The "second season" for the NBA players who qualify for the playoffs begins next week.
But for Bill Walton, it began Wednesday night at Indianapolis. The Boston Celtics' center, who has spent more time injured than playing in his career, returned after another of his many foot problems and played an unexpected 15 minutes in the Celtics' easy 108-85 victory over Indiana.
The Celtics didn't even know that Walton, who had been sidelined this time since March 24, was going to play until he informed them Tuesday night. They were beginning to think he would not play again.
Walton hit 2 of his 3 shots, had 6 rebounds, made 3 assists and blocked 2 shots. Maybe his biggest contribution was to the team's morale.
It was the Celtics' most impressive victory in a long time and enabled them to remain a game ahead of Atlanta in the battle for best record in the Eastern Conference. Both have two games left, including one with each other Sunday at Boston.
Larry Bird had 31 points and 12 rebounds; Robert Parish had 21 points and 17 rebounds, and Fred Roberts came off the bench to score 20 points. The big win came without Kevin McHale, who has a sore ankle.
It is likely that Indiana and the Celtics will meet in the first round of the playoffs.
Dallas 113, Houston 107--In their first meeting since Dallas Coach Dick Motta accused Houston Coach Bill Fitch of losing games on purpose to avoid the possibility of playing the Lakers in the playoffs, it was not surprising there was a fight.
Al Wood of the Mavericks and Steve Harris were thrown out in the middle of the second quarter at Dallas for fighting.
Derek Harper scored a career-high 31 points in 26 minutes in the highly emotional game.
"I thought it was a dull game," Motta said in an attempt to play down the affair. "I expected some real excitement."
Atlanta 136, New Jersey 116--Mike McGee came off the bench in the third quarter at Atlanta to make a three-point basket and trigger a spurt that enabled the Hawks to tie a club record with their 56th victory.
It was 81-81 when McGee made the first of his three bombs. The lead was eight points after three quarters, before Dominique Wilkins and Kevin Willis put the game out of reach.
Wilkins had 29 points, while Willis had 28 and McGee, who played only 19 minutes, had 19.
Washington 110, Cleveland 101--Moses Malone, working up to a peak for the playoffs, scored 30 points at Landover, Md., to help Kevin Loughery get his 500th victory as a coach.
The Cavaliers, already assured of a chance at the lottery and the No. 1 pick in the draft, played the Bullets even for 44 minutes, then fell apart.
Milwaukee 128, Philadelphia 95--It was the formal farewell in Milwaukee to Julius Erving, but he will probably return for the first round of the playoffs.
Playing without injured Charles Barkley, the 76ers were no match for the Bucks. Philadelphia committed 27 turnovers and fell behind steadily in the second quarter. Erving led the 76ers with 26 points.
Detroit 118, New York 114--Bernard King played 41 minutes at New York, moved well and scored 30 points, but he didn't get enough help from his teammates to pull an upset.
San Antonio 123, Portland 112--Walter Berry scored 27 points at San Antonio, and the Spurs ended a club-record 10-game losing streak.