10.21.2008

Bird Too Much Yet Again

Green Moves to 13-2
1981-82 Boston Celtics

Larry Bird broke the hearts of the Atlanta Hawks as well as their five-game winning streak, scoring eight successive points to break an 88-88 tie and lead the Celtics to a hard-fought 98-90 victory last night.

The remarkable thing about Bird's late-game heroics was that he did his thing despite the fact he was hurting with a sprained right ankle, suffered the previous night while the Celtics were whipping the Washington Bullets at the Garden.

Prior to his suddent outburst, Bird had been held to eight points. And he had his share of miscues, too, picking up a total of five turnovers - giving him 13 for his last two games. Nevertheless, he grabbed 15 rebounds - 12 off the defensive boards - and had five assists.

"It may be that they held me in check," Bird said, "but if we can keep on getting those kind of victories, it's OK with me."

"Bird played the game as well as anyone could on one leg," said Celtics coach Bill Fitch. "It did slow him down somewhat."

Bird, who finsihed with 16 points, started off his one-man show with 3 minutes 36 seconds left in the game, played before a crowd of 15,092, the largest at the Omni this season. His tie-breaker came on a follow of a missed shot by Chris Ford, and the Celtics took a 90-88 lead that they would never relinquish.

The game was a thriller all the way, and the Celtics were fortunate to get the win, their fourth straight and 12th in their last 13.

Steve Hawes led the Hawks with 17 points. Eddie Johnson, playing inspiring ball, got 15; John Drew added 14.

What hurt the Hawks greatly was their poor shooting percentage (39.1) from the floor. The Celtics made 18 fewer shots than the Hawks, but made them count by making good on 33 of 69 (48 percent) attempted.

The Hawks' biggest lead was five points, 58-53, at 4 minutes into the third period when Hawes hit on a three-point play off a converted layup.

The Celtics roared back for an 80-68 advantage going into the final period. They reeled off 12 unanswered points with Parish scoring on a layup and hook shot along with a rash of free throws.

The Hawks, outscoring the Celtics 20-8 at one stretch in the fourth period, knotted the game. Drew, Sparrow, and Dan Roundfield, who can be awesome at times, kept the pressure on as they temporarily beat the Celtics at their own game - running. -

The Celtics' next stop is Indiana, for a Tuesday night game with the Pacers before they return to the Garden Wednesday to face the Detroit Pistons . . . For those who have been awaiting this season's first confrontation between the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, the big moment comes Friday night in Boston.-

Chalk up another in a long list of coups pulled off by general manager Red Auerbach with the signing of Danny Ainge last Friday to a multiyear Celtic contract.

For it was Auerbach who had the foresight to reason that Danny Ainge might have a change of heart, and give up baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays for basketball with the Celtics. So the shrewd one decided to draft the former Brigham Young All-America guard. When Ainge did decide to switch sports, Boston was the only NBA team with which he could legally negotiate.

The acquisition of Ainge is the latest in a series of ingenious transactions credited to Auerbach. His reputation as a master in acquiring outstanding players during his 31 years with the Celtics has made him a legend in his own time - and a thorn in the side of other NBA general managers whom he has constantly outwitted.

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