Celtics fans should take comfort in the knowledge that Larry Bird is all the way back to his MVP form of the past two seasons. He's been the scourge of the West thus far on this trip and last night hit a 14- footer with three seconds left in overtime to give the Celtics a pulsating 120-119 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
En route to his second triple-double in as many nights, Bird scored a whopping 47 points with 14 rebounds and 11 assists. His shot arsenal included six lefties, a couple of payload three-pointers, one dunk, the usual assortment of step-backs and sneakaways -- plus the basket that put it into overtime, and the clincher. It was awe-inspring, even when measured against his own lofty standards.
Bird won it with a cranky 14-footer from out front while he was smothered by Jerome Kersey. Boston led, 120-119, and Portland called time. After the pause, Kersey took it into the lane and forced up a shot. The shot missed, no foul was called and the Celts were winners.
"Our last play was a pick and roll with Larry and Robert (Parish)," said Celtics coach K.C. Jones. "Larry had the ball and his defender sagged on Robert, so he just had the shot."
In the final minute of overtime, Steve Colter hit two from the line to give Portland a 117-116 lead. Then Danny Ainge found Parish (20 points) underneath, and Parish hooked one in to give the Celts a one-point lead. Portland called time with 34 seconds left in overtime.
More great action followed. Smothered by David Thirdkill, Kiki Vandeweghe (a heroic 38) handed off to Kersey (21) and Kersey banked one in to put Portland ahead, 119-118. The Celts called time. Bird inbounded to Parish, and the Chief fed Dennis Johnson (29). DJ got it back to Bird, and Boston's savior zigged and zagged to create some room inside the foul stripe. He fired and hit.
Here's how regulation ended: The Celts led by eight (89-81) at the start of the final quarter, but Vandeweghe brought the Blazers back, and Portland tied it (103-103) on a Colter drive with 2:28 left.
DJ hit two from the line with 1:50 showing to give the Celts a two-point lead. Then Clyde Drexler scored on a drive as he was fouled by Parish. Drexler made the basket but missed the free throw (hello, Guy Lewis), and it was tied again.
After DJ scored on a drive, Drexler went to the line again. He made both, and it was tied again with 1:02 left.
Bird missed a layup while Sam Bowie was clearly hanging on the basket. Portland rebounded, and Vandeweghe scored on a break to put Portland ahead, 109-107, with 41 seconds left. The Celts called time and protested to officials Ed Rush and Bill Oakes.
Ainge was stripped by Colter, but Drexler missed a shot and the Celts had another life. Bird scored on the run from the foul line to tie it with six seconds left. Portland coach Jack Ramsay called time.
After the pause, Vandeweghe missed a buzzer-beater from the foul line and David Thirdkill rebounded to force extra innings.
The first 45 minutes weren't exactly chopped liver. The Celts went with the same lineup they've used for the last 10 games. Kevin McHale (sore left Achilles' tendon) took another night off. If you're beginning to worry about McHale, you're not alone. He hasn't played on this trip and has played only 12 minutes in Boston's last 10 games. Nobody knows what to do.
Parish carried Boston's offense in the first period. The Chief took Bowie into the torture chamber for 10 points in 5 1/2 minutes.
At the other end, Vandeweghe (15 in the period) tap-danced on Scott Wedman for 11 of Portland's first 17 points.
The Celts started to turn the ball over and Portland went into its running game, but late-period baskets by Bird and DJ gave Boston a 28-25 lead at the end of one. It was 55-55 at halftime.
Kersey and Bird dueled in the third, and Boston led, 87-81, at the end of three.
With Bird on the bench at the start of the fourth, Portland ran off six straight points, all free throws. Jones called time and Bird came back.