Larry Bird scored 17 of his game-high 29 points in the second half last night in Boston Garden and the Boston Celtics put away the New Jersey Nets, 129-117, for the Atlantic Division leaders' fourth straight victory.
Boston increased its division lead to five games over the idle Philadelphia 76ers, who have won eight games in a row.
Boston led, 108-90, after three quarters. The Nets rallied behind five points from Mike Gminski to cut the margin to 117-111 with 4:51 remaining.
Bird and Dennis Johnson, who ended with 24 points, sank baskets to push Boston up by 10 with 3:02 left. The Nets never moved closer.
Veteran guard Jerry Sichting, given the call as a twisted right ankle forced Danny Ainge to miss a start for the first time this season, complemented Johnson by scoring a season-high 17 points in helping Boston improve its home record to 14-1.
When the Celtics' guards are shooting well, said Nets Coach Dave Wohl, you can't win for losing.
"If you try to keep them from getting inside, they'll kill you with the outside shot," Wohl said after seeing the Boston back court hit on 24 of 38 shots from the field.
The Celtics had an early morning wakeup call in Indiana after a blowout of the Pacers, but they played racehorse ball against the Nets.
Then, suddenly near the end of the third period with a big lead, they showed signs of running out of gas, with Coach K.C. Jones calling a timeout to get a weary Bird off the floor for a rest.
"We had some dog-tired people and New Jersey knew it," Jones said. "They ran the ball at us. Dejavu was very much on their minds. But the wind blew and the shots flew and we've got a day off."
Albert King and Mike Gminski led the Nets with 20 points apiece, and Buck Williams had 19. Hawks 111, Pistons 101
In Atlanta, Dominique Wilkins' 32 points fueled the win over slumping Detroit in a sold-out Omni.
The 15,817 customers saw Atlanta improve to a 16-15 record and left Detroit 2 1/2 games behind the Hawks' second place in the Central Division. This was the Pistons' sixth straight loss and 10th in 11 games.
Doc Rivers had 17 points and 13 assists for the Hawks.
Kelly Tripucka led the Pistons with 26 points, 16 in the first quarter. Bill Laimbeer had 22 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, and Isiah Thomas had 21 points. Cavaliers 130, Clippers 111
World B. Free scored 22 points and Mel Turpin 20 as seven Cleveland players scored in double figures in the victory over Los Angeles in Richfield, Ohio.
Free scored 10 points and added three spectacular assists in a 5:13 span of the third quarter during which the Cavaliers broke from 61-61 to an 84-68 lead with 3:17 left in the quarter. Included in the 23-7 Cleveland surge was one streak of 13 straight Cavaliers points.
Cleveland had led by only 57-55 at halftime, but behind Free's 10-point quarter and eight points each from Turpin and Dirk Minniefield extended the lead to 94-79 entering the final quarter.
Turpin and his counterpart at center, the Clippers' Kurt Nimphius, were ejected for fighting with 6:05 remaining in the game. Lakers 110, Jazz 101
In Inglewood, Calif., Kareem Adbul-Jabbar scored 25 points and sparked a 16-0 fourth-quarter run to lead Los Angeles. Utah lost for the sixth time in seven games.
Utah, which had scored 17 straight points in the third period, led by 90-81 with 9:37 remaining before Los Angeles went on its run.
The Lakers' Magic Johnson was ejected in the third period. It was the first time the guard was ejected from a game at any level of his career. Teammate Mitch Kupchak also was ejected when he was called for a flagrant foul -- undercutting Malone on a layup attempt -- with six seconds to go in the third period. SuperSonics 117, Nuggets 107
Center Jack Sikma scored a season-high 32 points and had 14 rebounds as Seattle rallied to win at home. It was Denver's fifth straight road defeat.
Seattle fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter and trailed the entire first half. Sikma scored 13 points in the third period as the two teams finished the quarter tied at 89. Seattle went on top for good when Al Wood hit two free throws with 6:19 to play. Trail Blazers 133, Suns 104
Kiki Vandeweghe scored 30 points and Mychal Thompson had 27 as Portland won at home.
Portland reserve Clyde Drexler had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double in three games.