Coach K.C. Jones may have been given an impossible problem Tuesday night: How to replace Larry Bird in the Boston Celtics' lineup.
Bird injured both ankles with 2:38 remaining in the first half of a 109-88 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Richfield, Ohio, Tuesday night, the first defeat in seven games for Boston. The nine-year veteran appeared to have suffered the injuries as he went up for a spinning shot and hit the Richfield Coliseum floor hard coming down.
Bird played the rest of the half and finished with 14 points. He had averaged 31.8 in the Celtics' first six games.
Bird started the third quarter but was replaced by Darren Daye, who scored 12 points, after just 24 seconds.
"It was clear (Bird) was limping," Jones said. "He had to come out. Right now, we don't know whether it's just his ankles or his Achilles' tendons, too. We'll have to see."
Bird, an eight-time All-Star and three-time Most Valuable Player, missed three games last December with a strained right Achilles' tendon.
"Larry does so much for this team," Jones said. "We just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings after he's checked out."
Bird, escorted to a waiting bus by team trainer Ed Lacerte after the game, would not talk with reporters but grimaced and muttered an expletive as he gingerly passed through the security gate.
"Larry will be examined, and his status will be determined at that time," Lacerte said. "There isn't anything else to say."
Dennis Johnson led Boston with 16 points, and the Celtics scored only 15 in the third quarter.
"It's tough playing without Larry," Johnson said. "He does so much for this team. We just had no rhythm at all."
Said forward Fred Roberts: "Losing Larry hurt, no doubt about it. We missed shots we normally make, and his ability is what pulls us through cold spells. It will be quiet on the plane back home."
Celtic center Robert Parish said: "It wouldn't have mattered even if we'd had our whole cast in there. They just outplayed us."
Jones said: "We've been through this before a few times. It's just part of the game, and you go from there."
The Celtics already were playing without forward Kevin McHale and center Bill Walton, both on the injured list with foot problems.
Reserve guard Jerry Sichting has missed three games with a sore right knee and did not make the trip to Cleveland. Lacerte, however, said that Sichting may see action when the Celtics return home to play New York tonight.
Dell Curry scored eight of the Cavaliers' third-quarter points as they took an 85-63 lead entering the fourth quarter.
"Who knows what would have happened if he'd have been in there?" Curry said. "It helped that Larry Bird went out. But we were playing really well when he was in there, too."
Cleveland was playing without leading scorer Ron Harper, who is out for several weeks with a badly sprained left ankle.
The Cavaliers took the lead for good early in the game on a basket by rookie Kevin Johnson that put them ahead, 13-12, with 6:49 to go in the first quarter. The Cavaliers widened the lead to 11 at the half behind nine second-quarter points from Johnny Rogers.
New Jersey 114, Houston 111--Orlando Woolridge made his first announced start of the season at East Rutherford, N.J., and the Nets collected their first victory.
Woolridge, who was a surprise starter in Sunday night's game at home against Washington, hit 10 of 16 shots from the floor to revive a lethargic offense with 29 points.
Otis Birdsong hit a jumper with 49 seconds left, and John Bagley converted a pair of free throws as the Nets held Houston scoreless the final 1:10.
"I'm trying to get my timing back" said Woolridge, who missed the first three games with a cut finger.
Ben Coleman came off the bench to add 18 points, and Buck Williams added 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
"It has got to stay in our minds that we can beat the better teams," Coleman said.
The Rockets took a 111-110 lead on a basket by Ralph Sampson with 1:10 left in the game, but New Jersey scored the final four points. Sampson missed a three-point shot with four seconds remaining.
The Rockets, who had won four straight, got 26 points and 10 rebounds from Sampson.
"This wasn't just a great win, it was the way we won," Williams said. "Everybody contributed. Even the fans got involved.
"Any time you play the Twin Towers (Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon), you want to take it right to them, and that's what we did."
Chicago 105, Washington 101--No matter how Michael Jordan looked at it, the Bulls' 500th victory in the 22-year history of the franchise "was just plain ugly."
Jordan, the league's leading scorer, got 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter at Chicago and sank four free throws in the last 10 seconds.
Brad Sellers hit a pair of clutch jumpers down the stretch to stop a Bullets' rally, which was led by Bernard King and Moses Malone.
"Winning was ugly," Jordan said. "We're a young team, but we're learning and we know our mistakes. But, if you win by just one, it's like winning by 30."