1990-91 Boston Celtics
Remembering the 29-5 Start
There was nothing magical or mystical about Larry Bird's offensive rejuvenation last night at Boston Garden, where he set the tone early for the Celtics ' 129-111 romp over the Bucks.
Bird had a grand total of 38 points over a very long three-game weekend in Texas while hitting just 15 of 51 shots and only 2 (albeit important) of 8 3-pointers.
So what made the difference last night as No. 33 made his first seven shots en route to an 18-point first quarter and wound up with 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including 4 for 4 on 3-pointers?
The answers, broken down into three parts by Bird, were (a) a little more arc on the ball, (b) a lot of familiarity with the Garden, and (c) no added pressure of sweet revenge for his 5-point night in Milwaukee earlier this season when the Celtics were blown away.
"In this league, if you have a bad night, you just have to bounce back the next night," said Bird. "You learn to take your bumps and bruises and come back the next time."
Asked if he did anything different last night than on the Texas Trek, Bird managed a slight smile and said, "Yeah, we played at home. And I put a little more arc on the ball.
"It's a lot easier playing in a place you've played in four or five hundred times than it is in a place where you've only played 20 or 30."
Bucks coach Del Harris had a hunch Bird might atone for his cold night in Milwaukee.
"I don't know if you know my history with Larry Bird," said Harris. "When I was a new head coach in Houston, he played his first-ever NBA game against us. I know his NBA history rather intimately -- and I know he follows up a bad game with a good one."
And he didn't waste any time.
"Those 3-pointers two in the first quarter gave us a little lead and it got my confidence going, too. Everything was pretty smooth tonight," said Bird.
"We kept the ball moving around the perimeter," he added. "We caught them off balance a little bit. We started to hit some shots and then the whole team shot well. We were cutting, we were rebounding and we were getting our break going and our defense was excellent.
"You'd like to play like that every night, but we know it's impossible."
According to Harris, the Celtics played a near-perfect first half, then had all the rhythm and momentum during a 40-point third quarter in which they shot 16 for 19.
"We closed the gap in the end and made it respectable, but the truth was it was a knockout," said Harris. "They really put it to us."
Bird provided the knockout punches midway through that third quarter with a pair of 3-pointers and a jumper over old friend Fred Roberts to complete a 12-4 run and give the Celtics a 29-point lead. Then his two free throws started an 8-0 burst that left Milwaukee gasping at 106-70.
"Right now the Celtics have a nice mix of veterans and youth," said Harris. "If you're going to make changes, it's better to trade in old short legs instead of old long legs," he laughed.
He was obviously thinking about people like Kevin McHale, who got a second-half breather; Robert Parish, who had 15 of his 19 points in the first half; and, of course, Bird, who also chipped in with 8 rebounds and 9 assists.
"Even with his slump," said teammate Dee Brown, "he was still producing. Great players like Larry, when they have bad games, always come back in the clutch. Larry is a shooter and a player."
Ditto from Reggie Lewis: "Larry never gives up. When the shots weren't falling, he just kept shooting and tonight he was on."