BOSTON — Larry Bird should have been out celebrating after playing 41 minutes and scoring 21 points in the Boston Celtics' 127-120 victory in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Indiana Pacers Friday night.
Instead, Bird went to the hospital, where he was put in traction.
"It's not a medical emergency," said a team spokesman. "It's just to help him relax."
The spokesman said Bird aggravated his back condition but there was no new trauma, and it is hopeful that, with the hospitalization, he will be able to play in Game 2 Sunday.
Bird missed seven of Boston's last eight regular-season games and the last four days of practice.
Bird had 12 rebounds and 12 assists against the Pacers and had four points, three assists and a steal during a 10-0 run that snapped a 110-110 tie. He had 11 points in the fourth quarter.
"I don't know if everyone got the full effect of what Larry Bird did," Boston Coach Chris Ford said. "That's some of the gutsiest playing I've ever seen."
Said Bird: "I didn't know what to expect because I never missed that much coming into a playoff situation. I haven't been feeling good all week."
Bird made six of 20 shots, but, under the circumstances, he wasn't complaining. "I'm pretty happy with six of 20," he said. "If I had done that in the regular season, I would have been angry."
Reggie Lewis, who led Boston with 28 points, hit a 20-foot shot with 4:39 left to give the Celtics the lead for good at 112-110. Bird then passed to Brian Shaw for a reverse layup with 3:44 to play and assisted again when Shaw made a 10-foot shot with 3:20 remaining.
Bird made a 19-foot shot with 2:37 left, raising his finger in triumph even before the ball went through the net, then stole the ball from Chuck Person, was fouled and made both foul shots to make it 120-110.
The Pacers were led by Reggie Miller, who had 20 of his 24 points in the second half. Miller's first-half points came on four free throws. He missed four shots.
Bird was three of 13 in the first half, but came through when it counted the most.
Said teammate Shaw: "That's Larry Bird. He's still, without practice, one of the best players around."
Person, who finished with 23 points for the Pacers, said: "Larry wasn't getting it done, but he came back down the stretch and made some big plays. That's what great players do."