At the same time Larry Bird realized he was on-target in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Atlanta Hawks knew they were doomed for another long night at Boston Garden.
Bird scored 24 of his 38 points in the first quarter Wednesday night and the Celtics never trailed on their way to a 110-101 victory in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series. Game 2 is scheduled for Friday night at Boston.Atlanta, which committed five turnovers in the first four minutes, has lost its last 12 games on the Garden's parquet floor.
"If we're going to advance, we're going to have to win here," said Atlanta's Glenn Rivers, "unless the Boston Garden blows up or they have a big hockey fight and tear the place down. Then we'd have to play at Northeastern (University)."
Bird hit 10 of 11 shots in the first quarter, setting a team playoff record for points in a period. He also out-scored the Hawks, who trailed 38-23 at the first intermission.
"He was phenomenal," Rivers said. "Larry Bird is a great player. He's the best. Sometimes when the best is above his game, all you can do is pray."
Boston opened the game with a 12-4 run. Bird scored 18 of Boston's first 24 points on a variety of long jumpers, scoop shots and running push shots, plus two of his three 3-pointers.
"I knew I was off to a good start, so I was looking for my shot early," Bird said. "I was in a good groove."
The Hawks, winless at Boston Garden since March 1985, were uncharacteristically tense before the game.
"I don't think we were ready to play," said the Hawks Dominique Wilkins, who led Atlanta with 25 points. "We were just tight. We weren't the same as we usually are. That's when we're at our best, when we're loose."
Kevin McHale scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half and Robert Parish added 22 and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Celtics. Boston's starting frontline totaled 85 points.
Wilkins managed only 7 points in the first 36 minutes. Rivers added 16 points for Atlanta.