Listen my children, have you heard . . . of the fourth-quarter ride of Larry Bird?
On a warm, muggy Sunday afternoon in Boston Garden, with the red-shirted Atlanta Hawks shaking the Boston Celtics right down to the foundations of their proud tradition, Larry Bird came through again.Bird merely scored 20 of his 34 points in a gripping fourth-quarter shootout with Atlanta's Dominque Wilkins, who finished with 47 points, as the Celtics won another seventh game, defeating the Hawks, 118-116, to win their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series, 4-3.
In Celtic history, there have been 16 seventh games at Boston Garden and the Celtics have won 14 of them. They have won 6 of 7 since Bird joined the team in 1979. But this one took everything the Celtics had to offer, which was, of course, all that Bird had to give.
From the opening tipoff, the outcome was always in doubt. Even Bird thought so.
"Just who was going to miss the last shot was going to lose," he said.
It would not be the Celtics, who came back from a 3-2 deficit against the Hawks to beat the Hawks on their home floor, then beat them again at the Garden to move on to the Eastern finals against the Detroit Pistons.
"They played a great game," Celtics Coach K.C. Jones said of the Hawks. "If they had played this kind of game Friday (Game 6), then we'd have been on vacation. They can go out and have a good time and we have to look forward to playing Detroit."
The best-of-seven series opens at the Garden Wednesday night, with Game 2 the next night. The Celtics and Pistons can't play Tuesday and Thursday nights because the Bruins and Edmonton Oilers play at the Garden Tuesday night.
The Pistons have lost 21 straight games at the Garden, dating back nearly six years.