Home Win Streak Reaches 16, but Bird Injures Back

1990-91 Boston Celtics

In the end, there were the familiar figures on the floor leading to one, inescapable conclusion: another Boston blowout.

Stojko Vrankovic was hoisting hooks and all was well last night for the Celtics . Their 16th straight home victory was well in hand, a 127-110 trouncing of the Dallas Mavericks, who may have to wait until beehive hairdos are back in fashion before winning in Boston.

And yet, this conquest wasn't without its antsy moments. Despite the undermanned competition -- Dallas didn't have Derek Harper (groin) in addition to long-term casualties Roy Tarpley, Fat Lever and Herb Williams -- the Celtics snoozed through a still-life first quarter and found themselves trailing by 16 early in the second.

Coach Chris Ford was asking for action and getting inert responses. The Celtics couldn't even get to the free-throw line in the first quarter.

Ford implored his players not to be spectators; they watched as the Mavericks executed everything as if there was no defense. Dallas shot 72 percent. Rolando Blackman, who scored 27, was having target practice from 15 feet.

Soon, however, role reversal kicked in big time, as you sort of expected it would. Within 10 minutes, the Celtics turned the 16-point deficit into an 11-point lead, a 27-point swing.

Defense did it. Rookie Dee Brown turned into a parquet guerilla again, and, by osmosis, the team went from comatose to combative. They forced eight turnovers in the quarter -- six of them steals -- scoring 14 points off the miscues.

The result was a 42-19 second-quarter torch job, a 10-point lead at the half, and the re-establishment of superiority by the Celtics. They were never seriously threatened in the second half -- the Mavs never got closer than 9 -- as they improved to 17-1 at home and dealt Dallas its 11th loss in Boston in 11 visits.

"We didn't have anything at the start," said Ford. "We were flat. We didn't do anything to disrupt them and we waited around for somebody else to pick us up. This team thrives on emotion and defense and we were getting neither."

Everyone perked up for the dramatic turnaround in the second, however. Larry Bird, who had an off shooting night, had 11 of his 17 points in the quarter. He also had four of his 11 assists.

There was an initial 19-4 assault that cut the 16-point lead to 42-41. Bird figured prominently in that one, scoring 8, including his only 3-pointer of the night (he bricked five others from international waters.)

Later, there was a 15-3 burst in which Boston took the lead for good and emerged with a 60-49 advantage on a Brown dunk. Brown had two of his three steals in that stretch and Kevin Gamble one of his four. Dallas took only 14 shots in the quarter, so stymied was it by Boston's relentless pressure.

"Before the quarter began, Chris got on us and told us we'd be in for a long night if we didn't play better defense," Brian Shaw said.

And, like most everything Ford has said this year, the message got through. There was little letup in the second half, as Boston opened with a 9-2 run. Dallas was theoretically still alive, trailing, 94-85, with 9:50 left. Four minutes later, after a 17-5 Boston run, the lead was 111-90 and the benches emptied in a hurry.

Brown was the comeback catalyst and he finished with 17 points, one shy of his NBA best. Gamble had another ho-hum game, 23 points on 11 of 13 from the field, 6 rebounds, 4 steals. Reggie Lewis had 20; the Celtics are 12-0 when he hits for 20 or more. And Kevin McHale had 21 and 8 rebounds.

Dallas figured to have little shot, especially with Harper out. He had started 142 straight games and was upset he couldn't go. Blackman (9 of 14) held them aloft as long as he could. But there was a weaponry mismatch of high proportions and eventually it took its toll on the beleaguered Mavericks.

"This is a gut-wrenching situation to go through," Blackman said. "Hopefully, some guys will be back soon and we can put a viable team on the floor so we'll be a credible team at the beginning and end of the game."

Back KO's Bird

Larry Bird is suffering from a back strain and will miss tonight's game in New York against the Knicks, trainer Ed Lacerte said last night. Bird will undergo tests today to determine the extent of the injury, which Lacerte termed "ongoing."

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