World B. Free perhaps put it best. 'With Larry Bird...

By ROBERTO DIAS, UPI Sports Writer

RICHFIELD, Ohio -- World B. Free perhaps put it best.

'With Larry Bird out roosting, the rest of the Boston players were all cooped up as well,' said the Cleveland guard. 'Make that a chicken coop.'


Free's words matched his aggressive play. The veteran scored 32 points and the Cavaliers took advantage of the injured Bird's absence to stay alive in the NBA playoffs with a 105-98 victory over the defending champion Celtics.

The victory was Cleveland's first in nine meetings this season over Boston, which leads the best-of-five series 2-1. The Celtics had beaten the Cavs in 17 straight games, dating to Jan. 15, 1983.

'Just wait until Thursday night,' said Free, referring to Game 4 of the series at the Richfield Coliseum. 'If we get another crowd like this, we'll shake and bake.'

A standing-room-only crowd of 20,900 -- including Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste -- packed the Coliseum, tying the record set at the Boston-Cleveland game March 15.


Boston, the last team to repeat as NBA titlists in 1967-68 and 1968-69, was led by Scott Wedman's 30 points. Wedman started in place of Bird, who has bursitis and bone chips in the elbow.

'I guess it'll be safe to say that Larry'll be back Thursday,' said Boston coach K.C. Jones. 'But even without him, we came close.

'We nearly got 'em in the third and fourth quarters. But we shot poorly (43 percent to Cleveland's 51 percent) and that helped do us in.'

Dennis Johnson's 15-foot jumper with 8:13 left in the third quarter capped a 12-3 spurt that cut the Cavs' 55-45 halftime lead to 58-57. Roy Hinson then scored 5 points and Free added 4 in a 18-9 rally that gave Cleveland a 76-66 lead after three quarters.

But Boston regrouped with an 8-0 burst at the start of the fourth quarter to trail 76-74 on Wedman's jumper with 10:17 left. Hinson, who had 21 points, then hit three straight baskets and gave the hosts an 88-82 lead with 5:37 left.

Wedman responded with 6 points and Robert Parish 4 as Boston pulled to 92-90 with 3:06 remaining, but Phil Hubbard's 6 points in the final 2:03 sealed the victory for Cleveland's.


Hubbard finished with 15 points and Lonnie Shelton 14 for Cleveland as the Cavs' bench outscored the Celtics' 31-10.

'Our strong bench carried us into the playoffs,' said Cleveland coach George Karl. 'I hope we can keep it up.

'I almost expected Bird to show up at halftime. I got to believe in us Thursday, whether Bird's here or not.'

Kevin McHale had 21 points for Boston with Parish scoring 19 and Dennis Johnson 18.

'We tried as best as we could,' said Wedman. 'We're not a one-man team, but Larry is our spark. Without him, the fire wasn't as intense as it should've been.'

Bird had played in 25 straight playoff games. He had only missed one contest in Boston's 68 post-season games to date -- the second game of the 1982-83 semifinals against Milwaukee.

Free scored 13 of his 17 first-half points in the first quarter and Cleveland built a 23-14 lead with 2:28 left. Boston then grabbed the final 10 rebounds of the quarter and Johnson scored 5 points in a 10-2 burst that cut the deficit to 25-24 after 12 minutes.

Mel Turpin came off the Cleveland for 8 of the Cavs' first 10 points of the second quarter, leading to the 10-point halftime bulge.


Cleveland guard Johnny Davis suffered a possible fractured jaw in the third quarter. He was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic for X-rays. Karl said Kevin Williams probably would play in place of Davis.

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