It has been customary for Larry Bird to feel at home whenever the Boston Celtics play in Indianapolis. Most of the Pacer fans cheer for Bird, who grew up in Indiana and starred at Indiana State, when the Celtics play the Indiana Pacers.
But things are changing. The Pacers, in Jack Ramsay's first season as coach, seem certain to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 1980-81 season. And with rookie Chuck Person, the Pacer fans have found a new favorite, one who can play against the magnificent Bird, too.
Person scored 5 of his 24 points in a 16-4 third-quarter spurt Friday night at Indianapolis that rallied the Pacers to a 116-109 victory over the Celtics. The Pacers had lost eight in a row to the National Basketball Assn.'s defending champions, including four this season.
It was the second straight time that Person outscored Bird. In late January, Person scored 26 points and was largely responsible for Bird getting only 14. Bird had 21 in this game but only two in the second half, when Person helped the Pacers take charge.
Person has made an impression on Bird. "He's faster than I am," Bird said, "and when he's hitting shots outside, there's not much I can do. He's a great basketball player, and he's getting better and better."
Person played behind Bird in the first half. "I decided in the second half," Person said, "that if he beat me, he would have to do it with me playing in front of him."
The Pacers could have won easily if they had been able to stop Kevin McHale.
The 6-foot 10-inch forward leads the league in shooting accuracy at 62%. McHale was 14 for 17 from the field in this one, and is 80 for 108 (74%) in six games this month.
The Celtics took a 68-62 lead on a dunk by Robert Parish at the outset of the second half. But Vern Fleming and Person led the 16-4 surge that put Indiana in front to stay.
Playing his second game of the season, the Celtics' Bill Walton didn't score but had 5 rebounds in 12 minutes of action.
Atlanta 113, Dallas 105--As the Hawks get healthier, their winning streak gets longer. In this game at Dallas, they welcomed back 5-6 Spud Webb, and he contributed to the ninth victory in a row.
Webb, out with a leg injury for three months, had 7 assists in 16 minutes. But it was--as it has been most of the season--Dominique Wilkins and Kevin Willis who were largely responsible for ending the Mavericks' seven-game home winning streak.
Wilkins scored 32 points, five of them late in the game, and Willis had 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Dallas trailed, 52-44, at halftime, caught up at 69-69, then Willis scored six points in an 11-6 spurt that put Atlanta ahead to stay.
Detroit 100, Chicago 99--Bill Laimbeer, fouled by Michael Jordan on a drive to the basket with the game tied and four seconds left at Chicago, missed his first free-throw attempt. But, with pressure mounting, the big center made the second to give the Pistons the victory and keep them half a game ahead of Atlanta in the Central Division race.
Although Jordan had an off night, making 7 of 22 shots from the field and scoring 24 points, the Bulls built an 11-point lead in the third quarter.
Isiah Thomas led all scorers with 30 points, and also had 7 assists.
In an oddity, both teams had 83 shots and made 40.
New Jersey 126, New York 121--The Nets turned the ball over 29 times at New York, but the sharpshooting of their front line overcame that problem as they won their fourth in a row.
Orlando Woolridge (13 for 19 from the field) led the Nets with 38 points, but Buck Williams (11 for 13) had 30 and center Mike Gminski (10 for 17) had 25.
Williams also gave the Nets control of the boards with 23 rebounds. He also blocked three shots.