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1980 NBA Season – New Era

July 12, 2013

magic-and-bird-II

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had high expectations in 1980 *photo courtesy of dougmerlino

With the high success rate of the 1979 National Championship Game in the ratings between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird (and everybody else on Michigan State and Indiana State.. but they don’t matter in this case), the NBA was hoping to capitalize and have these stars lead them into a new era.

They would, of course, but it would still take a few years to get rid of the tape-delayed playoff games and non-nationally televised games during the week, even in the playoffs.  But it was a start.  And it all started on October 12, 1979 when the NBA season kicked off.  Larry Bird had 14 points as the Celtics defeated the Rockets 114-106 in a game in which Celtic veteran guard Chris Ford made the first three-point shot in NBA history.  In the nightcap on CBS, Magic and the Lakers opened in San Diego versus the Clippers.

October 12, 1979 – Los Angeles Lakers 103 @San Diego Clippers 102

The Clippers had made a big splash in the off-season as they signed free agent Bill Walton to his hometown team.  Walton would join what looked to be an up-and-coming Clippers team with players like Lloyd Free, Brian Taylor, and Freeman Williams.  But Walton was out for this game with the recurring of foot injuries.  Walton would only appear in 14 games this season and would not appear again until 1982-83 as he went to Law School at Stanford while his basketball career seemed over.

Even with Bill out, the Clippers still had Swen Nater who was a pretty good center and had an effective game versus Kareem in this one.  After an Abdul-Jabbar three-point play, the Clippers went on an 8-0 run capped by Nater’s jump hook in the lane.  The other points in that run came from Free and Taylor.  After Norm Nixon found Kareem for a slam, Magic got his first NBA points when he split a pair of free throws.

Magic didn’t get off to a sterling start in his first stint as he had missed a layup and looked a bit jittery.  He would go out of the game for Ron Boone and the Lakers looked more cohesive like they had played together.  But in his 2nd stint, Magic played better and added a more dynamic dimension to the Lakers attack.  Boone would be traded 13 days later to Utah for a 1981 third-round pick.

Despite the Lakers looking a little more cohesive when Magic went out, their shooting was poor and the Clippers took advantage.  Free hit his 6th point on a pull-up  from the free throw line and then Nater made a great baseline spin move versus Kareem and slammed one down to give the Clippers a 12-6 lead.  Free’s fast break layup plus one gave the Clippers a seven point lead.  After four straight Laker points, Freeman Williams immediately after coming into the game drove the lane and scored and then Joe Bryant came into the game and hit a jumper.  The Clippers had a 23-16 lead after the first.

The Clippers grabbed an 11-point lead early in the 2nd when Taylor kicked out to Williams for a jumper and then UCLA veteran Sidney Wicks (one of several UCLA alums in this game) followed up a miss on the break.  The teams went back and forth before Free kicked off a 6-0 run with a wing jumper from just inside the three-point line.  Free also capped the run with a fast-break slam after a Wicks steal and it was 42-27.  Free had 18 points at that point.  At around this time, Magic came back in.  His first field goal in the NBA was a layup on a cut and a Kareem assist.  Then Magic on the next possession kicked off what would eventually be known as Showtime as he dribbled behind-the-back on the break to get away from a defender and found Wilkes for a layup.  Then a few minutes later with the Clippers maintaining their 11-point lead, Magic dished to Kareem for a dunk and then got a layup after a steal.  Wilkes capped the 6-0 run with a wing jumper before Bryant scored a field goal.  Then on the next Clippers miss, Magic rebounded and went coast-to-coast for a three-point play.  The score was 50-46 at that point and 52-48 Clippers at the half.

After Nater started the 2nd half with a free throw line jumper to give the Clippers a 6-point lead, Norm Nixon hit from the right wing, Kareem found the newest Laker Spencer Haywood for a slam (Haywood and Jim Chones were technically the newest Lakers other than Magic), and then Magic tied the game with a hook in the middle of the lane.  Free stymied the run with a jumper and Taylor then went coast-to-coast.  The Clippers eventually took a 68-62 lead on Free’s 28th point.  But the Lakers tied it at 70 as Haywood tipped in Magic’s missed free throw.  Williams then hit a corner jumper for his 10th point followed by Kareem’s hook in the middle of the lane.  The Lakers then took the lead for the first time since 3-2 when Magic went behind-the-back and finished.  But not to be out-done at the moment, Joe Bryant proved to people looking back at this game that he was in fact Kobe’s dad on the next play.  Bryant drove baseline, jumped in the air skying over a standing Kareem, twisted in the air and reached to the basket to slam one down.  This play gave the Clippers momentum as Free finished the quarter by hitting a driving banker and then a turnaround jumper in the middle of the lane while Boone fouled him.  The three-point play gave the Clippers a 79-74 lead heading into the 4th.

The teams went back-and-forth the start the final quarter.  Laker reserve Jim Chones came in and found Magic for a breakaway and then hit a jumper from the corner and it was 87-85.  Then Nater hit a cutting Taylor for a layup and Big Swen followed it up with a fade-away from the post.  Free capped the run with a jumper over Nixon.  After the Lakers cut it to 95-91, Free took an inbounds pass and hit a tough fade-away banker from the wing just inside the three-point line while being fouled.  Free’s three-point play gave him 44 points on a career high 17 field goals.  Magic then hit three free throws in a row but missed the 4th shot.  The Lakers rebounded the miss and Magic missed a jumper from the free throw line.  Kareem tipped in the miss and it was 98-96 San Diego.  On the Lakers next possession, Kareem pump faked, hit a layup and was fouled.  The free throw gave the Lakers the lead with his 25th point.

Williams came back with two free throws with 52 seconds left and it was 100-99 Clippers.  At 36 seconds, Kareem’s hook from the right baseline went in-and-out.  Wicks rebounded the miss and the Lakers pressed.  San Diego broke it when Free finished against Kareem for a 102-99 lead with 24 seconds left.  The Lakers ran it back down and Magic’s corner shot was in-and-out but Kareem tipped in the miss with 16 seconds left.  The Clippers called timeout and then inbounded and moved the ball around while the Lakers didn’t foul.  A young Laker guard by the name of Michael Cooper appeared in the game for the first time on this defensive stand and forced Freeman Williams to dribble it off his foot out-of-bounds with two seconds left.

After a Lakers timeout, I’m sure you’ve heard Brent Musburger’s call of the final play.  “FORD SEND IT TO KAREEM! SKY HOOK UP AND GOOD! LAKERS WIN! SCORE IT! KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR HAS JUST GIVEN THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS THE VICTORY! AND MAGIC JOHNSON IS OUT THERE CELEBRATING LIKE THEY JUST WON THE N-C-DOUBLE-A CHAMPIONSHIP!”  To explain the play, Don Ford (who would be traded mid-season along with a 1980 1st round draft pick to Cleveland for Butch Lee and the 1982 1st round pick which ended up being James Worthy) inbounded to Kareem who was just beyond the left elbow area.  Abdul-Jabbar turned and threw in a long sky hook at the buzzer and the jubilation of the winning play excited Magic Johnson who jumped into Kareem’s arms and hugged him like he was celebrating a championship.  It was reported that Kareem told Magic to calm down because they had 81 more games to play, but the exuberance of Magic helped ignite Kareem and the Lakers like they hadn’t been ignited in 5 years.

Meanwhile, the Clippers would finish at 35-47 (three games out of the playoffs) and Free would be traded to Golden State for Phil Smith.  The Clippers would not make the playoffs in any of their six seasons in San Diego.

Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (19) – Small Forward

Spencer Haywood (12) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (29) – Center

Magic Johnson (26) – Point Guard

Norm Nixon (3) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Jim Chones (6)

Michael Cooper (0)

Ron Boone (6)

Don Ford (2)

Los Angeles Coach: Jack McKinney (who would be sidelined for the year after a freakish bicycle accident after a 10-4 Lakers start and replaced by Paul Westhead)

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San Diego starters (points scored)

Nick Weatherspoon (2) – Small Forward

Sidney Wicks (6) – Power Forward

Swen Nater (12) – Center

Brian Taylor (8) – Point Guard

Lloyd Free (46) – Shooting Guard

San Diego bench (points scored)

Freeman Williams (16)

Joe Bryant (10)

Jerome Whitehead (2)

San Diego Coach: Gene Shue

January 13, 1980 – Los Angeles Lakers 100 @Boston Celtics 98

This wasn’t the first matchup between Magic and Larry in the NBA (The Lakers beat Boston at the Forum 123-105 on December 28; Bird had 16, Magic had 23), but this was a CBS Sunday showcase that got them their highest ratings of the regular season.  However, the matchup itself between the rookie stars would not be even as Magic was slowed by a bruised groin muscle.  The Lakers had more than enough though and Kareem started the game with a hook but the Celtics kicked off an impressive half with Bird came off a screen to the left wing and hit a jumper.

The Celtics had finished 29-53 in 1979 but had been re-vitalized by the presence of Bird as well as the renaissance of Dave Cowens and Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald.  Cowens had not had his zest for the game since the 1976 championship but was playing better as a 2nd or 3rd option as his career was winding down.  Cowens would in fact retire after training camp for the 1981 season and would return briefly with the Bucks in 1982.  Archibald had torn his achilles in the 1977 season and missed the entire 1978 season.  The Celtics had acquired him in a trade before the 1979 season but he had struggled to come back averaging 11 points and 4 assists.  In 1980, he was starting to feel like himself again.  Bill Fitch had been brought in from Cleveland to coach the team and his disciplined style had helped.  The Celtics had young Cedric Maxwell in the fold and were getting contributions from two former Pistons as shooting guard Chris Ford emerged as the three-point ace and 6th man M.L. Carr averaged 11 ppg to help the Celtics cause.

The Celtics had a 32-10 record coming into this game for the best record in the league.  After Bird’s jumper, Archibald hit a pull-up jumper and then another on a Cowens kickout.  Boston took a 9-4 lead when Bird took Cowens’ pass just inside the right elbow and in one motion hit a jumper.  Then Archibald found Ford for a layup on the break.  After Wilkes scored on an offensive rebound, Bird drove baseline and hit a runner and then Tiny found Maxwell on the break for a tough finish and it was 15-6 Boston and timeout L.A.  Immediately after the timeout, Nixon went coast-to-coast for a three-point play and then Magic found Wilkes on the break.  Then Cowens got going, he hit a jumper on a Ford assist.  Then Tiny found him for a hook and another running hook by Dave gave the Celtics a 23-13 lead.  Kareem responded with a hook after a spin move and then Chones hit a banker on a Michael Cooper assist.  But Boston kept attacking.  After a Kareem turnaround jumper from the post cut the lead to 26-19, Tiny ran the ball right back down court and found Carr for a layup against Kareem.  Abdul-Jabbar hit another hook but then ball movement found an open Cowens for a jumper and then Tiny hit Dave for a pull-up.  The 1st quarter ended with a stop-and-go layup by Archibald and the Celtics were up 34-21 and the crowd was loving it.

Magic split a pair of free throws to begin the 2nd quarter.  This is significant because that was Magic’s only point of the game.  The Celtics lead seesawed between 12 and 14 for the next few minutes.  Rookie Gerald Henderson hit some key shots off the bench for the Celtics.  Another reserve Rick Robey also contributed, highlighted by a slam through a Kareem block.  There were a lot of layups on both sides in this period and there was lots of hustle too.  The hustle was highlighted by Cooper getting a steal and diving into the stands.  Cooper would be down on the court while his team continued play but Michael only ended up having a cut over his eye.  Meanwhile, Bird made all of his 6 field goal attempts in the first half, most of which were baseline jumpers off screens.  A Lakers 9-0 run concluded by Kareem getting a block and then Nixon finding Wilkes on the break cut the lead to seven.  The Celtics scored 6 of the game’s next 8 points before the Lakers applied some lightning at the halftime buzzer.  Cooper took a long pass and hit a long shot with his foot on the three-point line to cut the lead to 62-51.

The Celtics started the 2nd half well as Maxwell hit a free throw and Cowens a jump hook after an up-and-under move.  Then they responded to a Kareem hook with Cowens finding Ford for a jumper.  That would be their last scoring for awhile.  Wilkes hit a pull-up jumper on the break and then followed his own miss.  Kareem hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline and then a sky hook.  Wilkes assisted on a Chones jumper and then after Bird’s first miss of the game hit another pull-up jumper.  Nixon hit two free throws and then Chones hit back-to-back field goals (the 2nd one resulted in a three-point play).  A Wilkes corner jumper concluded a 21-0 Lakers run and they led 74-67.  Archibald officially broke it with a driving runner and then he found Robety for a layup on the break.  Kareem hit a free throw and Wilkes found Nixon who found Chones for a layup on the break after a defensive rebound.  Ford hit a big three-pointer with 5 seconds left in the third to cut L.A’s lead to 77-74.

After Wilkes found Haywood for a slam on the break, the Celtics regained their first half momentum for a second with a 6-0 run.  Carr and Ford hit driving layups and then Cowens hit a left-handed runner on the break (he was left-handed, remember).  The teams went back-and-forth until a Henderson jumper tied the game at 87.  Kareem hit a jumper after a Cooper steal and then Haywood hit a jumper on the break for a four point Laker lead.  Boston came right back as Bird drove baseline after faking a three and finished with a runner.  Then Tiny found Maxwell for a slam on the break and we were tied again.  Los Angeles then spurted as Kareem came across the lane for a hook.  Then Nixon hit a free throw after a Fitch technical and Kareem hit two more free throws.  Then Nixon found Wilkes in the corner for a jumper and Boston called their last time out with 2:12 left, down 98-91.  Tiny penetrated and found Cowens for a layup and then Archibald split a pair of free throws.  Los Angeles got a break on their next possession despite them committing a 24-second violation.  Just before the clock expired, Boston had a steal and a breakaway but the ball had to be taken out of bounds because the clock expired.  As it was, it only took 8 seconds for Archibald to find Cowens for a basket.  It was 98-96 with 51 seconds left.  The Lakers ran down the shot clock but Kareem’s sky hook was in-and-out.  Bird rebounded and led the break.  He found Maxwell at the wing who drove in and finished in traffic to tie the game with 21 seconds left.

The Lakers ran down the clock and Nixon drove in.  As he went up to shoot, Archibald reached in and fouled him.  Nixon hit two free throws with 3 seconds left and it was 100-98.  The Celtics, out of timeouts, threw a long pass to Cowens who missed a long two from the left wing at the buzzer.  Larry Bird still had not beaten Magic Johnson.

Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (21) – Small Forward

Spencer Haywood (10) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33) – Center

Magic Johnson (1) – Point Guard

Norm Nixon (11) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Jim Chones (15)

Michael Cooper (9)

Don Ford (0)

Los Angeles Coach: Paul Westhead

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Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (14) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (13) – Power Forward

Dave Cowens (22) – Center

Nate Archibald (13) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (11) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Rick Robey (7)

M.L. Carr (8)

Gerald Henderson (8)

Jeff Judkins (0)

Don Chaney (2)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

January 20, 1980 – Seattle Sonics 108 @Boston Celtics 106 (2ot)

There may have been games earlier in this first season with the three-point line where it became a factor between winning and losing, but this has to be one of the first.  World Champion Seattle (returning virtually the same team) and Boston came into this game with the two best records in the league.  Seattle was 35-13 and Boston 34-11.  This game got off to a slow start, however, and it continued throughout the first half.

Lonnie Shelton got off to a great start for the champs, scoring 8 points in the first quarter.  A 6-0 Seattle run put them up 20-14.  But then Bird got a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast and then on the next possession he found Chris Ford with a great pass for a layup.  A Dave Cowens wing jumper tied it but Gus Williams hit a shot in the lane with 2 seconds left in the quarter and it was 22-20 Seattle going into the 2nd.  Williams scored two quick field goals for 12 points and Freddie Brown’s wing jumper put the Sonics up 28-21 as Boston looked like a much different team from the first half against L.A. a week earlier.  The Celtics did get back in the game but neither team really got any momentum going.  Seattle took a 42-39 halftime lead on two Dennis Johnson free throws.  Seattle had shot 39% in the first half while Boston shot 37%.

The scoring picked up a bit in the 2nd half but it was slow developing.  A Cowens rolling hook in the lane tied the game at 47.  Then Jack Sikma got going as he hit from the post for his first two points of the game.  But Chris Ford also got going as he hit the first of his 5 threes from the corner on a Tiny Archibald kickout to give Boston a 52-49 lead.  Sikma responded with a put-back.  Ford then drove in for a layup but Seattle threw a long inbounds pass to a streaking Dennis Johnson (D.J.) who made a layup while Cowens fouled him. This was Cowens’ 4th foul.  The three-point play tied the game but Boston countered as Bird found Cedric Maxwell with a long pass for a slam.  But Sikma hit again from the post to start a run.  Williams got a breakaway layup and Sikma hit a baseline jumper.  Seattle took a 64-58 lead on another Sikma jumper, this time from the left wing.  A right wing jumper from Sikma put Seattle up 68-60.  The Sonics were up 70-62 after three.

The Celtics had a good start to the fourth as Gerald Henderson found M.L. Carr who found Bird for a layup on a 3-on-1 break.  But a Sikma baseline fadeaway put Seattle up 76-68.  The momentum was about to change with the NBA’s new weapon.  First, Archibald hit a driving layup versus D.J. and then Ford hit a three from the right corner.  After two Fred Brown free throws, Ford hit another three, this time from the left wing as the crowd went crazy.  Carr’s jumper from the top of the key tied it at 78 and the battle was on.  Seattle punched and Boston counter-punched until the game was tied at 84 with under a minute left.  Sikma missed a shot with 35 seconds left and Boston had a chance to lead for the first time since the third quarter.  Tiny Archibald penetrated on the right side as Cowens set a pick and stepped out.  Tiny found Cowens and Dave hit an elbow jumper with 13 seconds left to put Boston up 86-84.  Seattle went one-on-one with Williams against Archibald.  Gus pump faked Tiny in the air and seemed to have a clear shot from just inside the free throw line but Tiny got a piece of it from behind.  There was a loose ball scramble that culminated in Shelton fouling Bird with 3 seconds left.  Shelton fouled out on this play.  For a fan like myself looking back, Bird going to the line seemed a cinch to put the game away.  But he was only a rookie at the time.  He missed the first but made the second and it was 87-84 and unlike previous NBA seasons, Seattle had a chance.

John Johnson inbounded at half court and Dennis Johnson broke open on the other side of the court.  J.J. threw a cross-court looping pass to D.J. who raised up and nailed a three at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.  There was a sense of ‘WOW’ from that situation which tells you how new the three-point line was.

But the game continued and the Celtics were the team that took most advantage of that three-point line the first season.  The first score of overtime came when Cowens got the ball at the left elbow.  Tiny cut around Dave’s screen and got the ball for a layup.  But Seattle came back and Williams fade-away over Tiny put the Sonics up 93-91.  Then later, Bird got the ball ahead to Archibald on the break.  Tiny lost the ball but a hustling Ford recovered for a layup and a foul.  This put the Celtics up one and then they went to their press.  Just across half court, Cowens deflected the ball off of J.J. for a turnover with 59 seconds left.  Cowens missed a runner though and Tiny fouled Williams with 31 seconds left.  Gus made two free throws and it was 95-94 Seattle.  After a Boston timeout, Bird found a wide open Ford in three-point territory at the right wing.  Ford raised up and nailed it with 17 seconds left and Boston was up two.  But this time, Williams hit a fade-away jumper over Tiny from the right elbow and it was tied with 11 seconds left.  Boston didn’t get a good shot and Ford air-balled a long desperation three at the buzzer.

Seattle continued its momentum in the 2nd overtime as Williams hit two free throws after being fouled on an offensive rebound.  Then  Sikma found D.J. with a behind-the-back pass from the post for a layup.  Archibald responded with a tough high-arcing layup in traffic and the Celtics had a chance to tie.  But Seattle stole the ball and Williams finished on the break against Cowens.  Tiny responded with a tough shot in the lane while being knocked down.  Then a former Celtic on the Sonics made some big plays (and no it wasn’t D.J.. he was a future Celtic at the time).  It was 36-year-old Paul Silas who was in his last season and wearing number 36.  Paul scored on an offensive rebound and then got fouled on another offensive rebound a possession later.  He hit 1-of-2 free throws for a 106-101 Sonics lead.  Bird hit a long two after a fake and then the Celtics had a chance to tie it but Ford missed a three.  With 35 seconds left, Sikma got a baseline fade-away jumper over Cowens to roll in and it was 108-103 Sonics and a Seattle steal 7 seconds later sealed the game.

Boston ended up finishing with the best record in the league at 61-21 (a 32-game turnaround from the previous year) but would lose to Philly in 5 games in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Meanwhile, Seattle finished 56-26 but were 4 games behind the Lakers in their division.  So the Sonics had to play a first round best-of-3 series (or mini-series, if you prefer) against Portland.

Seattle starters (points scored)

John Johnson (10) – Small Forward

Lonnie Shelton (14) – Power Forward

Jack Sikma (16) – Center

Gus Williams (29) – Point Guard

Dennis Johnson (20) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Fred Brown (12)

Tom LaGarde (2)

Wally Walker (0)

Paul Silas (5)

Seattle Coach: Lenny Wilkens

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Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (15) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (13) – Power Forward

Dave Cowens (16) – Center

Nate Archibald (19) – Point Guard

Chris Ford (26) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Rick Robey (4)

M.L. Carr (9)

Gerald Henderson (4)

Don Chaney (0)

Boston Coach: Bill Fitch

February 3, 1980 – NBA All-Star Game at Landover: East 144, West 136 (OT)

For this All-Star Game on the Bullets home court, Magic Johnson became the first rookie starter since Elvin Hayes in 1969.  Hayes was in this All-Star Game as well in front of his home fans.  Other rookies were obviously Larry Bird and not as obviously Bill Cartwright coming off the bench for the East.

Magic got two early layups as Kareem showed his passing skills from the post.  The East’s starting back court of George Gervin and Eddie Johnson got them going.  Each made a field goal and then Gervin found Eddie with a long pass for a layup.  Adrian Dantley, breaking out in his first season with the Jazz, got off to a good start as well.  He had 6 early points and forced Dr. J to bench with 3 early fouls.  Gervin hit a pull-up jumper for his 8th point to give the East a 17-15 lead.  Magic then found Kareem with a no-look pass for a slam.  The teams went back-and-forth before Gervin hit another pull-up for his 13th point and it was 28-25 East.  Then Dennis Johnson came in and sparked the West along with Walter Davis.  D.J. and Davis each made two free throws and then D.J. went coast-to-coast after a Paul Westphal steal.  D.J. then followed with a pull-up, Davis got a basket on a Cartwright goaltend and then D.J. hit a jumper from the corner to end the period.  The West was up 37-28 and on a 12-0 run.

The run continued as Westphal hit a pull-up jumper.  But then a Cartwright fade-away from the post ended it.  Dan Roundfield sparked the East off the bench.  His baseline drive and reverse layup and one cut the lead to 42-35.  Dantley then scored a jumper and finished a 3-on-1 break on a Westphal assist.  Westphal then found Adrian again on a cut after the East answered with a Michael Ray Richardson fade-away.  At around this time, Larry Bird saw his first action to a rousing ovation from the crowd.  Larry, on the break, found Gervin with a behind-the-back pass.  Iceman’s shot was blocked though but Bird followed it up.  With the West still up nine at 52-43, Roundfield’s spark continued.  He hit a layup and then got a three-point play on an offensive rebound on the next possession.  The lead was cut to four.  Hayes got the crowd going with a few jumpers as the teams went back-and-forth for the rest of the half.  A Roundfield offensive rebound and reverse layup tied the game at 64 at the half.  It was Roundfield’s 11th point of the quarter.

The back-and-forth trend continued in the third.  A Kermit Washington tip-in cut the East’s lead to 78-77.  Hayes then hit two free throws and Gervin got his 25th point on a double-pump banker.  Then Dr. J (with 4 fouls in an All-Star Game) hit an up-and-under reverse from the baseline and was fouled.  Erving followed up that free throw with two more.  Then the East got out on the break again with Gervin finishing with a windmill dunk.  D.J. finally broke the run with a banker in the lane.  But then Cartwright hit a jump hook, Eddie Johnson glided down the lane for an underhanded layup and Dr. J found the Iceman on a 3-on-1 break for a three-point play.  The score was suddenly 98-79.  The West didn’t let the lead go for more than that but still trailed 108-91 at the end of the quarter on an Eddie Johnson banker at the buzzer.

Soon to be known as World B. Free (who started in this game but this ended up being his first and last All-Star Game) and Jack Sikma each hit back-to-back field goals and then Kareem found Dantley for a layup and the score was 112-102.  Kareem had 9 assists in this game.. by the way.  Free then had a strong finish on the break versus Roundfield and Sikma tipped in a miss.  Eventually, Dantley’s running hook cut the lead to 115-112.  The points then went back-and-forth until a D.J. breakaway layup cut the lead to 119-118.  Then Kareem committed his 5th foul and Moses Malone hit 1-of-2 free throws.  Westphal then tied the game on a driving layup.  Westphal had a chance to give the East the lead but Hayes blocked his breakaway layup and hit an elbow jumper at the other end as the crowd went bonker-nuts.  The East eventually took a four point lead as Hayes found Erving for a cutting layup.  But then Westphal hit a running banker for his 17th point and then a Davis steal and reverse layup tied the game at 126 with 1:00 left.  With 26 seconds left, Bird found Moses for a slam but the West countered as Magic found Westphal for a wing jumper with 17 seconds left.  The East worked the ball and Larry Bird, of all people, was open at the top of the key.  But Larry was short at the buzzer (like missing that free throw against Seattle in my previous game account, it’s startling to look back and see Bird miss that wide open of a shot at the buzzer).

The overtime started back-and-forth.  Bird’s long two from the corner with 2:00 left put the East up 136-134 but Magic responded with a driving layup in the lane.  But then Bird threw a dagger with a three from the left corner.  Then Malone found Eddie Johnson for a layup on a 2-on-1 break.  Kareem was short on a sky hook and Malone grabbed a tough rebound in traffic (what else is new?) and was fouled.  Malone hit 1-of-2 and finished with a double-double (again, what else is new?).  The final play was another brilliant one by Larry Bird.  On an East miss and an offensive rebound scramble, the ball came to Bird and in one motion he touch passed to Gervin for a layup.  Iceman won the MVP and for the first time, Larry’s team had defeated Magic’s team.

West starters (teams) and point totals

Marques Johnson (Milwaukee Bucks) 4 – Small Forward

Adrian Dantley (Utah Jazz) 23 – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers) 17 – Center

Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers) 12 – Point Guard

Lloyd Free (San Diego Clippers) 14 – Shooting Guard

West bench (teams) and point toals

Jack Sikma (Seattle Sonics) 8

Paul Westphal (Phoenix Suns) 21

Walter Davis (Phoenix Suns) 12

Dennis Johnson (Seattle Sonics) 19

Kermit Washington (Portland Blazers) 4

Otis Birdsong (Kansas City Kings) 2

West Coach: Lenny Wilkens (Seattle Sonics)

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East starters (teams) and point totals

John Drew (Atlanta Hawks) 4 – Small Forward

Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers) 11 – Power Forward

Moses Malone (Houston Rockets) 20 – Center

Eddie Johnson (Atlanta Hawks) 22 – Point Guard

George Gervin (San Antonio Spurs) 34 – Shooting Guard

East bench (teams) and point totals

Elvin Hayes (Washington Bullets) 12

Dan Roundfield (Atlanta Hawks) 18

Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) 7

Nate Archibald (Boston Celtics) 2

Bill Cartwright (New York Knicks) 8

Michael Ray Richardson (New York Knicks) 6

East Coach: Billy Cunningham (Philadelphia 76ers)

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George Gervin was named MVP of the 1980 All-Star Game *photo courtesy of nba.com

April 4, 1980 – West Quarterfinals, Game 2: Seattle Sonics 95 @Portland Blazers 105 (OT)

The Sonics had won Game 1 from Portland 120-110.  The Blazers were a much different team from the 1977 Championship.  Different in that only three players on that team were still on the roster in the 1980 playoffs.  Larry Steele played some games but knee injuries had ended his career.  Dave Twardzik was also sitting out this game after starting in Game 1 and was also in his last season.  Only Bob Gross, now coming off the bench, played in this game and the 1977 Championship team.

The Blazers had drafted Mychal Thompson and Ron Brewer with the 1st and 7th picks of the 1978 draft and Jim Paxson with the 12th pick in 1979.  Thompson would sit out the entire 1980 season with a stress fracture but he would be a factor for Portland later.  Portland acquired Kermit Washington, as well as others that wouldn’t play in the playoffs, as compensation for San Diego signing Bill Walton.  Portland had traded a disgruntled (over his contract) Maurice Lucas to New Jersey along with 2 first round picks on February 8, 1980 for rookie Calvin Natt.  A not as disgruntled but still not happy Lionel Hollins was traded to Philadelphia that same day for a first round pick.  Portland also had to go to the Continental Basketball Association for help, signing Billy Ray Bates from the Maine Lumberjacks.  Bates though would become a star in the playoffs.

Bates led the Blazers in Game 1 with 29 off the bench and he started in Game 2 in Twardzik’s place.  He made his first big play off the opening tap.  Seattle won the tip and D.J. (Dennis Johnson) found Gus Williams quickly for a layup, but Bates blocked it and knocked it off Seattle.  Ron Brewer followed with a baseline drive.  But despite that first block, Williams was effective in the first quarter and got Seattle off to a lead.  He scored 10 points including 6 of Seattle’s first 8 as the Sonics raced to an 8-2 advantage.  Brewer made another baseline jumper and Natt hit a jumper in the lane.  After D.J. went coast-to-coast, Bates hit a banker in the lane and Natt hit a pull-up jumper from the wing just inside the three-point line and the game was tied.  Seattle regained a five-point lead but Natt continued his great start with another long two pointer and a tip-in of a Paxson miss.  Seattle led by Williams’ 10 and D.J’s 8 had a 24-21 lead after the first quarter.

Seattle took a 33-23 lead in the 2nd as reserve Wally Walker got an offensive rebound and hit a fade-away in the lane while Gross fouled him.  But Portland came back as they were sparked by big Jim Brewer off the bench.  Brewer got most of the playing time for starting center Tom Owens, who committed his 4th foul in the 2nd quarter without contributing a rebound.  Ron Brewer and Natt also continued to keep Portland in the game while Seattle was finding each other for layups.  The highlight of that was Williams finding Freddie Brown on the break with a behind-the-back pass for a reverse layup.  Seattle ended the half up 50-47 as D.J. blocked Ron Brewer’s shot at the buzzer.

Portland finally took the lead at 55-54 on Bates’ driving breakaway layup.  But Lonnie Shelton responded with a layup on a Sikma assist.  After Natt tied the game by splitting a pair of free throws for his 18th point, nobody took more than a two point lead (minus Portland taking a 74-70 lead late in the quarter) as the two Northwest teams battled to a 74-74 tie at the end of the third.  While Seattle kept finding teammates for layups, Natt, Ron Brewer and Bates kept the Blazers going by hitting jumpers.  Natt finished the quarter with 24 points while D.J. paced Seattle with 22, including the last four points to tie of the quarter the game.

As offensive as the first three quarters were, defense ruled the fourth as Portland was trying to avoid their season ending.  It was a minute and a half into the quarter before a Williams steal and layup produced the first points of the quarter.  Ron Brewer then hit a jumper from the left corner.  Then Seattle’s reserve big man Tom LaGarde hit a banker in the lane and Williams found Paul Silas for a layup.  Tom Owens tipped in a miss for his 1st rebound of the game but he committed his 5th foul soon after.  Then Sikma found Brown backdoor for a reverse layup and then Brown found Sikma at the elbow, who then found Brown again for a jumper as Freddie cut to the corner.  The score was 84-78.  Seattle had 6 chances to increase that lead, including 3 on one possession in which the Blazers committed two fouls, including Owens’ 6th.  Owens finished with 2 rebounds.  But Seattle came up empty on that possession as D.J. committed an offensive foul.  Bates finally broke Portland’s ice with a runner from the baseline.  Sikma responded with a field goal but Bates found Ron Brewer in the corner for a jumper.  After a Sikma free throw, Brewer hit another floater and it was 87-84.

Natt then hit two free throws and the Blazers had a chance for the lead after a Sikma miss, but Ron Brewer was called for palming with 49 seconds left (chance of seeing a palming call in the last minute today – none… chance of seeing a palming call at all today – none).  However, Portland forced a jump ball with 34 seconds left and on the tip, Natt out-raced John Johnson and got the foul called on J.J. with 31 seconds left.  Natt hit 1-of-2 and the game was tied at 87.  Seattle didn’t call time and Williams came off a Sikma screen and hit a let wing jumper with 16 seconds left.  Portland did call time.  Bates found Natt at the wing who was covered so Bates cut around Natt, got the ball and hit a fade-away jumper from the baseline over Silas to tie the game with 5 seconds left.  After a Seattle timeout, Sikma got the ball and drove baseline but missed a short shot at the buzzer and we had overtime.

In the first Portland possession of overtime, Sikma had a defensive rebound but lost the ball.  It was recovered by Jim Brewer right at the rim for a layup.  That was a poetic sign with how things went.  Sikma missed a baseline jumper at the other end and Bates rebounded and took it coast-to-coast and was fouled.  He made both free throws.  After Shelton made a turn-around jumper on an offensive rebound, Ron Brewer made a turn-around jumper from the right elbow.  Then Washington stole the ball from Williams and Kermit was fouled at the end of a 3-on-1 break.  He made two free throws with 2:16 left and it was 97-91 Portland.  Then Kermit blocked a John Johnson shot to start a Blazer fast break in which Bates finished with a two-hand slam.  Then Seattle threw a long pass to D.J. but Washington again blocked it out of bounds as the crowd went crazy.  D.J. made a baseline jumper at 1:44 but Portland broke Seattle’s press and Ron Brewer finished at the other end with a runner.  Then after D.J. missed a three, Bates took it coast-to-coast for a 103-93 Blazer lead.  D.J. again raced back down court but committed an offensive foul that fouled him out and effectively ended the game.

Seattle came back to win the all-or-nothing Game 3 easily at home, 103-86 and would face off with the Midwest Division Champion Milwaukee Bucks, who had finished with 7 less wins than Seattle but didn’t play a mini-series because they had won the division.  Seattle would get home court advantage though.  So a 7th game between the two teams was at Seattle Center Coliseum instead of Milwaukee Arena.

Seattle starters (points scored)

John Johnson (2) – Small Forward

Lonnie Shelton (12) – Power Forward

Jack Sikma (20) – Center

Gus Williams (20) – Point Guard

Dennis Johnson (24) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Fred Brown (6)

Tom LaGarde (2)

Wally Walker (7)

James Bailey (0)

Paul Silas (2)

Seattle Coach: Lenny Wilkens

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Portland starters (points scored)

Calvin Natt (27) – Small Forward

Kermit Washington (5) – Power Forward

Tom Owens (6) – Center

Billy Ray Bates (20) – Point Guard

Ron Brewer (27) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Bob Gross (4)

T.R. Dunn (6)

Jim Paxson (0)

Jim Brewer (10)

Portland Coach: Jack Ramsay

April 11, 1980 – West Semifinals, Game 3: Los Angeles Lakers 108 @Phoenix Suns 105

In 1980, the Phoenix Suns won a then-franchise record 55 games.  Unfortunately, they finished 3rd in their division and were the 4th seed.  So not only did they have to play the top-seeded Lakers in round 2 after defeating Kansas City 2-1 in the mini-series, they had lost Truck Robinson to a knee injury in that KC series.  He wouldn’t return until Game 5.  This couldn’t have helped them in losing the first two games of this series in LA.  But they were coming home to Phoenix where the Lakers had not defeated them since March 26, 1977.

Kareem started the scoring with a turn-around jumper from the baseline but Walter Davis responded with a corner jumper.  Jamaal Wilkes then hit a fade-away coming across the lane but Paul Westphal hit a corner jumper on a Davis assist.  The Lakers eventually took a seven point lead in the first quarter after a Kareem sky hook across the lane.  A Davis pull-up jumper cut the lead to 18-13 and gave Walter 7 early points.  Then Westphal hit a pull-up in the lane on a 3-on-1.  Paul then found Don Buse for a corner jumper and the lead was back to 1.  But Kareem tipped in his own miss and reserve Mark Landsberger, who had been acquired at mid-season, hit a jumper from the free throw line.  The Lakers maintained that five-point lead until Suns reserve Mike Bratz hit a three from the top of the key as the first quarter buzzer went off.  Los Angeles led 26-24.

Phoenix rookie Jeff Cook sparked the Suns in the 2nd quarter with 7 points.  First he got a cutting layup on a Rich Kelley assist and then he got a three-point play on a driving layup.  Two free throws each from Cook and Bratz, who also gave the Suns a spark off their bench, but Phoenix up 6.  Later, two free throws from Kelley put the Suns up 43-35.  Magic came down and drove to the basket and was called for a charge.  Magic didn’t like the call and got himself a technical.  Phoenix maintained its lead for the half led by Walter Davis.  Their biggest lead was 52-41 after Davis got his 21st point on a Jim Chones goaltend.  Kareem went to 16 points after nailing a pair of free throws and Michael Cooper got a fast break slam over Davis.  But Walter responded with a driving banker from the left side.  After two more Kareem free throws, Davis hit an open jumper from the left corner.  He was open after Kareem had originally switched to him and blocked his first pass to the mismatch in the post.  But Walter eventually got it inside and Kareem went back to his man but nobody got back to Walter.  This was Davis’ 25th point of the first half.  Chones made a jumper from the free throw line with 4 seconds left in the half to cut Phoenix’s lead to 56-49 going into the break.

Alvan Adams hit two field goals for Phoenix early in the 3rd to maintain their nine-point lead but then the Lakers went on a 6-0 run capped with Norm Nixon hitting a pull-up jumper over Buse on the break.  But Phoenix came back as Davis found Buse for a layup on the break and Westphal found Adams with a lob pass.  The Suns eventually took a nine-point lead again when Westphal came off a screen and hit a jumper from the wing.  But Nixon pushed the ball right back at Phoenix and scored.  Westphal then got his 4th foul and Chones hit two free throws as a result.  Then Michael Cooper got going.  He hit a jumper from the right wing and then had a tip-in.  Then Nixon got a steal and Cooper was fouled hard by Bratz.  But he made two free throws to complete a 10-0 Laker run and a 6-0 Cooper run.  Los Angeles led 71-70.  But Davis found Kelley for a jumper and Bratz hit a three.  Kareem kicked out to Nixon for an elbow jumper.  Davis hit his first point of the 2nd half on a free throw and Magic hit two from the line.  Phoenix led 76-75 going into the 4th.

Bratz continued to be a factor for the Suns.  His spin move and layup put Phoenix up 84-79.  But then Phoenix went cold.  The Lakers scored the next 6 points to take the lead and continued.  Nixon found Spencer Haywood for a breakaway layup and then Nixon found Cooper who found Kareem for a slam on the break.  The Lakers had a chance to add on with another fast break but Nixon lost the ball.  Garfield Heard scored on a put-back at the other end to snap the Lakers 10-0 run.  After a Kareem sky hook from the baseline, Westphal came back down and hit a baseline fade-away jumper over Nixon.  Then Adams got a tip-in and it was 91-90 L.A.  Kareem got another layup after a spin move and Wilkes broke away on the break for another layup.  Westphal hit a pull-up from the left wing and then Kareem found Cooper for a cutting layup.  But Westphal kept coming with a runner from the baseline and then an assist to Alvin Scott.

Heard put Phoenix up 98-97 with two free throws.  But Magic found Kareem for a finger roll.  After Davis missed a double-pump shot at the end of the shot clock, Wilkes came back with a jumper and a three-point Los Angeles lead.  Phoenix had a few chances to cut it to one but Kareem snuffed out those chances with blocked shots.  But they had still another chance after Davis got a steal from Nixon and threw it ahead to Westphal who was coasting.  But Magic hustled back and got to the ball first for the steal.  He then dished to Kareem for a slam and a 103-98 Lakers lead.  After two more Heard free throws, Kareem hit a fade-away jumper from the baseline with 46 seconds to go.  The Suns wouldn’t go quietly.  Phoenix coach John MacLeod, as seen by CBS cameras, drew up a play for Davis to kick out to Bratz for three.  The play worked exactly as drawn up and the Suns had a chance to stop the Lakers and tie the game with a field goal.  But they couldn’t stop the Lakers.  Magic found Nixon for a free throw line jumper with 22 seconds left and a four-point Lakers lead.  Davis’ only field goal and third point of the 2nd half came with a put-back to make the Phoenix defeat margin closer.

Phoenix salvaged a blowout win over L.A. in Game 4 at home to stay alive but the Lakers closed them out in the Forum and now awaited either Seattle or Milwaukee.

Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (15) – Small Forward

Jim Chones (10) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (37) – Center

Magic Johnson (12) – Point Guard

Norm Nixon (12) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Spencer Haywood (6)

Michael Cooper (12)

Mark Landsberger (4)

Brad Holland (0)

Los Angeles Coach: Paul Westhead

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Phoenix starters (points scored)

Walter Davis (28) – Small Forward

Garfield Heard (10) – Power Forward

Alvan Adams (12) – Center

Paul Westphal (16) – Point Guard

Don Buse (4) – Shooting Guard

Phoenix bench (points scored)

Mike Bratz (16)

Rich Kelley (4)

Jeff Cook (9)

Johnny High (2)

Alvin Scott (4)

Phoenix Coach: John MacLeod

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screen shot of Lakers Suns from Game 3 at Phoenix’s old Veterans Memorial Coliseum *courtesy of Youtube

April 20, 1980 – West Semifinals, Game 7: Milwaukee Bucks 94 @Seattle Sonics 98

This Game 7 gets lost in history but what a Game 7 it was.  Both teams played hard at both ends of the floor and this was truly a game where everyone laid it all out on the line.

Milwaukee had come into the year as a good team with young stars that were drafted by Milwaukee like Marques Johnson and Quinn Buckner.  They also had two players that they acquired in the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar trade in 1975, Brian Winters and Dave Meyers.  But to try and put them over the top, Milwaukee executed a big mid-season trade.  The day after the All-Star Game, they sent their 1977 #1 pick Kent Benson and a 1st round pick to Detroit for Bob Lanier.  Lanier gave them a physical, intimidating presence and a veteran leader.  Furthermore, Lanier had only one playoff series victory with Detroit in his 10 years there.  He was hoping for more playoff success in Milwaukee.

Seattle took Game 1 at home on a Dennis Johnson three-pointer in overtime.  But after Milwaukee won Game 3 at home to take a 2-1 lead, the road team won the next three games.  This included Seattle surviving Game 6, 86-85.  Rookie leaper from Rutgers James Bailey had a big block on Lanier and Freddie Brown made the clinching shot from the top of the key.

So Milwaukee had to travel back to Seattle.  They had already won twice there and got off to a good start in Game 7 as Winters came off a screen, Buckner hit him with a pass and the sharp-shooter nailed a jumper on the first possession of the game.  But on the next Milwaukee possession, D.J. blocked Winters shot and Gus Williams took the ball down court and scored.  The Bucks ended up getting off to a 3-for-16 start from the field as they seemed to be super-hyped, missing layups and easy shots.  But Seattle really couldn’t take advantage of the Bucks slow start.  A three-point play by John Johnson put Seattle up 11-7 and then Williams hit a pull-up from the wing.  But Milwaukee finally settled down and stayed with Seattle.  Lanier and Marques Johnson got their first field goals and Milwaukee eventually cut it to 21-17.  Then Sikma hit J.J. in the left corner for a jumper and then a quick hitting Seattle fast break had J.J. finding D.J. who found Williams under the basket for a reverse.  But Milwaukee stayed in it and cut the lead to four on rookie Sidney Moncrief’s offensive rebound slam.  A Fred Brown leaner with 13 seconds left put Seattle up 31-25 after the first quarter.

Seattle got out on the break early in the 2nd quarter and took a 37-27 lead as Gus Williams had 13 points.  But then Milwaukee’s defense stepped up and got them back into the game.  Lanier hit a bank shot from the post and then blocked a shot at the other end.  Moncrief took the ball coast-to-coast for a driving layup.  Then Winters got a steal and layup as the action continued back-and-forth.  Both teams raced the ball down the next few possessions but couldn’t put it in the hole until Gus broke the Sonics ice on the break.  The teams then started to hit and it continued for the rest of the half.  Lonnie Shelton’s driving slam over Lanier put Seattle up 47-43 but then Lanier hit a jumper in the lane and Milwaukee reserve Richard Washington hit from the elbow to tie the game (and yes for you history buffs, if you’re scoring at home, Milwaukee did have the 1975 starting front-court of John Wooden and UCLA’s last National Championship.. Marques Johnson, Dave Meyers and Richard Washington.. this is the last time anybody could say that as Meyers would retire after the season to spend more time with a family and as a Jehovah’s Witness).

D.J. hit a high-arcing jumper from the baseline to put Seattle back up 49-47.  But then Winters answered with a three from the left wing with 31 seconds left in the half.  At 10 seconds, Sikma hit a jumper from the free throw line to put Seattle up by one at the half.  The action continued back and forth as Seattle was struggling from the free throw line.  They hit 5 of their first 11.  But a Williams stop-and-go reverse layup over Lanier put Seattle up 64-62.  Then Winters made three consecutive field goals to put Milwaukee up four.  They continued to be up four until James Bailey got a rebound slam with 20 seconds left in the third to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 72-70.  That would be the score going into the 4th.

Milwaukee got their footing first in the final quarter as Harvey Catchings hit a jumper from the elbow (for those of you who have seen Harvey Catchings and just said “Harvey Catchings made a jumper?!?!” ..yes, Harvey Catchings made a jumper.. the announcers were calling it a bonus).  Then Buckner got a steal and Moncrief a slam to put Milwaukee up six.  Fred Brown then hit a wing jumper.  Marques came back with a jumper from the free throw line.  Brown hit another jumper, this time from the corner on a Williams assist.  Then Marques came back with a spin move and then a pull-up banker.  But then Seattle charged back as Williams put back a Brown airball and then Freddie took the ball one-on-one and made a baseline leaner.  Seattle tied the game at 80 when Bailey’s jumper in the lane bounced in.  Milwaukee re-took an 85-84 lead when Marques went coast-to-coast after a Brown fade-away jumper from the baseline.  Seattle regained a three-point lead as D.J. and J.J. each hit a pair of free throws.  Then Moncrief hit a three-point play on a baseline drive.  With 3:52 left, the game was tied at 88.

Shelton then hit a layup against Lanier on a Williams assist.  At the other end, Moncrief missed two free throws.  Williams came back with a jumper from the left wing with 6 seconds on the shot clock.  Seattle was up four.  Marques came back with a driving layup, but Seattle again ran down the shot clock and this time D.J. made a jumper from the top of the key with 4 seconds remaining.  Milwaukee couldn’t score on their next possession but then Dave Meyers blocked a D.J. layup at 1:32 to keep the Bucks alive.  Winters missed a three and Shelton got a defensive rebound.  But he was called for an offensive foul as he swung the elbow at defenders surrounding him.  Milwaukee had the ball back at 1:15.  Five seconds later, Marques hit two free throws and it was 94-92 Seattle.  Sikma missed from the post at 49 seconds but the ball was back-tapped to Shelton who controlled it.  But D.J. missed a layup at 34 seconds and this time Milwaukee got the rebound.  Meyers tried to take it coast-to-coast but he ran into Shelton and lost the ball.  No foul either way.  Williams hit two free throws at 16 seconds and then hit the clinching free throws at 4 seconds after a Lanier field goal.  After Seattle had started 5-of-11, they finished the game with 13 straight makes.

Milwaukee would be in the playoff hunt throughout the 1980’s (even without Dave Meyers).  The Bucks would switch to the Eastern Conference for 1981 and this may have hurt them as they won 60 games and would have been the top seed in the West that season.  Instead they were third in the East.  This would be a theme as 1980 would be the first of 7 consecutive division titles for the Bucks, but in the East they could never get past both Philadelphia and Boston in the same playoffs.

Meanwhile for Seattle, their title defense continued versus the Lakers.

Milwaukee starters (points scored)

Marques Johnson (22) – Small Forward

Dave Meyers (6) – Power Forward

Bob Lanier (19) – Center

Quinn Buckner (3) – Point Guard

Brian Winters (19) – Shooting Guard

Milwaukee bench (points scored)

Sidney Moncrief (13)

Pat Cummings (2)

Richard Washington (8)

Harvey Catchings (2)

Milwaukee Coach: Don Nelson

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Seattle starters (points scored)

John Johnson (13) – Small Forward

Lonnie Shelton (15) – Power Forward

Jack Sikma (8) – Center

Gus Williams (33) – Point Guard

Dennis Johnson (8) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Fred Brown (14)

Tom LaGarde (0)

James Bailey (4)

Paul Silas (3)

Seattle Coach: Lenny Wilkens

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Meyers retired 10 days after Game 7 versus Seattle to become a Jehovah’s Witness *photo courtesy of Beckett Marketplace

April 30, 1980 – Western Finals, Game 5: Seattle Sonics 105 @Los Angeles Lakers 111

Seattle had stolen Game 1 from the Lakers in the Forum.  That was the Lakers’ first loss at home since the last day of February.  But Seattle dropped the next three (including Game 4 after having a 21-point lead at the University of Washington’s Edmondson Pavilion).  They were facing elimination in Game 5 back at the Forum.  But a road elimination game wasn’t new for the Sonics.  They had won Game 6 in Phoenix in the 1979 Western Conference Finals and Game 6 in Milwaukee in the 1980 Semifinals.  So there was a sense that if Seattle won this one, the advantage would be theirs.

L.A. took an early 8-4 lead when Kareem blocked a Dennis Johnson layup that started a 2-on-1 with Jamaal Wilkes getting fouled and hitting two free throws.  But Seattle came right back as D.J. hit a driving layup and then found John Johnson for another.  J.J. got another basket on a Jim Chones goaltend after Kareem made a sky hook and then Seattle took its first lead on a Lonnie Shelton layup.  The action kept back-and-forth and fast throughout the first period.  Seattle took a 32-30 lead at quarter’s end on a J.J. turn-around fade-away in the lane.

The action continued close for the beginning of the 2nd quarter.  When Magic finished himself on a 3-on-2 break, L.A. had a 40-37 lead.  On Seattle’s next possession, the Lakers scrambling defense forced the ball back to half court with the shot clock running out.  But D.J. pulled up and hit a long three to tie the game.  This buzzer beater gave Seattle their fire.  After Wilkes made a corner jumper, Sonics reserves Tom LaGarde and Paul Silas each made layups.  Then after Norm Nixon tied it with a jumper, Seattle’s key reserve Freddie Brown hit a three-point play with a hook in the lane.  Wally Walker (yet another Sonics reserve) hit a jumper and then Brown got another three-point play on the break.  Seattle then hit 3 free throws to counter one from L.A.  Then Brown hit a pull-up to make the score 57-45 Seattle.  And after Kareem split a pair of free throws, D.J. hit from the top of the key for the Sonics biggest lead.  Then the Lakers finally stopped looking lackadaisical.  Wilkes hit a driving three-point play and Michael Cooper found Kareem for a slam.  The teams traded three points for the rest of the half and Seattle led 62-54 at halftime.  It was found out in a later game that Kareem apparently gave his team a resounding halftime speech that resulted in some tears from the big guy.  He basically said that the Lakers needed to play with more fire because he wanted to close out Seattle as quickly as possible.

Kareem backed up his talk by coming out early in the 2nd half and hitting a runner in the lane and a sky hook to give him 20 points.  A J.J. elbow jumper had given Seattle a 10-point lead.  But Kareem’s two baskets sandwiched a Nixon jumper and the Lakers were within four.  Then L.A. personified how much more fight it had when they got three offensive rebounds on one possession before Chones hit (and Wilkes got poked in the eye on that possession and was out for several minutes – he would have to have his eye taped open).  The game was on from there and the teams would trade baskets.  Seattle though kept its lead and a D.J. layup on a J.J. assist put them up 81-76.  But then Kareem hit an underhand layup and Cooper hit a wing jumper on a Nixon assist.  Then with 5 seconds left in the quarter, Magic hit a runner off the glass to give L.A. the lead.  But then Seattle got the ball to D.J. who launched and nailed a half court shot at the buzzer.  If there was replay then (like there is now) the shot would have been clearly late.  But since the refs didn’t have replay, they counted it and Seattle led 84-82 going into the fourth.

Two free throws by Jack Sikma started the 4th quarter scoring and gave Sikma only his 4th point.  The Lakers response was a Kareem banker on an inside move and a Wilkes jumper after Nixon had swung the ball to him.  The teams traded two field goals before Kareem blocked a D.J. shot which started a break.  Cooper was fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws.  Then Sikma hit a jumper from the free throw line and Shelton hit from the post.  Magic then tipped an offensive rebound to Wilkes for a layup and then Jamaal hit a wing jumper on a Kareem kickout (again Wilkes was doing this with his eye taped open – otherwise it would have been swollen shut).  Seattle regained a 96-95 lead as Williams got a steal and Brown got a layup.  Nixon then found Cooper who touch passed it to Kareem for a slam.  Sikma made two free throws after a Seattle timeout.  But then Kareem hit his 34th point on a baseline sky hook.  The Lakers led again 99-98.  Nixon then got a steal and Cooper found him for a jumper and a three-point lead.  Gus Williams came back with a jumper over Kareem but then the big man back-tapped a Magic miss to Wilkes for a field goal with 2:03 left.  Seattle got three shots in the next minute but couldn’t score.  Kareem hit two free throws at the 1:03 mark for a 105-100 lead.  Sikma found D.J. for a layup with 52 seconds left.  But Kareem hit a running hook with 32 seconds left to essentially ice it.  If that didn’t ice it, then Magic rebounding a D.J. missed three, flipping it ahead and getting a slam definitely did.

L.A. would move on to the Finals versus Philadelphia.  Meanwhile, Seattle’s short run on top was over.  D.J. would be traded to Phoenix for Paul Westphal (both D.J. and Westphal’s fuse was running short with their teams).  Westphal only spent one season in Seattle and he wouldn’t end up playing with Gus Williams.  Williams held out for the entire 1981 season looking for a new contract.  He would return and Seattle would make the playoffs in ’82, ’83, and ’84 but would win only one series in that span.  The only player that remained after the 1984 season was Sikma and coach Lenny Wilkens.  And both would be gone when Seattle made its next deep playoff run.

Seattle starters (points scored)

John Johnson (19) – Small Forward

Lonnie Shelton (10) – Power Forward

Jack Sikma (8) – Center

Gus Williams (18) – Point Guard

Dennis Johnson (29) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Fred Brown (10)

Tom LaGarde (6)

Wally Walker (3)

Paul Silas (2)

Seattle Coach: Lenny Wilkens

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Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (15) – Small Forward

Jim Chones (6) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38) – Center

Magic Johnson (20) – Point Guard

Norm Nixon (19) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Michael Cooper (9)

Mark Landsberger (4)

Los Angeles Coach: Paul Westhead

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Gus Williams brings it across against Norm Nixon in Game 5 at the Forum as D.J. walks across half court in the background *photo courtesy of bball pin

May 4, 1980 – NBA Finals, Game 1: Philadelphia 76ers 102 @Los Angeles Lakers 109

The Philadelphia 76ers had changed a lot since their last Finals appearance in 1977.  Gone were George McGinnis, Lloyd Free, Joe Bryant, Mike Dunleavy, and Harvey Catchings.  The 76ers were more cohesive in 1980.  McGinnis had been traded for defensive specialist Bobby Jones.  Jones became the 6th man in 1980 as the 76ers essentially started two centers.  Caldwell Jones had been the starting center for 4 years but Darryl Dawkins was ready to bust out, or so we thought.

The back court was different.  Henry Bibby was now a reserve as Maurice Cheeks had emerged as the point guard of the future.  Doug Collins couldn’t shake his injuries.  He played 36 games in 1980 but was out for the year at mid-season.  Collins retired after playing 12 games in 1981.  To fill the shooting guard void, the 76ers traded for Lionel Hollins.  Cheeks, Hollins, Caldwell Jones and Dawkins filled a nice starting tandom around Dr. J, Julius Erving.  The 76ers bench was solid as well with Bobby Jones, Bibby and holdover Steve Mix.

Philadelphia had finished two games behind Boston in the Atlantic Division, so they had to play a mini-series and beat Washington 2-0.  Then they beat Central Division-winning Atlanta in 5 games and then Boston in 5 games.  Boston scored 100 points in none of those games.

The 76ers faced a different animal in the fast-breaking quick Lakers.  They got off to a rousing start though as Dawkins got a big slam off the tip.  This kicked off a back-and-forth 1st quarter.  Kareem scored on an offensive rebound, Nixon hit a pull-up, Hollins hit a driving hook, Kareem hit a layup after a spin move versus Dawkins, Dr. J hit a jumper from the corner, Wilkes hit a wing jumper on a Nixon assist and Erving again tied it with a jumper in the post.  The 76ers took a 14-12 lead when Cheeks and Hollins ran a give-and-go that resulted in a Mo Cheeks layup.  The Lakers fast pace controlled the next few minutes.  Kareem hit a finger roll, Chones got a breakaway layup from Wilkes, Kareem hit a fade-away from the post and then finally Wilkes hit a cutting layup on a Kareem assist.  Philly came back and capped the quarter with a 6-0 run, the final shot came with 3 seconds left when Caldwell Jones hit a jumper from the free throw line.  The 76ers led 28-26.

The 76ers, sparked by Bobby Jones, grabbed a 7-point lead four times in the 2nd quarter.  Bobby had 11 points in the first half and his highlight was a driving dunk on the break from Cheeks.  Meanwhile off the Lakers bench, Mark Landsberger sparked them with offensive rebounds and back-to-back field goals by Kareem cut Philly’s lead to 41-40.  Then Wilkes found the big man on the break for a Lakers lead and 14 points from Abdul-Jabbar.  After back-to-back Philly field goals, Magic lobbed one to Kareem who hit while Caldwell Jones fouled him.  Then Michael Cooper blocked a shot and triggered a 2-on-1 in which Nixon finished.  The teams battled to a tie at halftime.  The tie at 53 came on a running banker by Nixon with 2 seconds left.  Kareem finished with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

The Lakers ran off 12 points to start the 3rd (it wouldn’t be their most impressive run of the series to start a third period though).  Kareem hit a jumper and then Dawkins charged into him for his 4th foul.  Darryl was having a very ineffective game after the opening dunk.  Kareem then found Magic for a slam and hit a sky hook.  It wasn’t until 7:39 left in the quarter that Philly finally scored, on two Hollins free throws.  The 76ers pulled within 67-61 though on back-to-back Hollins field goals.  But then Kareem blocked a Caldwell Jones shot out of bounds.  To add insult, Nixon stole their inbounds pass, took it coast-to-coast and missed, but Wilkes rebounded, hit and was fouled.  After an Erving free throw cut it to 8, the Lakers flew again.  Cooper hit a jumper from the wing, Kareem outletted to Magic for a layup, Wilkes hit a pull-up from the wing on a Magic assist, and then Nixon hit a pull-up from the top of the key.  Philly was lucky that a technicality didn’t extend the Lakers 16-point lead.  Cooper blocked a Dr. J jumper that triggered a fast break in which Cooper finished.  But as Cooper blocked the shot, the 24-second clock went off and the ball had to be inbounded.  Philly cut the lead to 12 on two Dawkins free throws with 9 seconds left.  But Magic pushed it back up and found seldom-used rookie Brad Holland for a layup at the buzzer.  The Lakers led 84-70.

Dawkins started to get going a bit but then committed his 5th foul and a technical.  The Lakers still led by 16 when Bibby made back-to-back baskets.  After a Kareem sky hook put L.A. up 92-78, Erving put back a miss, Mix hit a jumper from the corner, and Mix outletted to Caldwell Jones for a slam.  Then the 76ers got out on the break again as Erving hit a scoop layup on a Hollins assist.  And then Bibby found Erving for a layup and suddenly it was 92-88.  Nixon broke the Lakers ice with a lob to Landsberger and then with the Lakers still only up 96-89, Magic penetrated and found Nixon at the top of the key with an over-the-shoulder no-look pass for a jumper.  Kareem then took over on both ends with a field goal and two blocks.  Philly got no closer than six as Dawkins fouled out.  The final touch of Game 1 came with 1:03 left when Magic found Kareem for a slam to put L.A. up 106-98.

The teams split the next two games setting up an epic end to the series which, yes we are covering.

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (20) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (15) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (12) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (12) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (16) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (15)

Steve Mix (6)

Henry Bibby (6)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

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Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (20) – Small Forward

Jim Chones (3) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33) – Center

Magic Johnson (16) – Point Guard

Norm Nixon (23) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Spencer Haywood (0)

Michael Cooper (2)

Mark Landsberger (10)

Brad Holland (2)

Los Angeles Coach: Paul Westhead

May 11, 1980 – NBA Finals, Game 4: Los Angeles Lakers 102 @Philadelphia 76ers 105

The 76ers started the game with a gimmick as Erving was isolated on one side of the floor and the Lakers were trying to cheat a little bit with help defenders playing off of his teammates on the weak side.  L.A. was called for a zone technical (the term ‘illegal defense’ with a warning then a technical came along a few years later).  Erving made the technical and Dawkins hit from the post.

And just like that, the game was established.  The 76ers were going to go inside and try to get better percentage shots.  They would also try to isolate Erving a few times to get away from double teams, this especially happened at the end of this game.

Wilkes got two layups and then a Kareem cherry-picking slam tied the game at 6.  But then Maurice Cheeks found Lionel Hollins in the corner for a jumper and then Caldwell Jones for a driving layup.  Then Hollins found Dawkins on a pick-and-roll for a reverse.  The scoring went back-and-forth from there as Erving and Dawkins picked up 2 fouls.  With Philly up five with only a few seconds left in the quarter, Hollins got a steal and was fouled at the buzzer on the break.  Lionel’s two free throws with nobody surrounding the lane put the 76ers up 28-21 going into the 2nd.

Dawkins got going early in the 2nd quarter to match the Lakers output.  It started when ‘Chocolate Thunder’ got a big slam off an inbounds lob pass from Hollins.  Then Magic found Mark Landsberger for a layup and then Wilkes on the break.  But Dawkins finger roll over Kareem gave Philly a 34-27 lead and gave Dawkins 12 points.  Kareem then came back with a jumper in the lane after a spin move and then the big man drove by Dawkins for a reverse slam.  Back-to-back driving layups from Nixon and Magic tied the game at 38.  Philly re-took the lead when Erving hit a jumper from the foul line and Cooper fouled Bobby Jones away from the ball.  This was Cooper’s 4th foul.  But no worries L.A, Magic was here.  He found Jim Chones for a layup and then from halfcourt, Magic went coast-to-coast to finish with the left hand against Bobby Jones while Jones fouled him.  The three-point play gave the Lakers a 45-43 lead.  Then Magic finished himself on a 3-on-1 break to give L.A. a four-point lead.  Kareem then hit a sky hook but committed his 3rd foul a possession later.  Chones then committed his 4th foul on an offensive foul.  Philly rallied back and a Cheeks reverse layup with 25 seconds left in the half cut L.A.’s lead to 51-49 at the break.

The third quarter started back-and-forth but the Lakers eventually took a bit of a lead when Magic found Wilkes three times for baskets.  This included two Magic gems, a whip pass from beyond the three-point line to Jamaal for a layup and then an over-the-head no-look flip.  Magic’s three-point play put L.A. up 67-61.  But then Bobby Jones found Dawkins for a layup and Hollins found Darryl again for a reverse.  Then the crowd roared as Dawkins blocked Kareem’s shot and Cheeks finished with an up-and-under to tie the game.  Who did the Lakers go to when a big shot was needed in this situation?  The rookie Johnson hit over Hollins from the elbow.  But then Bobby Jones found Dawkins with a quick pass for a slam.  Again the Lakers went to Magic who was fouled and split a pair of free throws.  Hollins then found Dawkins at the free throw line for a jumper and a Philly lead.  Then after Kareem’s 6th straight miss from the field, Cooper fouled Bobby Jones in the back court for his 5th foul.  Philly went on to take a 79-72 lead before L.A. cut it back to 81-76 going into the fourth.  And through most of this run, the Doctor had been on the bench.

He’d be back for the 4th and would make one of the most amazing plays in NBA history.  But first, the Lakers scored the first two field goals of the quarter when Nixon found Cooper with an alley-oop and then Chones hit a fade-away from a step inside the free throw line.  Magic’s elbow jumper cut the 76ers lead to 85-84 and then the Lakers had a chance for the lead.  But Magic missed a layup and Landsberger missed a tip.  This would be L.A’s last chance for the lead.  Bobby Jones hit a corner jumper off an inbounds pass and then Cheeks got a steal and Hollins a breakaway.  The Lakers got a break as Dr. J missed a free throw after a Chones technical.  But Erving more than made up for that with his next move.

Bobby Jones found him at the right elbow where he was met by Landsberger.  Erving drove to his right and then palmed the ball in his right hand as he was met by Kareem.  Erving got in the air but Kareem’s positioning forced him behind the backboard.  The Doctor went up with his right hand behind the board but reached out on the reverse side of the basket while still palming the ball in his right hand and spun in a reverse layup.  Watch it here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fr0vwEEbTf4).  Incredible!

L.A. had to call a timeout after that one.  But Kareem came back with a three-point play.  But Philly regained an eight-point lead at 97-89.  Wilkes got a three-point play but then on a fast break Magic got the ball caught on his hip trying to fake a behind-the-back pass.  Erving was then isolated on the left side and hit a baseline fade-away over Cooper.  Nixon found Magic on a 4-on-1 break and then Magic took it coast-to-coast.  Dawkins hit a layup for his 26th point and then Wilkes hit from the top of the key with 1:56 left and it was 101-98 Philly.  After Erving hit 2 free throws and Kareem hit a 10-foot sky hook.  Erving was once again isolated on the left side.  Dr. J got into the lane and went up with the right hand from the bottom of the free throw circle.  Erving again brought it up and under for a scoop shot.  Not as incredible as the play in the last paragraph but still pretty amazing.  Cooper’s jumper went in-and-out and with under a minute left, Philly had the ball and a 105-100 lead.  Hollins missed at 37 seconds and Magic was fouled trying to go coast-to-coast.  He hit both free throws at 31 seconds.  The 76ers ran down the clock.  Cheeks missed and Kareem rebounded and his outlet was intercepted but timeout had been granted to L.A. with 6 seconds left.  Magic inbounded to Nixon outside the three-point line at the right wing.  Nixon tried to throw cross-court to Cooper but Bobby Jones intercepted it to end the ball game and tie the series at 2 going back to L.A.

Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (20) – Small Forward

Jim Chones (6) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (23) – Center

Magic Johnson (28) – Point Guard

Norm Nixon (16) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Michael Cooper (3)

Mark Landsberger (6)

Los Angeles Coach: Paul Westhead

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Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (23) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (9) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (26) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (18) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (18) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (11)

Henry Bibby (0)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

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Erving goes up for his right-handed reverse against Kareem and Landsberger.  How did he do it?  *photo courtesy of CNN Sports Illustrated

May 14, 1980 – NBA Finals, Game 5: Philadelphia 76ers 103 @Los Angeles Lakers 108

Both teams got off to a slow start in this big game.  L.A. was 4-of-12 at the beginning while Philly was 3-of-13.  The two superstars did most of the scoring at the beginning.  Kareem hit a hook in the lane and Doctor J drove baseline past Wilkes for a dunk over Kareem.  Erving tied the game at 4 with another slam on a middle drive.  Kareem then broke the tie with a baseline move versus Caldwell Jones and the foul.  Dawkins got off to another strong start with 6 early points, including a rebound slam of a Bobby Jones miss to tie the game at 12.  Kareem started 5-for-5 and had 12 points in the first quarter.  But even with that, a Bobby Jones driving slam put Philly up 22-19.  Chones then scored on an offensive rebound and Wilkes hit a baseline fade-away with 13 seconds left.  Then Wilkes got a steal and Cooper finished versus Hollins with 3 seconds left.  L.A. led 25-22.

The teams went back-and-forth in the 2nd quarter.  Magic did not get on the board until late as he committed 3 offensive fouls.  Philly had cut off his driving lanes and were picking him up earlier in transition.  Kareem kept scoring though while Dawkins and Erving put points on the board for Philly.  Kareem had 20 of the Lakers first 40 points.  Eight of the next 10 points for L.A. to finish the half were free throws by players that weren’t Kareem.  But Philly came back and a Steve Mix jumper off ball movement put Philly up 51-50.  Cooper missed a jumper with 7 seconds left.  Philly rebounded and got on the break with Hollins finding Henry Bibby for a layup at the buzzer.

After Chones dropped off to Kareem for a dunk and his 22nd point, the 76ers started to get rolling.  Erving hit a jumper from the foul line and then a layup getting past Kareem.  Then Julius got a defensive rebound, pushed the ball, and found Caldwell Jones for a layup and a 59-52 76ers lead.  The Lakers countered with an 8-2 run as Magic got his first field goal and Nixon got two baskets.  After Dawkins went 1-for-2 from the line, Nixon tied the game with a baseline drive and reverse layup.  L.A. then took a two-point lead before Bobby Jones tied it at 65 on a baseline drive.

Then the critical part of the game and perhaps the series happened.  Kareem rolled in for a finger roll and came down on Lionel Hollins’ foot.  Kareem ran with that sprained ankle for three possessions before an injury timeout was finally called with the Lakers up 69-67.  Kareem walked off the floor as everyone (including the announcers) seemed to wonder how the Lakers could win if he was out.  Bill Russell on the CBS broadcast team said that teams sometimes come together when a star gets hurt and play better.

The teams battled to a 73-71 L.A. lead and then Cooper got an open put-back on Magic’s missed jumper.  Then Johnson committed his 4th foul and Bibby hit two free throws.  Nixon then penetrated and found Wilkes for a layup and Magic hit a bank shot off his own miss.  Bobby Jones missed a jumper at 12 seconds and Magic pushed the ball and found Cooper for a layup for an 81-73 Lakers lead going into the 4th.  The Lakers had in fact come together and outscored Philly 12-6 after Kareem went out.

Kareem came back in to start the 4th and ended up playing the entire period.  He hit the first two points with a sky hook in the lane but it was obvious he was limping.  The Lakers eventually took a 12-point lead three times.  But Magic committed his 5th foul on a charge and momentum slowly started going the other way.  Kareem hit back-to-back baskets to keep the Lakers lead at 10 but then Erving hit a scoop from the baseline and Dawkins a jumper from the post.  It was 96-90 Lakers.  After two Nixon free throws, Erving spun through a double-team and hit a banker.  Then Erving got a layup on a Hollins assist.  The Lakers came back though as Magic got a steal and Nixon hit a pull-up banker and then Nixon found Cooper on the break for a 102-94 Lakers lead.  Erving then spun on the baseline, hung in the air, and made a bank shot while being fouled.  The free throw cut it to five.  Then after a Lakers steal, Magic tried to find Kareem with a long pass.  But Erving intercepted it and Hollins hit a driving banker with 1:53 left.  Erving then hit two more free throws at 1:17.  The Lakers lead was down to 102-101.  Kareem split a pair at 1:05 and then Erving missed a shot to tie the game at 55 seconds.  But Caldwell Jones got the offensive rebound and Erving was fouled by Nixon with 43 seconds left.  Dr. J tied the game with his 36th point and 16th of the 4th quarter.

The Lakers didn’t call time.  Nixon gave the ball to Magic at the right elbow who lobbed one into Kareem.  Abdul-Jabbar on his sprained ankle caught the ball, came down, and then dunked over Erving while the Doctor fouled him at 33 seconds.  It was 106-103 after the three-point play.  After a Philly timeout, Erving missed an under-hand scoop and Magic rebounded but the Lakers overthrew a long pass to Wilkes and Philly had second life with 23 seconds left.  They didn’t have second life for long.  Bobby Jones inbounded to Bibby who was going to the corner beyond the three-point line.  Henry air-balled a three while falling out of bounds but the shot wouldn’t have counted anyway even if it had somehow gone in.  Bibby stepped on the line before releasing the shot.  The Lakers killed the clock and Nixon put the finishing touches on with two free throws at 8 seconds.

The Lakers were going back to Philly up 3-2 but it turned out they would not have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with them on the trip.

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (36) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (6) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (23) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (4) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (10) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (8)

Steve Mix (8)

Henry Bibby (8)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

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Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (14) – Small Forward

Jim Chones (5) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (40) – Center

Magic Johnson (14) – Point Guard

Norm Nixon (20) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Michael Cooper (13)

Mark Landsberger (2)

Los Angeles Coach: Paul Westhead

May 16, 1980 – NBA Finals, Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers 123 @Philadelphia 76ers 107

It seemed only logical.  Someone that is 6’9″ should be inside, not playing point guard.  Well when the Los Angeles Lakers traveled to Philadelphia with a 3-2 lead for Game 6 without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, they had an advantage not many teams have.  They could move their point guard to center.  The Lakers best lineup in the playoffs was having Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson at power forward playing with Kareem and Jamaal Wilkes with Michael Cooper and Norm Nixon in the back court.  So it wasn’t as if Magic hadn’t played inside all year.

But how would he handle it?  The odds had Philadelphia as easy winners at the Spectrum with everyone hoping Abdul-Jabbar would be back for Game 7 at the Forum two days later.  The game started off with Brent Musburger uttering the words, “a young man by the name of Magic Johnson is going to start at center.”  Magic went into the center circle for the opening jump versus Caldwell Jones and lost (Kareem had lost the opening tip of Game 1 so badly to Jones that Dawkins got a free slam right off the tip).

Despite losing the tip, Magic and the collapsing Laker defense helped force a turnover on the 76ers first possession.  Then Wilkes hit from the top of the key, got a steal and completed a fast break layup on a Nixon assist.  Then Wilkes ran a pick-and-roll with Chones who was mis-matched against Cheeks.  Chones hit a banker while Maurice fouled him.  Just like that, the Kareem-less Lakers had a touchdown lead.  L.A. had a chance to increase it but Dawkins blocked Cooper’s shot and Cheeks went coast-to-coast.  Magic’s first field goal came with a wing jumper to put L.A. up 11-4.  Later, Magic drove past Dr. J and finished with his left hand (after Erving completed one of his customary right-hand double-pump finger rolls.. I wonder if Erving could do any of that with the left hand, he was most certainly a 90% right-handed player).  This Magic layup put L.A. up 15-8 but Philly then went on an 8-0 run with Doc getting 2 field goals and an assist.  The teams then went back-and-forth for the rest of the quarter as Magic finished with 13 first quarter points, including a double-pump three-point play against Dawkins on the baseline.  Erving countered with 10 first quarter points but Philly trailed 32-29 going into the 2nd.

The Lakers held that small lead for the first few minutes of the 2nd quarter until Steve Mix came in and gave Philadelphia a spark.  Four quick points from Mix gave Philly a lead before L.A. tied it at 40.  Hollins then found Erving and Mix for layups before the Lakers tied the game again st 44.  Then Erving and Mix hit wing jumpers and Dawkins found Mix for a layup.  Finally Erving tipped in a Hollins miss and the 76ers had a 52-44 lead.  But then Cooper hot two free throws and got a steal as Chones found Wilkes to finish the 3-on-1 break.  Magic then hit two free throws and responded to a Cheeks driving layup with one of his own for 20 points.  Then Magic found reserve Brad Holland ahead for a layup and a 54-all tie.  Hollins found Dawkins for a layup and Holland hit two free throws.  Then Dawkins got a big slam after a Philly steal before Holland again tied it with a wing jumper.  Dawkins hit a jumper in the post but Magic hit 2 free throws after Erving committed his 3rd foul to tie the game at 60.  That would be the halftime score although Magic almost threw in a hook from beyond half court at the buzzer.

As it turned out, the first 4 minutes of the third was when the game was essentially won (as it can be sometimes).  Magic started it with a baseline jumper and then he found Cooper with a no-look pass for a layup.  He then stole the ball and found Wilkes for another layup.  Meanwhile, Cooper hit a wing jumper and Wilkes tipped in a Nixon miss.  All the while, Philly couldn’t score.  Magic then hit another jumper from just right of the top of the key and found Wilkes with a double-pump pass (all while in the air) for a layup.  Just like that, the score was 74-60 L.A.  A Bobby Jones tip-in at the 8:07 mark finally put Philly on the board.  But the Lakers maintained their double-digit lead as the 76ers weren’t helped by missed free throws.  Magic finished the 3rd quarter with 31 points including a spin move past Bobby Jones at the free throw line before finishing with the left-hand against Dawkins, of all people.  Wilkes finished the 3rd with 28 and L.A. led 93-83.

The 4th quarter started with 2 missed free throws from Dawkins.  But the 76ers cut into the lead a bit and cut it to 95-89 when Erving received a Cheeks pass on the baseline and dunked over Chones.  The 76ers had a chance to cut it further but L.A. got a steal and Cooper was fouled hard by Dawkins, although Magic screened out Darryl and Chocolate Thunder tried to go over the top to block it.  Cooper was knocked out for a minute but came back to hit two free throws.  But then two Erving bankers and a Bobby Jones tip-in cut the lead to 97-95 as the crowd was alive.  Chones’ jump hook in the lane got the bounce.  Then Mix hit a wide open Caldwell Jones for a slam.  Nixon found Brad Holland for a corner jumper.  Then Mix hit from the wing for his 18th point.  Wilkes hit a running hook across the lane.  Bobby Jones hit a banker from the post.  Finally the Lakers missed and the 76ers had a chance to tie it at 103.  But Mix’s shot in the lane was in-and-out.  L.A. came back down quickly and Magic tapped in a miss.  After another Philly miss, Wilkes drove to the lane from the wing.  He finished switching to his right hand and was fouled.  The three-point play put L.A. up 108-101.

Cheeks hit a pull-up from the right elbow but then Doc threw away an outlet to Nixon.  Norm found Magic for a layup and a foul.  The three-point play plus Magic’s subsequent slam over Bobby Jones on the next possession with 1:50 left put the game out of reach.  Philly went into desperation mode and launched threes while L.A. hit all of its free throws down the stretch.  Magic finished with 42 points while Wilkes had 37.  That more than made up for Kareem not being there.

Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jamaal Wilkes (37) – Small Forward

Jim Chones (11) – Power Forward

Magic Johnson (42) – Center

Norm Nixon (4) – Point Guard

Michael Cooper (16) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Mark Landsberger (5)

Brad Holland (8)

Marty Byrnes (0)

Los Angeles Coach: Paul Westhead

-

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (27) – Small Forward

Caldwell Jones (6) – Power Forward

Darryl Dawkins (14) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (13) – Point Guard

Lionel Hollins (13) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (8)

Steve Mix (18)

Henry Bibby (8)

Clint Richardson (0)

Jim Spanarkel (0)

Bernard Toone (0)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

magic in action '80 magic wilkes chones

The rookie’s magnificent performance won him Finals MVP.  At top, he is going over Caldwell Jones (#11) and Maurice Cheeks and at bottom, being hugged bu Jim Chones (left) and Jamaal Wilkes *photos courtesy of Getty Images and The Smoking Section

From → NBA

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