CHICAGO -- Larry Bird's career was spared a premature ending last night, which is more than could be said of the Chicago Bulls' playoff aspirations.
Bird had promised to retire if Chicago's Michael Jordan scored 77 points, a number derived from the progression of his totals in the first two games of the Bulls' opening-round series against the Boston Celtics. Instead, the Celtics reduced Jordan to pedestrian proportion, and swept the Bulls from the playoffs. Boston will play the winner of the Atlanta-Detroit series.
Jordan, who scored 49 points in Game 1 and an NBA playoff record 63 in Game 2, was held to just 19 as the Celtics crushed the Bulls 122-104 in Game 3 of their best-of-five Eastern Conference series.
'They were prepared for me,' Jordan said. 'It seemed like every time I got the ball, before I could make a move, they would send someone else at me. They played very good defense.'
Jordan's three-game total of 131 points surpassed by 15 Wilt Chamberlain's record scored against Syracuse in 1960. In gratitude for his effort, the 18,968 fans in Chicago Stadium gave Jordan a standing ovation when he fouled out with 5:24 left.
'It almost brought tears to my eyes,' Jordan said.
Jordan's departure was hardly crucial, because of the 109-89 lead held by the Celtics, who were in complete control from the outset.
'They completely picked us apart,' said Chicago coach Stan Albeck, who was ejected from the game for throwing a ball at referee Ed Rush in the final four minutes. 'They burned us on each and every rotation. That, coupled with (Kevin) McHale's great start, really did it.'
McHale scored 13 in the first quarter as Boston took a 33-23 lead, then had 10 more in the second quarter to help the Celtics to a 66-52 halftime lead.
McHale's hot start helped the Celtics overcome a slow start by Bird, who missed his first 4 shots and had only 2 free throws at the end of the first quarter.
'If Larry can't go, Kevin can go,' said Boston coach K.C. Jones. 'If Kevin can't go, Robert (Parish) can. We've only lost 15 games, and that says we've done something very well.'
McHale finished with 31 points and Bird had only 19, but the Celtics had four other players in double figures. Danny Ainge scored 20, Dennis Johnson 16, Parish 15, and Bill Walton 10.
Nobody could make up for Jordan's problems. He had 14 points in the first quarter, but he had to work for them. He had to be taken out of the game at 4:21 of the second quarter after getting his fourth foul.
'You saw that he had the hot hand in the first quarter,' said Ainge, who teamed up with Johnson to help stop Jordan. 'So we double-teamed Jordan all over the court. We tried to make him give the ball up. Later, he got into foul trouble, which really hurt. It's tough to get aggressive and be offensive when you are in that situation.'
Jordan had 3 points in the third quarter and only 2 more in the fourth.