Larry Bird's back, which was the problem, is now the solution.

The Boston Celtics forward, recovering from a back problem, Wednesday night returned from a 14-game absence to score 18 points and hand out 13 assists in a 133-117 victory over the helpless Charlotte Hornets.Boston, which had the NBA's best record before Bird left the lineup a month ago, was 7-7 without the three-time MVP.

Bird, who had not played since Jan. 6 due to an inflammed disc in his lower back, played 38 minutes against Charlotte. The Celtics' 34-year-old leader hit 8 of 17 shots, connected on a pair of 3-pointers, and also grabbed 9 rebounds.

"I had fun," said Bird. "I was worried about my wind a little bit. I don't know how I'm going to feel tomorrow. I'm sure I'm going to feel stiff and sore."

On Wednesday night, the Celtics took the lead for good with a 24-6 run midway through the second quarter and the Hornets were never again closer than six points. Boston led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter.

Rockets 111, Bucks 109

At Milwaukee, Kenny Smith made a driving layup with six-tenths of a second left and the Rockets sent the Bucks to just their third loss in 25 home games this season. Smith's hoop helped Houston overcome a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes. Smith scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half and added 10 assists.

Sixers 108, Bullets 100

At Philadelphia, Hersey Hawkins scored a career-high 39 points and Philadelphia posted its seventh straight victory over Washington. Charles Barkley had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and the Sixers went on an 18-2 run in the final period as the Bullets lost their 10th in a row at the Spectrum.

Heat 134, Nets 119

At East Rutherford, N.J., Sherman Douglas and Glen Rice scored 30 points apiece and the Heat set a club record for points in a game. Douglas added 10 assists for Miami, which surpassed its previous high-game of 131 set in a double-overtime game in 1989. Willie Burton added 19 points for the Heat and Rony Seikaly had 18. Derrick Coleman had 29 points and 13 rebounds to power the Nets.

SuperSonics 107, LA Clippers 104

At Seattle, Eddie Johnson made a 35-footer with 1.1 seconds to go to hand the Clippers their fifth straight loss and their 10th in their last 13 games. Johnson scored 18 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter. Jeff Martin paced the Clippers with 21 points.

Kings 97, Trail Blazers 93

At Sacramento, Calif., Travis Mays scored 27 points, making 17 of 18 free throws, including nine in the final minute to enable the Kings to snap a four-game losing streak. Antoine Carr added 18 points for the Kings, who handed Portland just their ninth loss of the season.