The situation was getting desperate for the Boston Celtics. They had lost three in a row at home and were on the verge of dropping out of contention in the Atlantic Division.
Then, nine minutes into Sunday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Boston, Celtic center Robert Parish suffered a knee injury.
It was time for the Celtics to turn to Larry Bird.
Bird reached back and found his shooting touch and led the Celtics to a hard-earned 107-105 victory. Bird, 15 of 21 from the field, scored 41 points and had 10 rebounds to prevent the Celtics from losing four in a row at home for the first time since he joined them more than a decade ago.
Bird received a big assist from Kevin McHale, given a rare starting assignment in the hopes he could slow down Charles Barkley. McHale not only scored 27 points, he did a solid job defensively on Barkley.
After Parish's replacement, Joe Kleine, grabbed an offensive rebound and sank an 11-foot jump shot with eight seconds to play, McHale harassed Barkley into an airball from the left of the foul line.
Barkley was seven of 17, had 22 points and only nine rebounds. But the Celtics, after leading most of the game, barely hung on to move within two games of the second-place 76ers.
Throughout his career, Bird has been a 50% shooter. In big games, he is usually even better.
But when he returned this season after undergoing surgery, his shooting touch was missing. His 46.5% average is the lowest of his career.
Coach Jim Lyman, whose 76ers have lost two in a row after surging past the New York Knicks to take first place briefly last week, praised Bird.
"Bird is back," Lyman said. "He did a great job using the screens. His shooting was the key to the game."
Parish's injury is a hyperextended right knee. There is no indication whether he will be available Tuesday night at Atlanta.
Detroit 98, Charlotte 88--Joe Dumars scored six of his 21 points in the closing minutes at Charlotte to clinch the Pistons' eighth consecutive victory.
The Hornets trailed, 89-86, when Dumars got hot. They missed their last six shots and failed to score in the final 5:53.
Detroit has won 21 of 22 games.
Cleveland 107, Milwaukee 96--Mark Price had 31 points and seven assists at Milwaukee to help the Cavaliers' end a slump and climb back into the playoff picture.
The Cavaliers had lost eight in a row on the road, but a third-quarter rally enabled them to pull within 2 1/2 games of the eighth playoff spot in the East.
The Bucks were ahead at halftime, 47-41, but Price and John Williams led the Cavaliers on a 19-2 run to open the third quarter and the Bucks never caught up. Price had seven points and Williams five during the rally.
Golden State 123, Sacramento 112--Chris Mullin scored 32 points at Oakland and the Warriors moved to within 2 1/2 games of fourth-place Seattle in the Western Conference.
After the Kings fell behind by 16 points in the first half, Antoine Carr came off the bench to score 27 points to rally his team.
New York 106, Miami 90--Patrick Ewing scored 30 points, including three baskets in a row in the middle of the fourth quarter to stop a Heat rally at Miami.
The Heat trailed, 84-79, with 6:04 left when Ewing broke it open. The Knicks stretched their lead in the Atlantic Division to 1 1/2 games.
Kiki Vandeweghe, out with various injuries, played his first game for the Knicks, going one of seven in 13 minutes.
Utah 110, Denver 109--John Stockton made a three-point basket with five seconds remaining at Denver to give the Jazz their fourth win in a row----all on the road.
The Nuggets led, 107-100, with less than two minutes to play, but their only points thereafter were free throws by Michael Adams and Bill Hanzlik, both of whom missed one of two.
Karl Malone, who had 36 points, made a three-point basket with 25 seconds left to get Utah close.