10.20.2008

Bird Goes for 24, 14, and 4 in Win

1981-82 Boston Celtics

One of the impressions that young Danny Ainge had to get from his first visit to Boston Garden is that the standings don't always reflect the caliber of talent in the NBA. His new Celtic teammates had a devil of a time with the Washington Bullets last night before prevailing, 113-100.

Something else which also should have impressed him is that the Celtics are hardly a one-man team, even though Larry Bird did have 24 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists in leading Boston to its third straight victory.

The Bullets played close-to-the-vest basketball for three quarters, and the Celtics were only in the game because of the shooting of Robert Parish (17 points) and Terry Duerod (a season high of 12). But in the final five minutes, they came together not only on offense, but defensively, showing that they are capable of blowing any team in the league off the floor.

Want proof of that? Well, consider that with 6:28 left, the Bullets trailed by only 93-91, thanks to a technical foul on Cedric Maxwell and three free throws by Greg Ballard.

Boston went on a 20-9 spree from that point, and at the end the Bullets' attack was reduced to a series of futile three-point goal attempts, none of which came through. In fact, the only three pointer of the fourth quarter was a 25-foot heave by Bird with about 60 seconds left that put the icing on the cake.

Washington played like it meant business in the first three quarters. Trailing by four at halftime, they fell behind by 10 points, 76-66, only to pull within two at 78-76 with 1:56 to play in the third period.

But Boston put on surge for an 83-78 lead after three quarters and never trailed in the fourth. Even so, not until the Bullets fell apart in the final minutes was Boston's latest victory streak assured.

"Did they give Duerod the game ball," exclaimed coach Bill Fitch. "He gave us the spark to get us over the hump and I knew he'd do it. We made only one silly turnover in the last five minutes. We threw away the ball too many times, but fortunately we were leading."

Ainge, given a standing ovation by the sellout crowd before the tapoff, said he was extremely pleased with the style the Celtics displayed.

"I'm the kind of player that likes to run," he said. "The Celtics appear to me to be an unselfish team. They're all good players and very unselfish. I like the way they run. I hope I can fit in."

The Celtics had handled Washington with ease in their first two meetings this year, but struggled in the first half.

Boston shot to a 13-6 lead in the early moments, which included three fast-break baskets. But behind Kevin Grevey and John Lucas, the Bullets succeeded in slowing down the Celtics and doing a little running of their own. With six minutes gone, the score was tied at 15-15, with Lucas putting together a three-point play at 6:13. Bird, who had 10 points in the first quarter, began to warm up, and with his two baskets, the Celtics pushed to a 19-15 lead. But again Washington rallied, tying the game at 22, and went ahead with 3:09 left in the period on two free throws by Ricky Mahorn.

In fact, it was the Bullets who had the upper hand for the rest of the period. Frank Johnson took over for Lucas and when he was hitting jumpers, he was getting the ball inside. Washington shot to a 32-27 lead at the quarter.

Fitch went right to his bench at that point, with mixed results. Boston still trailed, 36-35, when Bird stepped back and hit a three-pointer with 9:27 to play, and suddenly Boston had a two-point lead.

With seven minutes left in the half, Fitch called on Duerod, always a crowd favorite, and the Doobie Man did his thing, scoring a season high of eight points in just two minutes. After Boston had taken a 42-40 lead, Duerod sank three jump shots as part of an 8-2 Celtic run.

With 2:22 left, the Celtics were up by eight, but the Bullets made a run, and cut it to two points with eight seconds left. Charles Bradley then jammed in a stuff shot and it was 58-54 at the half.

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