbers carry far more weight than the 28-assist game.
“In my mind, I’m sure I had a lot of playoff games where I might have had 19 or 20 or 21 assists when it was a tight game and it was meaningful and I felt like I was creating good, solid opportunities,’’ Cousy said. “So in my mind, that would have been much more significant than getting 28 assists in an unmeaningful game.’’
From 1952 to 1960 no one handed out more helpers than Cousy. He led the league eight straight seasons. Playing with the likes of Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, and Frank Ramsey, he said it was easy to pile up numbers.
“In order to lead the league, I was surrounded by Hall of Famers,’’ Cousy said. “Obviously, when you’ve got that kind of offensive talent playing around you and your basic game is to set it up, if that’s your mind-set going in — which it is for Rondo — and you’re surrounded by as many good shooters as I had, it makes it a lot easier.’’
Rondo’s working with an embarrassment of riches as well. He was already spoiled with Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, but having O’Neal adds a different dimension.
“I feel like I have a great opportunity with my teammates and the talent around me,’’ Rondo said. “If I don’t, I’ll just try to win, try to make guys happy.’’