World B. Free had 32 points to help the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-98 home playoff victory last night over the Boston Celtics, who played without Larry Bird.
The win cut Boston's lead in the best-of-five first-round series to 2-1. Game 4 of the series is Thursday night in Richfield, Ohio. The victory, before a sellout crowd of 20,900, was Cleveland's first over the Celtics since January 1983, snapping a string of 17 losses.
Bird, missing only his second playoff game in six years, has bursitis and bone chips in his right elbow.
"With Larry Bird out roosting, the rest of the Boston players were all cooped up as well," Free said. "Make that a chicken coop. Just wait until Thursday night. If we get another crowd like this, we'll shake and bake."
Scott Wedman took Bird's place in the starting lineup and scored 30 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Bird had averaged 35 points a game in the Celtics' two victories over Cleveland.
The Cavaliers led, 76-66, entering the final quarter after the Celtics had pulled to 58-57. Boston started the final period with eight straight points to cut the lead to 76-74. But Boston never drew even.
Cleveland guard Johnny Davis suffered a possible fractured jaw in the third quarter.
"I guess it'll be safe to say that Larry'll be back Thursday," said Boston Coach K.C. Jones. "But even without him, we came close. We nearly got them in the third and fourth quarters. But we shot poorly."