Many people believe the Boston Celtics’ front line of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish ranks among the best in National Basketball Assn. history.
Can you imagine this trio being replaced by Reggie Lewis, Ed Pinckney and Joe Kleine?
Lewis is an outstanding second-year player, but he figures to spend most of his career in the backcourt. The other two have spent most of their three NBA seasons warming the bench.
But as a replacement for the ailing superstars, they reached new heights Wednesday night at Boston, leading the Celtics to a 106-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
In the victory that put the Celtics a step closer to a playoff berth, the three put up some impressive numbers.
Lewis had 27 of his 35 points in the second half as the Celtics held off a surge by the Trail Blazers.
Pinckney matched his season high with 22 points and had nine rebounds.
Kleine had only nine points, but he also had nine rebounds and four assists.
Bird, of course, has been out almost the entire season because of surgery on both feet. That is the main reason the Celtics are struggling to make the playoffs instead of fighting for first place.
McHale has missed the last three games because of a foot problem.
Parish, at 35, is having a brilliant season, but, after starting the first 68 games, missed this one with a bruised knee.
The win gave the Celtics a four-game lead over the Washington Bullets in the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. With 13 games remaining, they trail the 76ers, the seventh-place team, by two games.
There is hope that Bird will be able to play by the playoffs, but team physician Arnold Scheller admitted Bird was allowed to return to practice too soon.
Although Parish is expected to play Friday against Houston, there is no target date for the return of McHale, who underwent surgery on his foot before the start of last season.
With backup guard Jim Paxson out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery, the Celtics picked up free-agent guard Otis Birdsong. In 14 minutes, Birdsong was one for four.
“I knew this team always had character,” first-year Coach Jimmy Rodgers told the Associated Press. “I guess we’re getting good at fighting adversity. Practice makes perfect. It takes courage and determination to survive, and these guys are survivors.”
Chicago 106, Milwaukee 102--In his new role of playmaker, Michael Jordan is still getting his points and the Bulls are playing outstanding basketball.
In this game at Milwaukee, Jordan had his third consecutive triple double and the Bulls improved their record with Jordan at point guard to 9-2. They have won six in a row, five of them on the road.
Jordan had 32 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. His six free throws late in the game preserved the victory and put the Bulls just 1 1/2 games behind the third-place Bucks, who had won 11 home games in a row.
The Bucks led most of the way. They built the lead to 12 points in the third quarter, but Jordan and Bill Cartwright, who had 16 points in the second half, rallied the Bulls.
The Bulls have beaten the Bucks in 13 of the last 14 times they have played.
Chicago Coach Doug Collins had trouble convincing Jordan that the Bulls would be a better team with him at point guard. Now, he likes the idea.
“I don’t know whether I could handle it for a full season,” he said, “but right now I like it. And, I’m learning. I have a way to go. It has posed problems for our opponents, though, and that’s good.”
Detroit 108, Utah 104--Isiah Thomas keeps saying that the Pistons are the best team in the NBA.
This game at Salt Lake City figured to be a tough defensive battle against the Jazz, the leaders of the Midwest Division with a 30-5 record at home.
It took double overtime to do it, but Thomas scored on a jumper from the corner with three seconds left to put the Pistons in front and Joe Dumars made two free throws to clinch their sixth victory in a row.
The Pistons, who have won 18 of their last 20, have a 51-17 record, best in the league.
The Jazz jumped in front, 10-0, but after their ace, Karl Malone, fouled out late in the fourth quarter, they were just hanging on.
Atlanta 120, Washington 102--Moses Malone helped deal the playoff hopes of his former teammates a severe blow with 28 points and 16 rebounds at Atlanta.
The Bullets had been making a menacing move to catch the Celtics until losing successive games at San Antonio and Atlanta. Now they trail by four games.
Dominique Wilkins, who was 13 for 20 from the field, had 30 points and eight rebounds to support Malone.
Indiana 96, Miami 89--Chuck Person keyed an 8-0 run to open the fourth quarter at Indianapolis as the Pacers ended the Heat’s winning streak at three games.
The Pacers, winners of five of their last six games, had only a four-point lead after three quarters, but Person sank two jumpers and the eight-point run took care of the Heat.
Person scored 31 points and Detleff Schrempf came off the bench to get 20 points and 13 rebounds.