Larry Bird scored a season-high 49 points Wednesday night at Boston, but it took a big defensive play by Danny Ainge to save a 106-100 victory over the improved Washington Bullets.
Bird scored 22 points in the first quarter as the Celtics built a 15-point lead. But the Bullets, trying for their fifth win in a row under new Coach Wes Unseld, fought back. With 15 seconds left, they trailed, 102-100, and were going in on a 4-on-1 break.
Ainge intercepted a pass by 5-foot 3-inch rookie Tyrone Bogues, then threw the ball the length of the court to Robert Parish for an uncontested layup. Instead of pulling into a tie, the Bullets were four behind and wound up losers.
It was the 10th win in a row for the Celtics at home and gave them 64 straight victories at Boston Garden against Eastern Conference opponents.
Bird, who had been in a mild shooting slump, was 20 for 30, although he missed all four three-point attempts. He also missed his last three two-point attempts. Ainge, whose string of games in which he made a three-pointer ended Tuesday night at 23, scored only 6 points, but he made 13 assists and the defensive play of the game.
"I knew early I was going good," Bird said. "I was more active and getting open. The shot felt good, and the ball was dropping for me."
Bernard King, slowly rounding into sharpshooting form, scored 32 points and led the surge that made it close after the Bullets fell 12 points behind after three quarters.
Chicago 119, Philadelphia 109--At Philadelphia, Michael Jordan scored 37 points, including four in a 6-0 run at the start of overtime, that enabled the Bulls to end a nine-game road losing streak.
The lead changed hands six times in the last three minutes of regulation. Brad Sellers made one of two free throws with 12 seconds left to give Chicago a 105-103 lead. Charles Barkley then missed a jumper, but tipped in the rebound with four seconds left and sent the game into overtime.
Jordan, who was 12 for 21, had 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. Barkley had 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Detroit 103, Indiana 86--A tough Piston defense shut out the Pacers during two long spells in the second half to key an easy victory at Pontiac, Mich.
The Pacers, who had won three in a row, battled the Pistons on even terms for more than a half. But, after Steve Stipanovich sank a jumper to pull the Pacerswithin two points, 60-58, they went six minutes without a basket. Then, in the fourth quarter, the Pistons broke it open by scoring 14 points while the Pacers failed to score for nearly seven minutes.
Cleveland 112, San Antonio 102--Tyrone Corbin came off the bench to score 21 points, making 8 of his 10 shots, at San Antonio to spark a Cavalier comeback.
Walter Berry scored 23 points in the first half to help the Spurs build a 14-point lead. But Cleveland caught up and pulled ahead, 84-79. With less than four minutes to play, it was 98-98. But four Spur turnovers enabled the Cavaliers to go on a 14-4 spurt.
Dallas 121, Phoenix 112--The Mavericks are getting as tough on the road as they are at home. In this game at Phoenix, the Mavericks won their fifth straight away from home.
The Mavericks led most of the way, but the Suns pulled within 91-89 with 8:21 to go. Mark Aguirre scored on a layup and Derek Harper followed with a three-point bomb, and the Mavericks were out of danger.
Golden State 115, Portland 110--Ralph Sampson, trying to play on a sore ankle, lasted only one minute at Oakland, but the Warriors won without him.
Terry Teagle scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Warriors held off a belated Portland rally to win for only the eighth time in 38 games.