Bird of old hits miracle three, scores 49

March 16, 1992|By Michael Arace | Michael Arace,The Hartford Courant

BOSTON NXB — BOSTON -- Larry Bird's right Achilles' tendon, surgically repaired in 1988, was crimson and sore enough to make him questionable for yesterday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Bird's right thigh, bruised two days earlier, was a sunset shade of purple. Bird's lower back, surgically repaired last summer. . .well, don't ask.

So, what does he do?

He gets 49 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals as the Boston Celtics beat the Blazers in double overtime at Boston Garden, 152-148.

Bird, 35, played 54 minutes. He posted his first triple-double since Game 1 of last spring's five-game playoff series against Indiana.

"I'm sore," he said.

The victory halted a three-game skid for the Celtics (36-29). It also ended a seven-game winning streak for thm Blazers (46-19).

Clyde Drexler had 41 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, but the Blazers did not take care of business.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Blazers scored nine points in a row to take a 118-111 lead. With 1:33 left in regulation, Celtics forward Kevin McHale made two free throws to make it 118-113.

Then the Blazers began a frustrating march to the free-throw line. In the last 58 seconds of regulation, the Blazers missed four of eight free throws. In that same span, Bird scored nine points.

"If you put up 35 shots," Bird said, "you're going to hit a few."

He hit 19. His biggest? The final shot in regulation.

With the final seconds of regulation ticking down, Bird took a pass on the left wing, behind the three-point arc. Bird faked Drexler, who took the bait and hopped. Bird, with his left foot just behind the three-point line, lunged forward with his right foot and launched a flat, off-balance shot with Drexler draped all over him. It rattled through the hoop with two seconds left.

It was ruled a three-pointer. Blazers players and coaches complained. The officials said Bird's left foot was behind the three-point line, and that his right foot did not touch down in two-point territory until the shot was released. It was a three. Score tied at 122.

In the first overtime, Kevin Gamble, playing because Reggie Lewis fouled out, swished a 20-footer as time expired. Score tied, 134-134.

In the second five-minute overtime, Ed Pinckney, in because McHale had fouled out, had six points. Rookie Rick Fox, in because Robert Parish had fouled out, had three points, including a two-handed dunk. John Bagley, in because Dee Brown had bruised his thigh midway through the third quarter, had four points and an assist. Bird had two points and three assists.

The Celtics took a 144-136 lead. They would miss four free throws in the last 1:09, but they managed to hold their cushion.

"Larry was sensational," Drexler said. "Any time he's on the floor, anything can happen."

"Larry doesn't have the same bounce nor the same quickness off the dribble," said Portland's Danny Ainge said when asked about his old pal. "He doesn't have the same foot speed. But I'd take him on my team any day."

"You can see why the Celtics struggle without Larry, so much of their offense goes through him."

Ainge himself had 19 points in 18 minutes off the bench.

"We played hard, but it didn't seem to be in the cards for us," Portland coach Rick Adelman said. "Larry Bird played very well."

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