It has been of concern to Orlando Woolridge that, in the absence of injured star Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls have had a distressing habit of blowing leads in the closing minutes.
The 6-9, five-year pro from Notre Dame took it upon himself Tuesday night at Chicago to see that it didn't happen again.
In a spectacular performance that included shutting down All-Pro Larry Bird, Woolridge scored 37 points, including four field goals in the closing minutes to preserve a 116-108 victory over the Boston Celtics.
Sunday night at Boston, the Bulls led the Celtics, 103-94, with five minutes remaining, missed seven shots the rest of the way and lost, 109-104.
This time the Bulls, with Woolridge sinking three shots in a row, led, 101-96. Dennis Johnson sank a three-pointer, and the Celtics trailed only 104-103 with 2:54 left. But Sid Green sank two free throws and Woolridge hit a jumper. After Bird missed, Green grabbed the rebound, was fouled by Bird, made the two free throws and the lead was 110-103. This time it was enough.
Woolridge sank eight shots in a row in the second half. He also spent the night guarding Bird. Bird, who has been averaging 24 points a game, scored only 12 points. He was 5 for 17 from the field. Bird did contribute 12 rebounds and 6 assists, but the Celtics lost for the fifth time in 25 games.
"Against all great ballclubs--and the Celtics are certainly one of them--you can't come down the floor and miss baskets," Woolridge told the Associated Press. "That's what we did Sunday night. Tonight we were determined not to make the same mistake."
Johnson led the Celtics with 25 points, and Kevin McHale had 24. The big problem for the Celtics was that only Danny Ainge of the starters shot better than 50% from the field. Ainge had only 11 shots and made eight of them.
Utah 106, Washington 98--It was the skinny giant (Manute Bol, 7-7 and 208) against the bulky giant (Mark Eaton, 7-4 and 290) at Landover, Md. The rookie, Bol, had the edge, but his team turned ice cold in the third quarter, scored only 13 points and lost.
Bol, although he got in foul trouble and played only 27 minutes, was 5 for 6 from the field, had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. Eaton, the four-year veteran, was only 1 for 9 from the field and had 3 points. He had 10 rebounds and blocked three shots in 30 minutes.
The Bullets, playing extremely well, built a 60-51 lead by halftime. However, they were only 5 for 22 in the third quarter and fell behind, 82-73, and could never catch up.
Adrian Dantley led all scorers with 30 points, but it was rookie teammate Karl Malone who broke the game open with 20 of his 25 points in the second half. He made three driving layups when Bol had to be careful because of fouls.
"A lot of people around the league laugh when they first see Bol," Malone said. "But you've got to take him seriously. He can play. He's going to be a force."
Malone had his hot hand after being removed from the game in the first quarter after he drew a foul for protesting a foul call too strenuously.
Philadelphia 102, Indiana 96--Coach Matt Guokas of the 76ers has found a new guard. He is Julius Erving, who has switched from a small forward to a big guard.
With Sedale Threatt and Andrew Toney out with injuries, the 76ers have been hurting for guards. Guokas started Erving at guard Saturday night at Atlanta. But, when Charles Barkley was ejected in the second quarter, Erving had to go back to forward.
In this game at Indianapolis, Erving sparkled at guard. He scored 28 points and had four assists.
Once again the 76ers, who pulled over the .500 mark (13-12), proved they can play well when they are well rested. The two days off helped them end a two-game losing streak.
Denver 122, Golden State 114--Calvin Natt scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter at Denver to make sure the Warriors, who lost their ninth road game in a row, didn't come back.
Alex English, engaged in a hot fight with Adrian Dantley of Utah for the scoring lead, scored 31 for the Nuggets.
Chris Mullin of the Warriors had only six points.
Houston 98, Cleveland 94--Lewis Lloyd scored 25 of his career-high 38 points in the second half at Richfield, Ohio, to pace the Rockets. In the last quarter the Cavaliers outscored Lloyd, 14-13.
San Antonio 126, Portland 118--Artis Gilmore scored a season-high 29 points at San Antonio and three other Spurs' starters had more than 20. The only Spur starter who didn't score 20 was guard Johnny Moore, who had 14 points and 12 assists.
Atlanta 104, New Jersey 103--Eddie Johnson sank a jumper and two free throws in the last 36 seconds at Atlanta to give the Hawks the victory. Darryl Dawkins missed two free throws in between the scores by Johnson ruining the Nets' hopes of winning.
Sacramento 132, Detroit 121--The Kings returned home and bounced back from one of the worst defeats in NBA history. Sunday night at Milwaukee, the Kings lost by 58 points, 140-82.
Reggie Theus scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback after the Kings blew a 40-25 second-quarter lead. They had to overcome Isiah Thomas' 17-point third quarter.
Phoenix 104, Seattle 99--Larry Nance had 31 points and James Edwards 29 to lead the Suns to victory at Seattle. Guard Gerald Henderson of the Sonics and guard Jay Humphreys of the Suns were ejected in the third quarter for fighting.