Larry Bird scored 14 of his season-high 40 points in an 18-2 first-quarter spurt that sent the Celtics on their way to a 126-106 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Boston Friday night.
The Celtics were leading, 18-16, when Bird triggered the rally that sent the Hawks to their fourth loss in a row.
The Celtics, with consecutive victories over the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta, not only clinched the Eastern Conference All-Star coaching berth for Coach K.C. Jones, they also returned to the form of a year ago, when they started their drive to the championship.
"The guys wanted to get it for me," said Jones, who will be coaching the East for the fourth year in a row. "It is an honor, and I enjoy it."
While building a six-game lead in the Atlantic Division, the Celtics (29-11) have won 6 of their last 7 and 13 out of 15.
The one-sided games have enabled Jones to rest his regulars and give some much needed work to his reserves. In both games, Jones has used all seven substitutes, and all have scored.
Hawk Coach Mike Fratello rested his regulars, too, but for a different reason. Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Willis and the other starters played so poorly, Fratello couldn't stand to watch them.
The steady Kevin McHale scored 19 points in 33 minutes for the Celtics, making 8 of 15 shots. In 37 of 40 games, the 6-foot 10-inch forward has shot 50% or better.
Chicago 117, Cleveland 96--Michael Jordan scored 20 of his 35 points in the third quarter at Chicago to break open a close game.
The Cavaliers have lost 11 of their last 13 games and 8 in a row on the road.
According to Cleveland Coach Len Wilkens, it was Jordan's three-point shot at the halftime buzzer that was the turning point.
Houston 109, New York 95--Ralph Sampson is once again a tower of strength for the Rockets. In this game at Houston, Sampson had 22 points and 17 rebounds.
He has been a devastating force in the Rockets' five wins in six games since guards Mitchell Wiggins and Lewis Lloyd were thrown out of the league for drug usage.
Seattle 125, New Jersey 120--The SuperSonics' 1-2 punch of Xavier McDaniel and Dale Ellis flattened the Nets at East Rutherford, N.J. McDaniel had 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Ellis had 30 points.
The Nets, despite 38 points by Orlando Woolridge, lost for the seventh time in their last eight games.
Washington 109, Phoenix 90--When the Bullets have games on successive nights, it is essential that Moses Malone not wear himself out in the first one. In this game at Landover, Md., the Suns obliged with a poor effort.
Malone had to play just 27 minutes, scoring 21 points and pulling down 9 rebounds.
Tonight at Houston, Malone should be somewhat rested when he goes against the Twin Towers.
Utah 123, Golden State 100--In running their home-court record to 17-2, the Jazz scored a season-high 69 points in the first half and coasted to victory.
The game was marred by a fight in the third quarter between Terry Teagle of the Warriors and Bobby Hansen of the Jazz. Both were ejected.
Shortly before the game, the Warriors learned that center Chris Washburn, their No. 1 draft pick, would be out at least another three weeks while undergoing kidney tests and treatment.
Portland 109, Sacramento 89--At Portland, Ore., Kenny Carr scored 20 points, and Terry Porter had a team-record 18 assists to help the Trail Blazers break a three-game losing streak.