The Detroit Pistons should have realized in the third quarter Thursday that they were not going to beat the Boston Celtics in Game Two of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Not with two Birds on the parquet floor.A frightened pigeon skidded to a landing as Detroit's Joe Dumars buried a jump shot for a 66-61 lead with 5:07 left in the third period, and landed again 18 seconds later, joining forces with Larry Bird.
The thirty seconds or so that Kevin McHale and referee Mike Mathis tried to catch the feathered bird gave the uniformed Bird a chance to catch his breath.
"It gave me a break. I'm not in that good a shape, and it gave me an extra 30 seconds," Bird said.
When play resumed, the Celtics outscored the Pistons 10-6 and took a 71-70 lead on the way to a 109-103 victory before a capacity crowd of 14,890. Because of unusual scheduling constraints, the game started at 1 p.m.
Boston's win tied the best-of-seven series at 1-1. Games Three and Four are set for Saturday afternoon and Monday night in the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Celtics have never won there.
The other best-of-seven conference semifinals resume Friday night. Chicago is at Philadelphia leading the series 2-0, and Golden State is home against the Lakers after earning a split in the two games at Los Angeles.
Bird, who did not play in Detroit's 86-75 Game One triumph, went 42 minutes Thursday and finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists. His teammates learned about an hour before game time that Bird would play.
"It's invaluable having Larry out there," Coach Chris Ford said.
Of course, Bird didn't win this game by himself, as he did last Sunday in Game Five of the Indiana series. Indeed, he wasn't even Boston's main man. Sharing that role were rookie Dee Brown and Reggie Lewis.
Brown carried the Celtics in the fourth quarter with his shooting, ball-handling and defense. In those last 12 minutes, he scored 15 of his 22 points, handed out three of his eight assists and played tough defense on Dumars and Vinnie Johnson.
"Dee played big. The Rook had a spectacular game," Ford said. "Dee caused matchup problems as far as penetration. When we posted Larry, he was able to spot up and knock down jumpers. He had a great game."
Brown made seven of his 11 shots from the floor and was 8-for-10 from the free-throw line.
"Dee was out there licking his chops a lot," Bird said. "He missed one (outside shot), but then he hit a couple and then started taking it to the hole. He's quick. We spread the court and let him get it and take it as far as he could."
Brown was modest about his immense contributions to this must win.
"The No. 1 thing about this game is that we won," he said.
But then he warmed up to his heroics: "We needed somebody to step up. With Larry being out, you always felt like he would come up and take the big shot. But today somebody needed to make things happen by hitting a shot from the outside or making a big pass. That way the results of a big pass would lead to a big bucket."
Lewis also stepped up to meet the challenge of beating the Pistons and ensuring at least one more game in Boston Garden this season. He scored 23 points, 15 in the first half.
Robert Parish played his usual steady game: 19 points and 13 rebounds. Kevin McHale chipped in 15 points and nine rebounds.
Isiah Thomas, who sprained the ligaments in the soft tissue on top of his right foot Tuesday night, dressed but did not play. He is expected to be in the lineup when the series resumes Saturday at Detroit.