It is becoming increasingly apparent that age is catching up to the Boston Celtics. Almost every game, one or more of the veterans is resting his aching body.
But it is also apparent that forward Larry Bird is not aging--he's just getting better.
With Kevin McHale resting a sore knee, the Celtics were trailing the Portland Trail Blazers, 106-96, with less than five minutes remaining Wednesday night at Boston. It was time for Bird to do something.
He scored nine points in a 15-4 spurt that put the Celtics on top, and they beat the Trail Blazers, 113-112, when Dennis Johnson sank two free throws in the closing seconds.
The game ended in controversy when Clyde Drexler's bank shot missed, but it appeared that Robert Parish of the Celtics touched the ball while it was on the rim. Officials Blaine Reichelt and Hue Hollins made no call.
The game belonged to Bird. Even before he led the winning rally, he dominated the game. Bird wound up with 44 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and a steal.
Since the All-Star break, Bird has helped lead the Celtics to six wins in eight games. One of the losses (at Denver) came after Bird broke his nose and had trouble seeing the basket.
Including that game, in which he was only 4 for 15, he has averaged 35.6 points, 12 rebounds and 6.4 assists in the eight-game spans.
During that span, Parish missed five games with a back injury, McHale has been dragging and Johnson has been limping. It's just that Bird won't let them cave in.
Bird, whose first two shots were air balls, thought he should have done better. "With all those shots (35), I should have done better," he said. "I just didn't have any rhythm at the beginning."
Detroit 107, Golden State 93--Bill Laimbeer had 23 points and 12 rebounds as the Pistons downed the Warriors at Oakland and moved into the Central Division lead.
The Pistons, 8-2 since the All-Star break, scored 12 straight points to take a 29-15 lead late in the first quarter, and the Warriors never really made a run at them.
Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars scored 18 points each for Detroit.
Dallas 93, Cleveland 89--The Cavaliers came close to pulling an upset at Dallas, even though they were without their best player, Brad Daugherty, who was absent because of his father's death.
The Cavaliers led, 70-60, late in the third period, but Sam Perkins and Rolando Blackman led a Maverick rally that made it close. Perkins drove the baseline for the clinching basket with just 27 seconds remaining. It was the sixth win in a row for the Mavericks, who increased their lead in the Midwest Division to three games.
Milwaukee 97, Indiana 94--Jack Sikma scored 27 points, including a tiebreaking layup with 1:40 to play, at Indianapolis and the Bucks ended the Pacers' eight-game home winning streak.
The Bucks beat the Pacers at the free-throw line, 33-12.
Denver 123, Utah 120--Blair Rasmussen and Alex English each scored 35 points at Salt Lake City, but it took two clutch free throws by seldom used T. R. Dunn to save the Nuggets' 10th win in 26 road games.
Dunn, averaging 2.6 points per game, sank two free throws with eight seconds left. When Darrell Griffith's desperate three-point shot fell way short, the Nuggets won.
San Antonio 123, Philadelphia 121--Andrew Toney missed an 18-foot shot at the buzzer at San Antonio to send the game into overtime, and the 76ers lost their 16th road game in a row. Charles Barkley had 37 points and 21 rebounds for the 76ers.