It doesn't pay to get Larry Bird upset. The Philadelphia 76ers didn't make the star of the Boston Celtics angry Sunday in the game at Boston. It was a non-call by referee Ed Rush that did it.
The Celtics were holding only a 59-56 lead early in the second half when Bird thought he was fouled. When no call was made, Bird slammed the ball to the floor and was hit with a technical.
The free throw cut the lead to two, but the angry Bird ignited a 20-7 Celtic outburst that built an insurmountable lead. The Celtics went on to win, 118-101, to improve the best record in the NBA to 54-13.
Kevin McHale, who was 10 for 14 from the field, and Danny Ainge, each scored six points in the burst. But, it was Bird controlling the action and setting up the shots.
The 6-9 forward finished with 36 points and 14 rebounds to conclude a sensational week in his drive toward a third consecutive most valuable player award.
It began Monday night at Dallas, where he scored 50 points. But the Celtics lost their second in a row for the first time this season, and that's when Bird's anger first surfaced.
"It's a matter of Celtic pride," he said at the time. "We don't like to lose two in a row."
The Celtics won the next two games in Texas and then went into Atlanta Friday night where the Hawks were beginning to think they were a really good team. But Bird & Co. beat them, 121-114.
Sunday was the fifth game in a week for Bird. He scored 176 points in the five games, averaging 35.2 points. He made 67 of 104 shots for 64.4%. Amazingly, he was 13 for 18 in three-point bombs.
"I knew we were all right today when Larry was hit with the technical," Coach K.C. Jones told UPI. "I knew all we had to do was get him the ball."
After three quarters the Celtics led, 86-72. By the middle of the fourth quarter they had stretched the lead to 110-87.
The 76ers, who had their winning streak snapped at four games, played without their best defensive forward, Bobby Jones, who has a knee injury. Without Jones, there is no way the 76ers can stop McHale. In five tries this season they have beaten the Celtics only once.
"We played well at the start," Coach Matt Guokas of the 76ers said. "But in the second half Boston was taking advantage of certain matchups."
Then, too, Bird got angry.
Denver 119, Sacramento 113--Coach Doug Moe, after a one-game lineup shake-up, returned Calvin Natt and Fat Lever to the starting five for this game at Denver.
They responded with 21 and 18 points, respectively, to help Alex English lead the Nuggets to their second win in a row. English scored seven of his game-high 36 in a 7-2 spurt early in the fourth quarter that provided the Nuggets with a 97-91 lead.
Friday night Moe, upset with the way the Nuggets had been playing, made starters out of Dan Schayes and Mike Evans. The Nuggets responded with a win over Washington.
The Nuggets led all the way, once by as many as 13 points, but the Kings rallied repeatedly. They trailed only 90-89 before English went on his spurt.
English, who leads the NBA in scoring with a 29.6 average, now has 2,014 points this season. It is the fifth time in nine seasons that he has exceeded 2,000 points.
Portland 119, Detroit 109--In this game at Portland, which started shortly after noon, only two players had their shooting touch--and both play for the Trail Blazers.
Kiki Vandeweghe was the leader. He was 12 for 15 from the field and 11 for 13 from the line for 35 points. Jim Paxson came off the bench to lend help, sinking 7 of 9 from the field and all seven free throw attempts.
The Pistons shot only 41.1% from the field. Isiah Thomas was only 8 for 21 and forward Kent Benson was just 3 for 12. Coach Chuck Daly was so upset he didn't last the game. With 1:20 remaining he drew his second technical and departed.
Golden State 130, Phoenix 112--Purvis Short is leading the Warriors' late season surge. The sharpshooting forward scored 36 points in this game at Oakland to lead the Warriors to their fourth win in the last six games.
Wednesday night at Salt Lake City, Short, making 15-of-25 shots from the field, had 39 in a win over Utah.
After scoring 20 in the first half as the Warriors led, 68-63, Short scored nine in the third quarter and the first five in the fourth to help the Warriors build the lead to 101-84.
Short was 8 for 8 from the line and has made 21 in a row in the last three games.
It was the 23rd victory for the Warriors, one more than they won last season.
Seattle 129, San Antonio 115--Just a month ago the Spurs were one of the surprise teams in the NBA. They were battling for second place in the Midwest Division and even had eyes on first place.
Suddenly, they can't beat anyone and could even lose a playoff spot. With big men Artis Gilmore and Steve Johnson injured, the Spurs were no match for the SuperSonics at Seattle.
It was the Spurs' fifth loss in a row and 12th in their last 13 games. Gilmore has a hamstring injury and has missed six games. A sprained ankle has kept Johnson out of the last four.
Xavier McDaniel, with 25 points, and Jack Sikma, with 22, led the Seattle charge.