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CELTICS START SLOWLY, BULLS KEEP IT THAT WAY

Any team playing a terrible first quarter against the Chicago Bulls is facing three periods of garbage time.

The Boston Celtics, playing their third game in four nights, shot 17 percent in the first quarter, including 0-for-7 by Larry Bird. The score was 10-0, 27-7 and then 37-13 before the Bulls improved their record to 52-12 with a 119-85 victory Wednesday night.Michael Jordan personally outscored the Celtics in the first period with 17 of his 32 points in the quarter. Chicago shot 65 percent from the field in the first 12 minutes.

"We went out and jumped right on them," Jordan said. "Their legs were gone, and we had fresh legs from being off the last couple of days. We get motivated for them, and with them not having quite as young legs as we have, we overcame them very easily."

The Celtics were 4-0 since the return of Bird before they lost 108-101 at Miami on Tuesday.

"We had nothing," said Bird, who finished with 10 points. "I felt good, but I played bad."

"We just had a four-game winning streak . . . everyone was contributing at both ends and our shot distribution was there," Boston coach Chris Ford said. "The last two games we've been playing all out of whack. To have it fall off a cliff so quickly, I just don't have any answer for it."

The defeat at Chicago was Boston's worst of the season.

The Celtics, who previously lost 129-102 at Atlanta on Nov. 30, scored 21 points under their scoring average and fell four games behind the idle New York Knicks in the Atlantic Division. Kevin McHale finished with 19 points for Boston. Scottie Pippen scored 24 points for the Bulls.

"I think we saw the effect of one team having three games in four nights and the other team with two nights off," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "We played well and they didn't."

Trail Blazers 124, Timberwolves 113

Portland also had a spectacular first quarter, but had a tougher time winning at Minnesota than the Bulls did at Chicago Stadium.

The Trail Blazers won for the sixth straight time, their longest winning streak of the season, while the Timberwolves have lost six in a row.

Portland shot 70 percent in the first quarter to take a 40-29 lead that reached 49-33 early in the second period. Minnesota pulled within three points in the third quarter and within four in the fourth period, but each time the Trail Blazers responded by scoring six consecutive points.

Lakers 109, Hawks 98

Los Angeles, which lost 11 of 13 games prior to its road trip, won for the second straight time as Byron Scott scored 29 points and Sedale Threatt 21 at Atlanta.

The Lakers, who beat the New York Knicks Tuesday night when Threatt scored a career-high 42 points, pulled away in the final quarter for the Hawks sixth consecutive defeat.

Kevin Willis led the Hawks with 21 points and 19 rebounds, the 55th time this season he's been in double figures in both categories.

SuperSonics 104, Clippers 96

Seattle won at Los Angeles as Benoit Benjamin scored eight of his 18 points during a 12-4 fourth-quarter burst that snapped a 74-74 tie.

The SuperSonics extended the lead to 93-81 with five minutes left as the Clippers went cold from the floor, scoring just seven points in the first seven minutes of the quarter.

76ers 111, Pacers 93

At Philadelphia, the 76ers held Indiana to its lowest point total of the season behind Armon Gilliam's 21 points and 14 rebounds.

It was the first time the 76ers scored more than 100 points in four games, and the first time since Jan. 20 that the Pacers were held under 100. Their previous low was 96 points on Nov. 8 against Portland.

Philadelphia opened a 36-23 lead at the end of the first period, led by Charles Barkley's 11 points and helped by nine Indiana turnovers.

Hornets 120, Mavericks 105

Charlotte won its seventh road game in 30 tries this season as Kendall Gill scored 26 points and Larry Johnson had 24 points and 18 rebounds at Dallas, handing the Mavericks their seventh consecutive loss.

Johnson, who played high school basketball in Dallas, was playing in front of 150 family members and friends.