Bird, Walton Finish Off Sonics
This one was worth staying up late for. It was better than Johnny Carson, David Letterman or "People Are Talking" reruns.
The Celtics ran, passed and shot with some of the precision they had before the All-Star break; Larry Bird and Bill Walton sang some Lennon-McCartney harmonies; and Boston's West Coast Express got back on the win track with a 107-98 victory over the SuperSonics last night.
It was a two-victory game for Boston. Every Seattle loss moves the Celts closer to Len Bias, Kenny Walker etc. (the Celtics own Seattle's first-round pick). With little else at stake, it's nice to find some midwinter significance as the Celts stalk the Pacific Northwest.
The Bird-Walton duet was the most pleasing theme of the night. Bird finished with 31 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists -- his third triple-double of the season. Boston's MVP-designate had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists as the Celts ran to a 32-25 lead in the first 12 minutes. Walton, meanwhile, took over in the second with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist (to Bird) as the Celts pushed the lead to 65-59 at intermission.
The Celts held serve and led, 87-79, at the end of three. Jack Sikma and old friend Gerald Henderson led a Sonic boom in the fourth (Seattle closed to within four), but Bird did everything necessary to win, and the home team didn't have the weaponry to cope with Boston's big front line. Seattle never led. Walton finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes.
"That's a combination you like to see," noted Celtics coach K.C. Jones. "Bill is totally comfortable now, and it shows."
"We enjoy coming out here to the West," said Bird. "We like to go into these different places and play our best."
Kevin McHale rested his sore left Achilles' tendon for the eighth time in Boston's last nine games. His major interest in the first quarter was baiting referee Wally Rooney and finding out the score of the Michigan-Minnesota game.
The Celts bolted from the blocks, taking a 15-5 lead on a three-pointer by former Sonic Dennis Johnson.
Boston's torrid first-quarter shooting represented a major departure from Tuesday's rim-clanging exhibition in Sacramento. Scott Wedman (16) hit three shots, and Bird did everything else.
The front line of Sikma, Tom Chambers (20 of his 25 in the first half) and Xavier McDaniel shot the Sonics back to within two before Danny Ainge and Wedman ran the score back up to 24-17. Jerry Sichting feathered two jumpers at the close of the period to give Boston a seven-point lead. The Celtics shot 52 percent in the first 12 minutes.
"I knew we'd shoot better than we did in Sacramento," said Sichting.
With Bird out, Seattle scored six straight at the start of the second. After Walton scored on a follow, Danny Young tied the game (34-34) with a three-point bomb. Wedman shot the Celts back into the lead but suffered the indignity of tossing an air ball free throw.
The Sonics tied it once more but couldn't get a lead. Walton kept the Celts on top with a series of banks, taps and hooks.
A 7-2 run at the start of the third gave Boston an 11-point lead, but the Celts cooled off and Henderson led the Sonics to eight straight. When Henderson's fast-break layup trimmed the lead to three, Jones called time.
After the pause, Bird (nine in the third period) scored on a drive and found Robert Parish with a court-length, Sammy Baugh TD bomb to run the lead back to seven. It was 87-79 at the end of three. Those quick to invoke the Willie Hernandez factor noted that the Sonics owned a 1-26 record in games when they trailed at the end of three.
Bird was on the bench when Seattle cut it to four at the start of the fourth, but came back with 9:50 left and found Walton with a bounce-pass feed that was good for a dunk.
Two free throws by Walton with 3:38 left made it 99-93.
A Sichting jumper and a free throw by Walton put Boston into the comfort zone with less than two minutes to play.
Second Straight Triple-Double for Bird as 86 Cs Win in Portland (35-9)
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.
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