NBA Roundup : Hawks Beat Celtics; Dennis Johnson Injured
Less than 48 hours after Larry Bird declared that the Boston Celtics were ready to defend their National Basketball Assn. title, things began to fall apart.
In a 115-105 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Friday night at Atlanta, the Celtics, already plagued by a weak bench, lost iron-man guard Dennis Johnson and backup center Greg Kite.
With the game only three minutes old, the 32-year-old Johnson had to be helped off the court after spraining his left Achilles’ tendon. Kite left the game in the third quarter after Hawk center Kevin Willis mashed his face into the floor chasing a loose ball.
Johnson said he would play Sunday, when the Celtics meet the Detroit Pistons at Boston Garden. Kite, still recovering from a broken nose, took eight stitches above his right eye, but his nose was unharmed.
Without Johnson, the Celtics, paced by Bird and Kevin McHale, took a 59-56 halftime lead. But the Hawks’ Dominique Wilkins, who led all scorers with 36 points, made a layup midway through the third quarter to give Atlanta the lead for good. Doc Rivers took over in the fourth quarter to score 12 of his 21 points and assure the Hawks of their third win in a row over the Celtics at the Omni.
Willis was a big contributor for the Hawks, who are trying to shake a midseason slump. He had 18 points and 15 rebounds.
“We needed a win and it was great to get this one,” Wilkins said. “We were a little tentative at the start, but in the second quarter we came out very emotional and ran the ball.”
Boston Coach K.C. Jones blamed the injury to Johnson and foul trouble encountered by Robert Parish and Danny Ainge as the reasons for the Celtics’ 15th defeat of the season.
Jerry Sichting, Johnson’s replacement, was only 3 for 10 in 35 minutes of action.
Portland 123, Detroit 111--Kiki Vandeweghe scored 35 points, including the key ones in a second-quarter spurt at Pontiac, Mich., that enabled the Trail Blazers to halt the Pistons’ five-game winning streak.
The Trail Blazers led, a 44-40, when Vandeweghe scored six points to spark a 14-7 run that enabled them to take command.
Clyde Drexler scored 6 of his 29 points in the first few minutes of the third quarter as Portland built a 70-51 lead.
New Jersey 125, Indiana 115--Buck Williams did a number on the Pacers during a 46-11 surge in the second half at East Rutherford, N.J., that enabled the Nets to come from behind and win.
Three minutes into the half, Indiana led, 82-63. But after Orlando Woolridge scored 18 of his 20 points and Williams 12 of his career-high 35 in the rally, the Nets held a 16-point lead.
Williams also had 18 rebounds for the Nets (14-42).
Dallas 123, Philadelphia 110--Mark Aguirre scored 16 of his 30 points in a 35-point third quarter at Dallas that made the Mavericks’ fifth straight victory an easy one.
Rolando Blackman, who had 29 points, contributed 13 points in the third quarter to help the Mavericks increase their lead in the Midwest Division to 5 1/2 games over the Utah Jazz.