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BIRD’S 40 KEEP JAZZ WINLESS IN GARDEN

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For the latest in the Legends of Larry Bird, we join the Jazz in Boston Garden Wednesday night. A quick briefing: The Celtics are struggling early in the season. Sports Illustrated has already probed the complications of Bird's return and now, unnamed teammates are blasting Bird in newspaper columns.

So how does Bird answer? Try 40 points against the Jazz, including a vintage jumper off a screen that seals a 113-109 win."He looked like Larry Bird to me," the Jazz's John Stockton said afterward.

So the Jazz have still never won in the Garden, but they sure had their chances in loss No. 19. Leading by nine after one quarter, they were outscored 70-48 in the middle two quarters - but were not done yet.

Down by 13 entering the fourth period, they made three flurries, the last closing with a Thurl Bailey follow shot with 40 seconds left. After a timeout, Bird pinwheeled around a screen and delivered a 17-footer over Bailey.

"He hit a tough shot - simple as that," said Bailey.

When Bailey missed a little hook at the other end, the Jazz were left to wonder about another lost chance as they wind up this trip at Charlotte Friday and San Antonio Saturday. "It's one of those games you look back on and say you should have won," said Karl Malone, who scored 39.

Just like Tuesday at New York, the Jazz failed to score on key trips in the fourth quarter.

"We were very impatient at the end of the ballgame," Sloan said.

"We got a little helter-skelter," noted Stokton, who had 15 points and 17 assists.

Malone blamed his shoes for one funny-looking jump shot with the Jazz down by four, saying he slipped - of course, he already has a deal with another shoe company for next season.

Again, the low-scoring Jazz had enough offense - with Blue Edwards scoring a season-high 19 and Bailey adding 13. The real trouble was their defense, which gave up 41 to Patrick Ewing and 40 to Bird.

Questioned about those numbers, Sloan said, "I'm sure people ask that when they run into Karl Malone."

Running into Bird is usually tough enough, but this probably the worst possible night for the unsuspecting Jazz. On most game days, the Jazz are an avid newspaper-reading team, but they'd missed Wednesday's big story after arriving in town and heading straight to the hotel for naps.

"I didn't read the papers," said Sloan. "What happened?"

Well, back-to-back columns in the New York Post and Boston Herald quoted veteran Celtics unhappy with the way Bird sulked about less playing time and fewer shots under Coach Jimmy Rodgers and the way Bird took a backhanded shot at Rodgers in a recent story on ex-coach K.C. Jones.

Long after the game, Bird stood in the middle of a big circle of reporters in the locker room and responded, "It's funny to me somebody could say something to somebody else when he's not even doing his job. You just consider the source and go on."

He also knows who was talking.

His best answer was the "40" in the box score, including 11-of-15 shooting and 25 points in the first half when the Celtics took a 57-56 lead. Edwards opened the game on Bird and Sloan tried a little of everybody on him. Bobby Hansen even volunteered to switch men with Edwards and Thurl Bailey took his turn, while all of them were being bumped off by screens.

"A couple of times, I was shaking my head because I had a hand in his face," said Edwards. "I grew up seeing him do that to a lot of teams."

Said Bailey, "If he's open for half a second . . ."

Bailey cooled off in the second half and missed late shots that could have ended Jazz rallies. But Kevin McHale went to his post-up machine to score 17 of his 19 in the second half as the C's charged ahead.

The fourth quarter had a clear pattern. The Jazz cut the lead to four on a Bailey jumper, only to fall back by 11. They were within one after Malone scored in the lane, but went down by nine. One last time, they came up with Stockton's two free throws, Malone's 3-pointer and Bailey's rebound, but Bird had the last say.

He usually does.

"I think we're at a point where we're all on the same page," said McHale, using an unintentional phrase. "On this team we've all been guilty of having the tendency of trying to do too much. When things have been going poorly, we've been trying to take over and do it all, and that's caused problems."

Except Wednesday, when Bird did it all to the Jazz.

JAZZ NOTES: Edwards made his first NBA 3-pointer while Hansen, one of the NBA leaders, was 0 for 1 . . . With Edwards spending 18 minutes at forward and nine minutes at guard, Darrell Griffith played a season-low 10 minutes . . . The Jazz have shot at least 51 percent in all three games of the trip, losing twice.