Dennis Johnson, who is in a shooting slump and did not even take a shot in 26 minutes in his previous game, sank a fallaway 16-foot jumper with four seconds left Wednesday at Boston to give the Celtics a hard-fought 107-105 victory over Milwaukee.
It was a tough defeat for the Bucks, who shut down the phenomenal Larry Bird, led most of the way and just missed sending the game into overtime when Sidney Moncrief failed to connect on a 12-footer at the buzzer.
Until his pressure basket Johnson's main contribution to the Celtics' 55th victory had been his usual strong defensive job on Moncrief. Moncrief, who is averaging 22.7 points, seldom does well against the tenacious Johnson. This was his low point, though. Moncrief, a 48.4% shooter, was only 1 for 10 from the field and scored just three points.
Bird, who had averaged 43.5 points in his four previous games, had trouble getting away from the Bucks' top defensive player, 6-5 Paul Pressey. Although he finished with a triple double, 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, Bird took only nine shots. He scored Boston's first five points, then didn't score again until six minutes remained.
When the Celtics went for the game-winning shot, of the five players in their lineup, Johnson was the least likely to take the shot. Not only had he not taken a shot in Sunday's rout of Houston, he had been shooting only 38% from the field this month. Before sinking the winner, he was 4 for 14 in this game.
Johnson gave some of the credit to the Bucks' Terry Cummings. "I can thank him for being in front of me," Johnson said. "All my shots had been a little flat tonight and he made me arc it."
The Bucks had a 54-41 lead in the second quarter, but the game was tied eight times in the last six minutes. The last tie came on a short jumper in the lane by Pressey with 52 seconds.
Then, Bird and Cummings each missed short jumpers before Robert Parish grabbed a rebound to start the play leading up to Johnson's shot. Coach K.C. Jones was frantically calling for a timeout up to the second Johnson fired.
Kansas City 118, Philadelphia 117--A rebound basket by Reggie Theus with three seconds left in overtime at Philadelphia dropped the 76ers four games behind the Celtics in the Atlantic Division.
With the 76ers leading by a point and seven seconds left in overtime, the Kings missed two shots. But Theus got the third chance and scored. Julius Erving's bank shot at the buzzer caromed out.
The 76ers were again without star center Moses Malone.
New Jersey 128, Cleveland 108--Micheal Ray Richardson had 33 points, 3 steals and 7 assists at East Rutherford, N.J. to lead the Nets to a surprisingly easy victory. The loss left the Cavaliers just one game ahead of Atlanta in the battle for the last playoff spot in the East.
Cleveland Coach George Karl was ejected after picking up his second technical early in the third period.
San Antonio 106, Chicago 98--George Gervin passed Jerry West to become pro basketball's ninth leading scorer in this game at San Antonio as the Spurs overcame a 38-point performance by Michael Jordan.
Gervin scored 19 points, all in the first half, and has 25,202 points. West had 25,192.
The Bulls trailed by 31 points in the first half. In the third quarter Jordan led a 28-3 spurt, but the Bulls, losers of 16 of their last 17 road games, could not get closer than six points.
Denver 123, Indiana 119--Calvin Natt had 27 points and 11 rebounds at Indianapolis and the Nuggets moved a little closer to the Midwest Division title. The Nuggets, who also had 26 points from Alex English, lead Houston by 3 1/2 games.
Washington 105, New York 102--Greg Ballard scored 24 points, including a jumper with 40 seconds left at Landover, Md. that clinched the Bullets' victory. The win gave the Bullets a 7-0 sweep over the Knicks this season.
Seattle 123, Golden State 109--Rookies Tim McCormick and Frank Brickowski led the SuperSonics to victory at Seattle. McCormick scored 13 of his 24 points in the third quarter to help break open a close game.
Brickowski, starting at center because Jack Sikma has a finger injury, scored 22 points and had 12 rebounds and 7 assists.