86 Cs 20-2 Since Christmas

The Celtics are 20-2 since Christmas. There are two major differences between the Boston team that went 4-5 in December and the team that beat Los Angeles in the Forum yesterday: Larry Bird is playing like his old MVP self, and Boston's bench is playing and producing.

Bird was shooting less than 45 percent after the Celts were humiliated in New York on Christmas Day. He has relocated his long-range game, and since the Celts hit the Coast he's improved the rest of his attack. Bird is averaging 32.3 points, 14.5 rebounds and 8 assists in four games out West thus far.

Meanwhile, the famed "Green Team" (they wear the green jerseys in practice) is providing the kind of depth Red Auerbach and Jan Volk sought last summer.

Bill Walton (26 minutes) rescued foul-plagued Robert Parish yesterday; Jerry Sichting drilled four big jumpers in the first half; David Thirdkill drew some tough defensive assignments and hit a big three-point play at the end of the third; and Rick Carlisle had his best pro game -- 5 of 7 from the floor, 10 points in 11 minutes. Even Greg Kite chipped in. He mugged Mike McGee after Byron Scott hit Sichting with a cheap shot.

"Our bench now shows that it can do the job," said K.C. Jones. "It has been that way since Christmas. They now can control the offense."

"They're deeper than they were last year," said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "They now have more guys that can play 48 minutes."

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