By Roland Lazenby
Ebook through Lazenby, Roland
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Extra info for Bird: Portrait of a Competitor
He's such a hard-nosed competitor and very determined. You don't see superstars like him going after loose balls Page 27 Page 28 especially in pre-season games. '' The other major bauble in Bird's collection was his confidence. Every time he took a shot, he believed it was going in. At times in his career, his self-assurance would shine so brightly that it fused his game at a higher level, fortifying his teammates, blinding his opponents and mesmerizing just about everyone else involved. "I just felt there was no one in the league who could stop me if I was playing hard," he said in accepting his 1986 MVP award.
Late in the game, Boston had the ball and the lead, 96-95, when Bird took a 20-footer as the shot clock ran down. The ball hit the rim, rose up and fell back through, 98-95. Toney raced back upcourt with the ball and shot in the lane, but McHale blocked it. Moments later, Maxwell would hit two free throws to keep Boston alive, 100-98. Game 7 was another fight. Philly led by 11 late in the second half and was still up, 89-83, with 4:34 on the game clock. The Celtics fought back to tie it at 89, and seconds later Bird came up with a loose ball.
Like Magic with the Lakers, Bird's passing sustained the Celtics. He had to learn to keep his teammates involved. That facet of his game improved greatly as the season progressed, and the Celtics grew into an inspiring example of precise ball movement. From their fast breaks to their half-court game, they developed a knack for finding the open man. Their competition again in the Eastern Conference was the Philadelphia 76ers, who had added an impressive rookie in guard Andrew Toney. The teams split their series, 3-3, but the tiebreaker gave Boston the home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Bird: Portrait of a Competitor by Roland Lazenby