Andrew Toney made six points in the final 3 1/2 minutes and Charles Barkley completed the scoring with two free throws as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated visiting Boston, 110-107, last night and cut the Celtics' Atlantic Division lead to two games.
It was the third loss in 22 games for the defending NBA champion. The Sixers improved to 17-5.
Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham called it "everything a 76ers-Celtics game is supposed to be," intense without the brawling that marked the teams' last meeting in Boston in November.
Larry Bird and Julius Erving, who were ejected for fighting Nov. 9 in Boston, shook hands at center court before the game started. "It was," said Erving, "a sincere handshake."
But a strong chorus of boos emanated from the Spectrum sellout crowd of 17,921 every time Bird got the ball.
Bird led all scorers with 34 points.
Toney gave the 76ers the lead for good at 108-107 with 1:26 to play. Philadelphia's Moses Malone, who had 33 points and 12 rebounds, was then called for fouling Robert Parish.
Parish missed both free throws, got the rebound on the second and missed from the field with 35 seconds left. Barkley came up with the ball, was fouled by Kevin McHale and sank his free throws with 11 seconds left.
Danny Ainge and Bird missed three-point field goal tries before time expired.
Dennis Johnson scored 22 points for the Celtics. Barkley had 17, Erving 16 and Toney 13.
"Billy wanted me to get more aggressive at the end," Toney said. "I didn't want to force anything, but Billy told me to take shots. If I didn't get them, I would pass off -- but I got them."
"We got in a hole in the beginning," Celtics Coach K.C. Jones said, "something like 13 or 14 points (actually 16, at 33-17), and when you do that it makes things awfully tough to dig your way out."