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NBA Playoffs : An Early Bird Helps Celtics Win, 110-101

Associated Press

Larry Bird set a Boston playoff record with 24 points in the first quarter, and the Celtics survived Dominique Wilkins’ 15 points in the fourth quarter for a 110-101 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in the opener of their NBA second-round playoff series Wednesday night.

“I was just moving and getting the ball in areas I like to get it in,” said Bird, who made his first 10 shots and led all scorers with 38 points. “I made some moves that I was surprised I beat my man on.”

Atlanta guard Glenn Rivers said: “Bird is just a phenomenal player, better than great.”

Atlanta never led and lost its 13th consecutive game in Boston Garden, where the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals will resume Friday night.

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“All of us maybe wanted to try too hard,” Atlanta Coach Mike Fratello said. “When you haven’t played well in a particular building and you have such great pride, each player says, ‘I’ll be the one to lead us.’ ”

Even though Bird broke Dave Cowens’ 14-year-old team record of 20 points in one quarter of a playoff game, the Hawks fought back into contention.

They cut the lead to 54-48 at halftime after trailing at the end of the first quarter, 38-23.

“I was looking for my shot early, but in the second quarter I felt we were standing around and I wanted to get other people involved,” Bird said. “We weren’t doing what we were doing in the first period.”

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“We could have easily packed it in and got blown out,” Wilkins said. “But we kept pushing and cut it down.”

Wilkins had been held in check for most of the first three quarters.

“He missed a lot of shots out there, outside jumpers,” Boston Coach K.C. Jones said. “Much of it was self-inflicted.”

Wilkins, who led the Hawks with 25 points, made just 3 of 11 shots in the first half, then broke out in the fourth quarter when they narrowed a 17-point deficit to 106-99 with 53 seconds left. But they came no closer.

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“The shots I had (earlier) weren’t bad or difficult shots. They just wouldn’t go in,” he said. “In the fourth quarter, I was making those same shots.”

Kevin McHale had 25 points and Robert Parish 22 for Boston. For Atlanta, Rivers added 16 points, and Kevin Willis had 13.

Bird outscored the entire Atlanta team in the first period. At one point, he got 12 consecutive Celtic points to turn a 12-6 lead into a 24-12 advantage.


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