NBA ROUNDUP : Bird Comes Out Shooting and Celtics Win

Almost everyone who knows Larry Bird expected the star of the Boston Celtics to return with an outstanding performance after nearly missing almost all of last season.

And the sharpshooting forward, whose season ended a year ago after just six games, did as expected.

Showing no signs of the foot problems that forced him to undergo surgery, Bird came out firing Friday night at Boston, scoring 13 of his team's first 17 points and leading the Celtics to a 127-114 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

It was the 11th consecutive victory on opening night at home for the Celtics. Bird had 32 points, making 10 of 17 shots.

"I was ready for this one a long time ago. I wanted to play well after the long layoff," he said. "I was very fired up for this game. I feel good. A lot of times you come out and you're cold and you miss that first shot. It's nice when it goes in."

Bird played 33 minutes, getting eight rebounds, four assists and a steal. He also committed four turnovers.

In addition to Bird's return, the Celtics also received a big contribution from the bench. Kevin McHale, playing the sixth-man role, had 21 points and Reggie Lewis, who developed last season, had 26.

Chicago 124, Cleveland 119--The Bulls keep talking about how they are surrounding Michael Jordan with talent. But when it comes to crunch time, it's Air Jordan to the rescue.

Against the injury-ridden Cavaliers at Chicago, Jordan scored 54 points, 10 of them in overtime, to lead the Bulls to victory.

Chicago trailed, 99-87, with six minutes left. But Jordan scored 16 points to put the game into overtime, six of them in the last 35 seconds.

Jordan, playing 47 minutes, had 14 rebounds, six assists and three steals.

The Cavaliers were missing starters Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty and Mark Price, all out with injuries.

Ron Harper scored 36 points and led the surge that put the Cavaliers 12 points in front.

Indiana 126, Atlanta 103--The Hawks, already in turmoil and bickering among themselves, made an inauspicious debut at home.

The Pacers, who won only eight of 41 road games last season, dominated from the start. With former UCLA standout Reggie Miller scoring 36 points, they won easily.

Before Kevin Willis--who started the bickering when he lost his starting job--came into the game, the Pacers jumped in front, 23-7, and never relinquished the lead.

Willis, who missed last season because of surgery, lost his forward spot to Jon Koncak. Willis had 10 points, Koncak just two.

Willis was ejected along with Indiana's Rik Smits for fighting early in the third quarter.

Washington 116, Charlotte 96--Opening night was a good night for visitors. With Jeff Malone scoring 28 points, the Bullets won handily at Charlotte.

It was a tight game until the middle of the third quarter, when John Williams led a 20-12 spurt that enabled the Bullets to take an 88-74 lead.

Williams had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Dell Curry came off the bench to lead the Hornets with 20.

New Jersey 110, Miami 90--Dennis Hopson had 12 of his 19 points in the first quarter at Miami to get the Nets off to a 35-13 lead that was too much for the Heat to overcome.

"We were even worse than we were last year," said Rony Seikaly of the second-year Heat.

Utah 122, Denver 113--Karl Malone started off fast in the opener at Salt Lake City, scoring 40 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. John Stockton had 23 points and 19 assists.

Blair Rasmussen had 25 points for Denver, 21 in the first half.

Seattle 106, Minnesota 94--For half a game, the Timberwolves, who have seven former Continental Basketball Assn. players on the roster, outplayed the SuperSonics at Seattle. Minnesota led, 51-47, at halftime in its NBA debut.

Then, Dale Ellis went to work. The sharpshooting guard scored 33 points and the SuperSonics won going away.

Phoenix 136, Golden State 106--Before the Pacific Division rivals met in the playoffs last spring, Coach Don Nelson of the Warriors said his smaller team was no match for the powerful Suns. He was right.

That hasn't changed this year. Dan Majerle of Phoenix scored five of his career-high 27 points in a 16-2 burst to open the second quarter and the Suns were never in trouble again.

Portland 114, Sacramento 96--In his debut for the Trail Blazers at Portland, power forward Buck Williams was impressive. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds. All five starters were in double figures for the Blazers.

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