Low-Flying Bird : Celtic Star Scored 30 Points in Game 2, but He Contributed Little Down the Stretch
If the fourth quarter belongs to Larry Bird, as Bird himself often says about his clutch play, then perhaps he should have checked the Boston Garden’s lost-and-found Thursday night in Game 2 of the National Basketball Assn. championship series.
Although Bird led the Celtics with 30 points and 12 rebounds in the Lakers’ 109-102 victory that squared the series, his only points in the final seven minutes were two free throws that pulled the Celtics within four points with 2:16 to play. From that point, Bird was shut out and the Celtics came no closer.
Bird’s 9-for-21 shooting Thursday wouldn’t be disappointing for many players, but it qualifies as a certifiable slump in his case. So far in the championship series, Bird is shooting 48%, which is slighty better than his 46.8% for the Celtics’ other playoff series.
He still is the Celtics’ leading scorer in the playoffs, averaging 26.6 points in 16 games, but he hasn’t been the offensive force he was during the regular season. Bird says that the bone chips in his right elbow aren’t throwing his shots off kilter, but something seems to be making them miss.
If Bird is concerned about his shooting, he didn’t show it here Friday morning at the Celtics’ practice. He maintained his usual 300-shot ritual before practice, and spent almost half an hour afterward matching three-point shots with teammate Scott Wedman.
“This course is too short to play on,” Bird said after swishing a shot from out of bounds. “Too easy.”
When they finally took the ball away from him, Bird answered the inevitable questions about his unusually average shooting so far in the series. Bird was unwavering in his reply that nothing is wrong with his shot as long as he keeps shooting.
“I’m shooting the ball extremely well in practice,” Bird said. “I ain’t worried about my shooting. It comes and goes. There are some times in games lately when I miss some shots that really surprise me because I’ve been making them in practice.
“I’m not going to stop shooting. I’ve been really working on it the last four or five days and I feel good about it. They (shots) just aren’t dropping like they ought to. But they will.”
Obviously, it wouldn’t help the Celtics if Bird stopped shooting, but the Lakers may see him move closer to the basket to shoot. Bird talked about moving to the low post for Game 3 Sunday at the Forum, instead of remaining in the 18- to 20-foot range.
Bird is familiar with the position but he has mostly stayed clear of the low post during the playoffs because Kevin McHale has been so effective.
“That is where I had my success last year (in the playoffs),” Bird said. “I’m not shooting real well from outside the last two games and, anytime you go low, you’ve got two choices. One is getting a foul. The other is scoring. It puts a little more pressure on them (the Lakers) if I go low.”
Celtic Notes Center Robert Parish bruised a muscle in his right buttock Thursday night and didn’t practice Friday. Parish, who isn’t talking to the press, told trainer Ray Melchiorre that the injury isn’t serious. Said Celtic Coach K.C. Jones: “He was trying to do some running today and couldn’t do it without pain. We’ve got another day, so he can rest it. Robert says he will be able to play Sunday.” . . . Kevin McHale, on the three offensive rebounds the Celtics had Thursday: “We were too nice, not aggressive. If we’re going to continue to play tentative and not aggressive, we won’t win. They came out and hit the boards and we didn’t. In the third game, we’ve got to get the boards.” . . . Larry Bird, on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s effectiveness on defense Thursday night: “He was just going from sideline to sideline to block every shot. What you got to do is be smart enough to fake one time or come across and hit Robert (Parish) underneath. I was standing out there all night waiting for Kevin (McHale) to do that. I told Kevin after the game, ‘Geez, he blocked three of your shots. You’ve got to be able to sense that he’s there and get rid of it.’ I knew from the very first play of the game Kareem was going to help out underneath. Anytime I go down there now, I’m going to look for the foul.” . . . The Celtics practiced for less than an hour Friday and flew to Los Angeles Friday night.