Midseason Look at 1986 Cs

Boston has won eight in a row and 12 of 13 since losing five of nine in December. The Celts are 33-8 at the midpoint and have regained the NBA's best record. The Sons of K.C. Jones are 5 1/2 games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers and have two fewer losses than the Lakers. LA has lost four of five, including a 15-point blowout at the hands of the Celts last Wednesday. Philly has won 17 of 20 but couldn't beat the Kevin McHaleless Bostonians on Super Sunday.

- Bird's shooting -- He should win a third straight MVP. The total game never abandoned him, but he wasn't the same force without his long-range weaponry. Sunday's third-quarter, three-point-shot barrage against the Sixers was vintage Bird. His back/elbow/finger must be feeling much better.

- The development of Bill Walton as a big-game/late-game force -- Walton never played poorly, but only in the last week has he asserted himself at crunch time against the iron. The Walton who swatted seven Laker shots in 16 minutes, then scored 19 points with 13 rebounds against the Sixers would be a major difference in this year's play-off push.

- The bench -- Jerry Sichting is shooting 55 percent. He's learned to pick his spots with the shot and forced Laker coach Pat Riley to admit, "They have the cannons now, and they didn't have them last year." After a horrendous start, Scott Wedman is playing the best ball of his four-year Celtic career, filling in the for the injured McHale. Meanwhile, David Thirdkill looks like a player. He's silently shooting 56 percent and spent 18 minutes guarding Julius Erving Sunday. Look for Thirdkill to get more quality minutes against high-scoring forwards. He could turn out to be the backup small forward the Celts hoped Sly Williams would be.

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