You can't repeat a miracle. Just ask the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Last year the Timberwolves handed Boston its only loss against the league's four newest expansion teams when the Celtics came to town.Monday night, the Celtics, playing without Larry Bird, pounded out a 108-87 victory over Minnesota.
"Last year's loss here was a miracle," Kevin McHale said of the 116-105 defeat. "We played poorly, probably our worst game all year."
McHale reinforced his reputation as one of the league's best sixth men with a 20-point, seven-rebound performance off the bench.
McHale led a 41-17 advantage in bench scoring for the Celtics. His scoring and leadership is especially crucial to Boston with Bird missing his 11th straight game due to a back injury. The Celtics are 5-6 without Bird.
"We miss Larry," McHale said. "Our last 10 games, we've been lethargic on offense and defense. I would credit our rebounding edge (67-55) tonight to us being kind of mad at the way we've been playing. That's a trademark of the old Celtic teams that when you were down, everyone would get ticked off and play harder."
"With Bird out, everyone stepped up a notch," said Minnesota's Randy Breuer. "Their passing isn't quite as good because Bird is a pinpoint passer, but that's about all you notice."
The Celtics needed a lift after a 17-point loss Sunday at home to the Los Angeles Lakers, their sixth defeat in seven outings. They built a 25-point lead on the cold-shooting Wolves but had to repel a furious Minnesota rally.
Brian Shaw scored 23 points and Kevin Gamble had 19 as Boston had five players score in double figures in halting a two-game losing streak. The Celtics are 25-1 all-time against the four newest expansion teams. They own the NBA's second-best record and widened their Atlantic lead on Philadelphia to eight games.
Minnesota lost its fourth in a row and shot just 34 percent from the field. The 21-point margin was the worst home-court loss in the Wolves' two-year history.
"You can't shoot the way we did and win," said Minnesota Coach Bill Musselman. "We missed layups, we missed open jump shots. We shot absolutely pathetic."
Pistons 87, Bullets 81
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Joe Dumars scored 27 points and Dennis Rodman added 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pistons to their third straight victory their 11th in a row at home. Washington's Bernard King led all scorers with 30 points. Dumars had 10 of the Pistons' 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Spurs 119, SuperSonics 107
San Antonio, Texas, Willie Anderson scored six straight points as the game entered the final two minutes to send the Sonics to their seventh consecutive road loss and lead the Spurs to their fourth straight victory. Anderson finished with 28, Cummings scored 24 and David Robinson had 25.
Blazers 116, Hawks 111
At Portland, Ore., Terry Porter scored 23 points, including a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to help the Trail Blazers nail down their seventh straight victory. Clyde Drexler added 22 for the Blazers and Kevin Duckworth chipped in with 21. The Hawks got 34 points from Dominique Wilkins and a career-high 26 from Spud Webb.
Kings 101, Nets 83
At Sacramento, Calif., Lionel Simmons scored a career-high 27 points and the Kings capitalized on New Jersey's 17.6 percent shooting in the third quarter. Simmons made 11 of 20 field goal attempts and also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Golden State 115, New York 106
At Oakland, Calif., Mitch Richmond scored 34 points to lead the Warriors their sixth victory in their last seven games. Chris Mullin added 21 points and Tim Hardaway had 20 points and seven assists. Patrick Ewing led New York with 30 points and 15 rebounds.