The Boston Celtics, in an effort to make certain they would have a well-rested starting team for the playoffs, spent the off-season building a bench.
They added center Bill Walton, guard Jerry Sichting and forward Sly Williams, and drafted talented Sam Vincent. They already had sharpshooting Scott Wedman coming off the bench.
Coach K.C. Jones has made an effort to make use of his reserves, but none of them has been averaging as many as 20 minutes a game. When the going gets tough, Jones has to get his starting five back into the fray in a hurry.
Such was the case Wednesday night at Boston. The Celtics, playing Indiana, which hasn't won in its previous 18 road games, built an 88-81 lead after three quarters. It was a good time for Jones to rest his regulars.
Before the starting five had a chance to take a deep breath, the lowly Pacers went on a 10-3 run to tie the game. Dennis Johnson led the starters back into the game, and Johnson's scoring spree enabled the Celtics to gain a 118-114 victory, their seventh success in a row.
Johnson made a jumper to break the tie, and it was the start of a personal nine-point splurge in two minutes that wiped out the Pacers' hopes of ending their road losing streak. He finished with 30 points, including 11 in each of the last two periods.
All of the Boston starters played at least 37 minutes, except center Robert Parish, who played only 34. If the Celtics can't depend on their reserves in a home game against one of the NBA's weaker teams, when can they?
Although Larry Bird still hasn't found his shooting eye (6 for 21), he is doing other things. He had 15 rebounds to lead both teams and topped the Celtics with seven assists.
Philadelphia 110, Chicago 106--Although they were without their best player, injured Michael Jordan, the Bulls did not go quietly. In this game at Philadelphia, with Orlando Woolridge scoring 31 points, the Bulls had four more field goals than the 76ers.
But the 76ers won because they had 34 shots from the free-throw line while the Bulls had only half that many.
Moses Malone, with 21 points and 16 rebounds, led the 76ers. Sedale Threatt, the replacement for injured guard Andrew Toney, scored 19 points. Toney, hampered by injuries for two seasons, underwent surgery for the removal of bone spurs in his left ankle Wednesday and will be out six to eight weeks.
The game wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The Hawks led, 104-90, with 2:17 left, but Walter Davis sank three consecutive three-point baskets to make it seem close.
Milwaukee 137, Detroit 118--The Bucks ran off 11 straight points late in the first quarter at Milwaukee to grab a 14-point lead and they went on to an easy victory that enabled them to regain first place in the Central Division.
In recent games, the Pistons have put on late rallies to pull out victories, but despite Kelly Tripucka's 32 points Wednesday night, they never mounted a charge.
Ricky Pierce and Alton Lister led the Bucks' blistering attack, each scoring 22 points. The Bucks made 56 of 99 field-goal attempts. Pierce was 10 for 13, Lister 9 for 13.
Dallas 115, Utah 100--Rolando Blackman scored 16 of his 37 points in the third quarter at Salt Lake City to propel the Mavericks to victory.
The Jazz shot only 40% from the field. The Mavericks jumped in front, 30-18, in the first quarter, and the Jazz never came closer than nine points thereafter.
Adrian Dantley led the weak Jazz attack with 17 points but took only seven shots.