The Boston Celtics' very successful theory on playoffs is to play the starters until they drop or foul out--whichever comes first.
With this theory the Celtics have done more than just win. In postseason action, they always have the most rested bench.
The Celtics, in part at least, can credit a well-rested Darren Daye for their 3-1 series lead over the Bucks after a double-overtime 138-137 victory Sunday at Milwaukee.
While most players on both sides were worn out from more than 55 minutes of action, the 6-foot 8-inch former UCLA player was fresh and rested. He scored the last four Celtic points. A short jumper with two minutes remaining in the second overtime gave the Celtics a 136-134 lead.
The Bucks, who kept battling back all day, did it again when John Lucas made a three-point shot to put the Bucks ahead by one.
There were still almost two minutes left, but while the tired players were standing around, Daye grabbed an offensive rebound with one minute to go, was fouled and made the free throws, the last two points of the game.
The Bucks, who made critical turnovers several times in the hectic stretch , had two more chances. But Kevin McHale blocked Ricky Pierce's shot from under the basket, and on the final drive, Lucas hesitated, lost the ball, regained it and missed a desperate shot at the buzzer.
"I should have pulled up and shot," Lucas said later.
Daye, who had played only 33 minutes in six previous playoff games, was in there only because Robert Parish fouled out and Fred Roberts was in foul trouble.
"There was no hesitation on the shot," Daye said. "I hadn't played, so I was fresh. This is as sweet a moment for me as I've ever had."
The victory was a tribute to the stamina, built up over the years, of the Celtic regulars, in particular Larry Bird and McHale.
Both played 56 of the 58 minutes--the latter hampered only slightly by a stress fracture in his foot.
Bird, like Bill Russell in the old days, just won't let the Celtics down in big games. He finished with 42 points, including two three-point baskets in the first overtime when he appeared ready to collapse.
McHale, who missed two playoff games with a sprained ankle, scored 34 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and made 4 blocks, including the key one on Pierce.
McHale apparently reinjured the ankle on the game's final play. He was helped off the floor, and his ankle was propped up and iced in the locker room. His status for Game 5 Wednesday was not known Sunday.
"I hurt my ankle again," McHale said. "I sprained it when I came down on somebody's foot. It's the same ankle as before. It feels like it might be OK with some treatment."
All the Celtic starters except Parish, who was in foul trouble early, played at least 51 minutes. Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson played their usual strong games. Ainge prevented almost certain defeat when, as the shot clock ran out early in the second overtime, he flung up a shot in desperation and it went in.
The Buck starters, getting more rest, all played well, with Terry Cummings leading them with 31 points. But Pierce, voted the best sixth player in the NBA this season, failed to provide the spark.
The 6-5 sharpshooter was 2 for 11, played 33 minutes and did more harm than good. His shot selection was poor, and he had two key turnovers in the clutch.
The best man off the bench for Milwaukee was Paul Mokeski. Reduced to tears Friday at a press conference after being named in the Phoenix drug and gambling probe, the 7-0 journeyman center almost was a hero.
With four seconds left in regulation, he made two free throws to send the game into overtime. He blocked a shot and made a basket and had a couple of rebounds in the first overtime, but the Bucks couldn't win it.
Detroit 89, Atlanta 88--Isiah Thomas sent his mother to pick up his diploma at the University of Indiana, while he administered a lesson in winning basketball to the Hawks at Pontiac, Mich.
When his 17-point third-quarter surge wasn't enough to put the stubborn Hawks away, the classy 6-1 guard made a driving layup with one second left to bring the Pistons from behind and give them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
In another bitterly fought defensive battle, in which shooters seemed to be reluctant to put the ball up, the teams each had only 40 points at halftime.
Thomas, as he did in Game 3 when he set a record with 25 points in 12 minutes, went wild in the third quarter. He made the first six points, and the Pistons took charge. They built the lead to nine points in the fourth quarter, a big lead in a low-scoring game.
But John Battle came off the bench to score 11 of his 19 points in the closing minutes. He brought the Hawks from behind and, with 90 seconds remaining, his layup gave the Hawks an 88-85 lead. Adrian Dantley was fouled with 74 seconds left and made both free throws to cut the lead to a point. The Hawks missed two chances to increase the lead, but Battle lost the ball and then missed a layup. Rick Mahorn came down with the rebound and the Pistons called time out with five seconds left.
"I didn't know if they would get the ball to me," Thomas said, "but I was confident if I did.
"I said if I get the basketball, I was making the basket. There's no way I'm missing the shot. I'm making it."
It didn't really surprise Atlanta Coach Mike Fratello. He has watched the former Indiana star destroy his team in the playoffs.
"He's a great, great player," Fratello said. "We drew the exact play they ran on our chalkboard. We just had a breakdown."