Bill Fitch looked across the locker room and gestured toward Larry Bird. "It's like he's in his own little world out there."
The basketball court is Bird's private aviary. With six seconds left on the clock, and the Celtics trailing, 103-100, at Capital Centre last night, Bird once again took everybody into his own way of doing things.
After a first half in which he scored only two points, the forward from French Lick, Ind., sprinted off a pick from the base line and took an inbounds pass at the top of the key from Robert Parish. With the ball lifted high, with Don Collins doing everything but throwing a plastic bag over his head, Bird prepared to make small of the Bullets lead.
Bird took one quick dribble and, leading with his right hip, threw up a jumper that arced through the basket. Fitch claims Bird was fouled, but no one was arguing much.
Tie game, 103-103, overtime to come, victory to follow.
Bird's three-pointer was just a part of his spectacular closing performance. In the final two quarters and the overtime period he had a hand in 52 of Boston's 72 points. He finished with 34 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
"At times I'm like everybody else," Bird said modestly. "I get angry, I get disgusted. But after you hit a shot like that, the game becomes fun. It's a kid's game and you have to play like it's fun."
"Larry is like the little kid who practices all by himself in the back yard," Fitch said.
Bird began the game like it was a job, like he was on the commuter train to Boston, getting ready to spend another eight hours behind a gunmetal gray desk. He wandered on the perimeters of the Boston offense and rarely made his defenders work as hard as they might have expected.
He passed for only two assists and hit only one of seven field goals.
"In the first half our offense was designed for me to do a lot of standing around and waiting for my passes," Bird said. "In the second we just went to me more."
"The outstanding thing about Larry is that he can put in 48 outstanding minutes in regulation and you ask yourself how is he going to keep it up," Fitch said. "But he always does."
Bird had eight points in the overtime and a key assist to Parish. On the pass to Parish, the ball was in Bird's hands for no more than a wink.
Just a little boy playing his game.
Although the Celtics are essentially locked into second place behind Philadelphia, they were more than pleased to win last night. Boston has a 14-13 record since Feb. 6, not exactly the sort of momentum sufficient to intimidate the 76ers' Julius Erving and Moses Malone.
"The important thing is that we haven't lost any of the big ones," said Fitch. "Any time we play a glamor game, against the really big teams, or teams that are on a streak, we make out all right."