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1985 NBA Season – Magic vs Bird Part 2 + Hello Mr. Jordan

January 31, 2014

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird 1985 NBA Finals

*photo courtesy of Wikipedia

There wasn’t much question going into the 1985 season that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers were the two best teams in the NBA, the question became would they be challenged at all?  Boston finished with 63 victories while L.A. had 62 for first place in their respective conferences.

In the East, Milwaukee acquired Terry Cummings, Craig Hodges and Ricky Pierce from the now Los Angeles Clippers for Marques Johnson, Harvey Catchings and Junior Bridgeman.  This move helped them secure 2nd place with 59 wins.  Philadelphia had added Charles Barkley from a loaded draft class and finished with 58 wins.  Those were the only three teams in the East to finish with over 50 wins.

Meanwhile in the West, there were only two teams.  Denver after acquiring Calvin Natt, Fat Lever and Wayne Cooper from Portland for Kiki Vandeweghe improved 14 games and won the Midwest with 52 victories.

So while there was some new talent from the loaded 1984 draft class and there was good teams.  The answer became no and fans eagerly awaited a Finals rematch between Boston and Los Angeles.

There was another change across the NBA landscape.  They had signed a TV deal with TBS and suddenly you could watch out-of-market playoff games on cable on days that it wouldn’t be available on CBS, and furthermore tape delay officially became a thing of the past.

The gem of the 1984 draft class was, of course, Mr. Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls.  We got an early look at him against a different Milwaukee Bucks team in his 2nd pro game.

October 27, 1984 – Chicago Bulls 106 @Milwaukee Bucks 108

There are times a great clutch player doesn’t come through.  The Bulls had been stacking draft picks the last few years, some had promise, some didn’t.  Those players included Orlando Woolridge, Ennis Whatley, Sidney Green, Quintin Dailey and Rod Higgins.  They also had veteran big guys Steve Johnson, Dave Corzine and Caldwell Jones.  But the show was mainly Mr. Jordan.

Terry Cummings had arrived to Milwaukee less than a month earlier.  This was the first time he got a chance to show off to the Bucks fans what he could do.  He made a good first impression.  Bob Lanier had officially retired near the end of September, but the Bucks retained players such as Sidney Moncrief, Alton Lister, Paul Pressey and Mike Dunleavy.

The Bulls had won their opener at home against Washington the previous night as Woolridge and Dailey led them with 28 and 25 respectively.  Jordan finished with 16.  For Milwaukee, this was their opening game.

Woolridge and Moncrief got off to good starts for their respective teams, Orlando had the Bulls first 4 points while Sidney had the Bucks first 6.  Milwaukee led 10-4 before Jordan got involved.  First, he found Johnson for a layup and then he got a steal and reverse on the break against two guys.  Cummings got his first basket on a wing jumper to put Milwaukee up 12-10.  But then the Bulls hit the boards and got out on the break as Steve Johnson, Caldwell Jones, and Woolridge got layups for a 6-0 run (Whatley had assists on two of those baskets).

The score went back and forth from there as Woolridge and Moncrief each had 10 points in the quarter.  Pressey and Dailey got into foul trouble with 3 fouls.  The quarter ended dramatically as Rod Higgins hit a running three at the buzzer to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 30-29 at the end of the quarter.

The Bulls bench sparked them in the 2nd quarter.  Dave Corzine and Sidney Green each scored field goals and Corzine added three more free throws (including a technical shot after Bucks coach Don Nelson was rung up).  Jordan scored a reverse on a baseline drive and then gave the Bulls a 40-30 lead after taking an alley-oop from Whatley.  There was nothing really spectacular about that play except that Jordan jumped 30 feet into the air to catch that pass (no, seriously he did jump pretty high).

The Bulls took a 16-point lead three times in that quarter as Corzine nailed a few more jumpers and the Bulls were moving the ball and getting great shots.  Trouble struck late in the quarter though as Whatley and Higgins each missed a pair of free throws.  Then after a Woolridge turnover, Cummings cut the lead to 53-43 with a great drive and spin move down the lane that resulted in an easy layup.  The 6’9″ Cummings then went coast-to-coast for a slam.  Terry ended the half with a foul line jumper that cut the Bucks halftime deficit to 55-47.

The Bulls started the third by hitting the offensive boards as Johnson, Jordan and Jones each scored on 2nd shots.  But a Dunleavy three and a Lister three-point play cut the lead back to 61-55.  A jumper by Bucks rookie Kenny Fields cut it to four before Whatley scored on a drive and then found Jordan with an alley-oop on a 3-on-1 break.  Jordan slammed over Moncrief and was fouled by Sidney.

The Bucks eventually cut the lead back to 72-71 after a Fields jumper from the top of the key.  But then Jordan (who now had 4 fouls) found Green for a layup and then Dailey hit from the elbow.  The run continued as Jordan scored on a 3rd shot and then found Woolridge on the break with a bounce pass for a left-handed slam.  A Randy Breuer jumper from the wing with 4 seconds left cut Chicago’s lead to 85-75 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

The final quarter also started out promising for the Bulls as Higgins and Whatley hit field goals.  But then the Bucks made their run as the Bulls offense slowed.  Breuer got a three-point play, Dunleavy hit a jumper, Pressey and Moncrief hit field goals and Craig Hodges hit two wing jumpers.  Then Cummings got going.  His turnaround in the post cut the Bulls lead to 93-92.  Then Terry put back his own miss to give Milwaukee a lead.

The Bucks kept that lead for awhile as Cummings and Hodges held off the Bulls with baskets.  But finally when Jordan got a slam on the break after a steal, the Bulls tied it at 102.  Cummings then hit a pull-up from the baseline.  Caldwell Jones followed up a Dailey miss.  Cummings hit again from the elbow with 34 seconds left.  Milwaukee led 106-104 and the Bulls called time.

They went to their rookie and Jordan was fouled on a baseline drive with 25 seconds left.  MJ calmly knocked down two.  Milwaukee went to their star acquisition and Cummings was fouled on the drive with 7 seconds left.  Terry knocked down both for 34 points, including 16 in the final quarter.

After a Bulls timeout, they went to the rookie again.  Jordan went baseline, spun but airballed a tough fadeaway shot and the game was history.  Jordan wouldn’t airball too many clutch attempts but hey, remember, this was only his 2nd pro game.

Jordan would score 37 against this same Milwaukee team two days later as the Bulls outscored Milwaukee 40-25 in the 4th quarter to win 116-110.  That game was in Chicago.  MJ would top that performance a few weeks later.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Orlando Woolridge (29) – Small Forward

Steve Johnson (9) – Power Forward

Caldwell Jones (6) – Center

Ennis Whatley (9) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (21) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

Quintin Dailey (8)

Dave Corzine (9)

Sidney Green (8)

Rod Higgins (7)

Chicago Coach: Kevin Loughery

Milwaukee starters (points scored)

Paul Pressey (14) – Small Forward

Terry Cummings (34) – Power Forward

Alton Lister (7) – Center

Mike Dunleavy (10) – Point Guard

Sidney Moncrief (19) – Shooting Guard

Milwaukee bench (points scored)

Craig Hodges (6)

Paul Mokeski (2)

Kevin Grevey (0)

Randy Breuer (10)

Kenny Fields (6)

Larry Micheaux (0)

Lorenzo Romar (0)

Milwaukee Coach: Don Nelson

jordan grabs rebound

Jordan led the Bulls with 6.5 rebounds per game in 1985 *photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated tumblr

November 13, 1984 – San Antonio Spurs 117 @Chicago Bulls 120

The Bulls, led by Jordan, now were off to a 6-2 start as they got set to host the San Antonio Spurs.  The Spurs starting lineup of George Gervin, Mike Mitchell, Artis Gilmore, and Johnny Moore and Gene Banks was the same lineup they had the last two years.  The Spurs were also off to a 6-2 start.

The Bulls got off to a 7-0 start as Caldwell Jones followed up a Jordan miss.  MJ then went coast-to-coast on a drive and drew a foul.  Steve Johnson’s hook over Gilmore put the Bulls up by that touchdown margin.  Another 6-0 run later put the Bulls up 13-3.  But the Spurs eventually tied it at 17 when Gervin hit his 4th field goal on a baseline jumper.

The Bulls grabbed another lead but San Antonio seemed to take an advantage into the break as Moore hit two free throws with 3 seconds left in the 1st to put San Antonio up 30-29.  But then Jordan came down, pulled up and nailed a three from the right wing at the buzzer to give the Bulls a two-point margin.

San Antonio gained an advantage in the 2nd quarter as Ron Brewer and Ozell Jones came off the bench to spark them.  Brewer, who would be cut a month later, hit two field goals and 6 points and Jones was a presence in the middle defensively.  John Paxson also provided a spark for the Spurs a year before the Bulls signed him.  He found Fred Roberts for an elbow jumper and then hit a driving layup to put San Antonio up 48-39.

But then Jordan found Orlando Woolridge for a slam.  Then MJ got a slam on the break over 6’11” Ozell Jones.  Gilmore, who as a former Bull got a nice hand from the crowd in pregame, got a three-point play to put the Spurs up 53-45.  But Jordan, who would finish the 1st half with 20 points, led the Bulls back as they cut the lead to 58-54 at the half.

Gervin hit 9 quick points early in the third to give the Spurs a 69-60 lead.  But then Steve Johnson hit a hook and Woolridge got a slam after an offensive rebound.  The Spurs maintained a 73-66 lead after another Gilmore three-point play.  But then Jordan hit a turnaround on a transition break.  Johnson then blocked a shot and Jordan found Quintin Dailey on the break.

Mike Mitchell hit three straight field goals to keep the Spurs in the lead but a Jordan pull-up from the top of the key cut the margin to 81-76.  Dailey then went 1-on-1 against Paxson and scored in the lane.  Jordan rebounded a Mitchell miss and went coast-to-coast for a flying slam as the crowd and announcers went crazy.  Johnny ‘Red’ Kerr, a Bulls broadcaster, did mention at certain points that he hadn’t heard this much noise in Chicago Stadium since the 70’s.  Hello Mr. Jordan.

San Antonio took an 89-86 lead into the 4th quarter as Paxson found Mark McNamara for a layup with 2 seconds left.  The Spurs kept that advantage in the final quarter until an Ennis Whatley drive tied the game at 96.  The scoring went back-and-forth from there.  Jordan tied it at 102 with a wing jumper and then gave the Bulls a 104-102 lead with an elbow jumper.

MJ hit another elbow jumper for his 39th point, a season high for the rookie, to give the Bulls another two-point lead.  But eventually Gervin found Johnny Moore for an elbow jumper to give San Antonio a 110-107 lead.  With 3:00 left, Woolridge got an offensive rebound and a slam.  Whatley found Jordan for an elbow jumper and then Woolridge hit a short pull-up and San Antonio called timeout with 1:34 left, down 113-110.

After a few Spurs misses and a jump ball, Jordan went coast-to-coast for another layup to give Chicago a 115-110 lead.  The Spurs called timeout and the crowd was again soaking in the new Jordan era.  The Bulls held off the Spurs helped by a Quintin Dailey banker in the lane and two more Jordan free throws.

The Spurs ended up with a 41-41 record and were the 7th seed in the West.  They lost to 2nd seeded Denver in the 1st round in 5 games.  George Gervin would be traded to the Bulls in the off-season for David Greenwood, who didn’t play in this game.  The Spurs also traded Gene Banks to the Bulls for Steve Johnson in a separate deal.  Chicago also signed John Paxson early in the 1986 season.

San Antonio starters (points scored)

Gene Banks (11) – Small Forward

Mike Mitchell (23) – Power Forward

Artis Gilmore (19) – Center

Johnny Moore (12) – Point Guard

George Gervin (28) – Shooting Guard

San Antonio bench (points scored)

Alvin Robertson (0)

John Paxson (8)

Fred Roberts (2)

Ozell Jones (4)

Ron Brewer (6)

Mark McNamara (4)

San Antonio Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons

Chicago starters (points scored)

Orlando Woolridge (20) – Small Forward

Steve Johnson (12) – Power Forward

Caldwell Jones (7) – Center

Ennis Whatley (12) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (45) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

Quintin Dailey (18)

Dave Corzine (2)

Sidney Green (2)

Wes Matthews (2)

Chicago Coach: Kevin Loughery


a young Michael Jordan *photo courtesy of Slam Magazine Online

November 30, 1984 – Chicago Bulls 104 @Los Angeles Clippers 100

After defeating San Antonio to go 7-2, the Bulls lost 7 of their next 8 games and came in to Los Angeles under .500.  L.A. was now the Clippers home after moving from San Diego over the summer.

The Clippers a few former champions in Bill Walton and Norm Nixon.  They had also gotten Marques Johnson, along with Junior Bridgeman and Harvey Catchings from the Bucks.  They also had some young players who would make some impact in the future (on other teams, naturally).  This included Derek Smith, James Donaldson and Michael Cage.

Jordan and Orlando Woolridge were the factors for the Bulls in the first quarter.  Jordan had an impressive double-pump reverse while being grabbed by Nixon.  The Clippers scoring came almost exclusively from Derek Smith.  The former Louisville star had 18 points in the quarter as the 6’6″ 205 pounder was taking advantage of his 2-guard matchup with Jordan.  The Clippers led 34-29 after the quarter.

Nixon started the 2nd quarter with a foul line jumper and then he found Catchings on a 3-on-1 break for a slam.  Junior Bridgeman hit back-to-back jumpers to give the Clippers an 11-point lead.  But the Bulls bench came to the rescue as Quintin Dailey, Rod Higgins and Dave Corzine contributed.  They cut into the margin but L.A. maintained a 57-47 lead.

Then Jordan hit a wing jumper and Steve Johnson hit a hook shot.  Woolridge then finished the half with 8 points on three field goals, including a driving left-handed slam.  The Clippers kept their lead though with passing as a Marques Johnson touch pass found Walton for a slam.  Then Walton found Smith with a lob for a three-point play.  The Clippers led 64-59 at the half.

Nixon’s three jumpers early in the third held off a mini-Chicago rally.  The Clippers maintained a six-point lead until late in the third.  With L.A. up 77-71, Steve Johnson and Woolridge hit jumpers.  Then after a Cage field goal, Woolridge hit two free throws for his 22nd point and then Johnson tipped in a Dailey miss to tie the game at 79.  Chicago led 82-81 after three.

The Bulls maintained that lead for much of the 4th as Dailey provided a spark off the bench.  His wing jumper over Walton put the Bulls up 94-89.  But then Marques found Derek Smith with an alley-oop and Walton kicked out to Nixon for a jumper.  Later, Nixon found Rory White on the break for a three-point play that gave the Clippers a 96-95 lead.  Walton then blocked a Steve Johnson shot and Nixon led a break and found Smith for a slam.

The Clippers had their biggest crowd of the season (and this included Jack Nicholson.. the Lakers WERE playing in the Forum that night too) mostly to see Jordan.  The crowd had acted like a blase crowd in the first three quarters but came alive in the fourth, especially after the Clippers flurry to grab a 98-95 lead with 3:02 left.

It was after the timeout that the Bulls went to Jordan.  Caldwell Jones rebounded an MJ miss and scored.  Nixon hit a wing jumper at the other end over Jordan.  Jordan came back with only a free throw but Woolridge blocked Marques’ shot and Jordan hit a baseline jumper to tie the game at 100.

Then with just over a minute to go, Nixon airballed a jumper.  Caldwell Jones outletted to MJ who went coast-to-coast, was wrapped up by Derek Smith, but still found a way to flip in an underhand shot while going away from the basket.  The three-point play gave Chicago a 103-100 lead and ended up being the nail in the coffin.  Nixon fouled out after missing a jumper and Jordan sealed the game for good with a steal.

The first three games in this post was just an example of what an impact MJ made in the first month of his career, even drawing this December, 1984 SI article.  MJ would continue to make an impact throughout the season, even being named an All-Star Game starter.  And although the Bulls finished with a pedestrian 38-44 record, they made the playoffs for the 2nd time in 8 years.

The Clippers would finish 31-51 and for the 9th straight season, they missed the playoffs.  That streak would last another 7 seasons.  Bill Walton would eventually make an impact with a champion before his feet finally ended his career.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Orlando Woolridge (23) – Small Forward

Steve Johnson (13) – Power Forward

Caldwell Jones (11) – Center

Ennis Whatley (10) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (20) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

Quintin Dailey (12)

Dave Corzine (4)

David Greenwood (4)

Wes Matthews (3)

Rod Higgins (4)

Jawann Oldham (0)

Chicago Coach: Kevin Loughery

LA Clippers starters (points scored)

Marques Johnson (8) – Small Forward

Rory White (6) – Power Forward

Bill Walton (11) – Center

Norm Nixon (17) – Point Guard

Derek Smith (33) – Shooting Guard

LA Clippers bench (points scored)

Junior Bridgeman (7)

James Donaldson (8)

Michael Cage (2)

Lancaster Gordon (4)

Harvey Catchings (4)

LA Clippers Coach: Jim Lynam

December 25, 1984 – New Jersey Nets 120 @New York Knicks 114

These two Atlantic Division rivals were bringing up the rear in the Division mostly because of injuries.  For the Nets; Darryl Dawkins, Albert King, and Mike O’Koren were out and Otis Birdsong would injure his knee in the 1st half and missed 10 days.  For the Knicks, Bill Cartwright was out for the season with a foot injury, Truck Robinson was out after playing 2 games and Marvin Webster was done for 2 years while battling hepatitis.  Ray Williams was also not re-signed, so the Knicks (who in 1984 seemed to not have much beyond Bernard King) now had next to nobody to go with King.

New Jersey came into the game at 11-17 while the Knicks were 12-18.  But TBS was still at Madison Square Garden for the game.  But we pick up the Knicks local broadcast (and not even Marv Albert).  The Nets, as it turned out, had nobody to play Bernard King (as if anybody did) and King drew 3 early fouls on rookie Jeff Turner.  King, after finding Pat Cummings for a layup, hit a turnaround in the post while Turner fouled him and then hit a runner on the baseline.  Mike Gminski scored the first 6 Nets points to keep them in it.  But after King found James Bailey for a layup, New York led 11-6 and Bernard had 7.

Birdsong then hit three straight field goals that was only matched by a King turnaround in the post.  King kept going though by getting to the free throw line.  He finished with 21 first quarter points.  But New Jersey hung around and only trailed 34-27 after one quarter.

The Bernard show continued in the 2nd quarter.  His jumper from the post gave New York a 49-41 lead and gave him 29 points.  Just to illustrate how much help the Knicks had for him, he had 29 of their 49 points at one point and it seemed the only way they could score was to give him the ball.  King kept going by tipping in a Bailey miss for a 53-41 Knicks lead.  Then after Michael Ray Richardson hit 4 free throws, King hit a turnaround from the post and then a short pull-up while he was fouled.

Later, King’s pull-up jumper from the baseline gave him 40 first half points and gave the Knicks a 64-48 lead.  But then in the last minute of the half (after Birdsong went out), Gminski hit a turnaround from the post while Bailey fouled him.  Then after a Knicks turnover, Buck Williams put back a Kelvin Ransey miss and was fouled.  The two three-point plays cut the lead to 64-54 at the half.

The Knicks started fast in the 2nd half as King hit two more pull-up jumpers.  Later, King found Cummings on the break to give New York a 72-56 lead.  But then Williams, Gminski and Richardson each hit two field goals to cut to the lead to 78-70.  King then hit a jumper from the post while he was fouled by Williams.  This was Buck’s 5th foul, most of which occurred from guarding Bernard.

Another King turnaround from the post gave the Knicks an 83-72 lead and gave Bernard 51 points.  But then Kelvin Ransey, who did a great job filling in for Birdsong at the off-guard spot, hit two field goals and a Richardson baseline jumper cut the lead to 83-78 and forced a Knicks timeout.  Hubie Brown decided to rest King for the remainder of the quarter (hey, it’s a long season).

The Knicks were able to keep the lead for the rest of the quarter but Michael Ray finished with a flurry.  He hit four free throws and then a baseline jumper after Ransey penetrated.  Richardson had 24 points after three and the Nets had cut the Knicks lead to 91-87.

An unsung hero emerged for the Nets in the fourth quarter and he was the only member of the roster who had a championship ring, even if it was from 1975.  Big George Johnson came into the game and matched up with Bernard King and he was able to slow him down a bit.

But the Knicks were still able to keep their lead for awhile as Pat Cummings and Rory Sparrow hit big field goals.  But Richardson, who hit his first 14 free throws, and Ransey kept the Nets around.  A King turnaround over Johnson put New York up 103-99 and was his first field goal of the quarter.  Ransey scored a running hook on the drive.  Then King found Cummings for an elbow jumper.  New York led 105-101.

Gminski found Buck Williams for a layup and then after a steal, Richardson scored on a driving finger roll and was fouled.  The free throw gave New Jersey a 106-105 lead.  King hit four straight free throws to get him to 60 points, a Knick record recently broken by Carmelo Anthony.  But Ransey then found Gminski for a layup and Richardson hit a wing jumper after Cummings hit a wing jumper to keep New York ahead.

But then New Jersey took the lead for good at 112-111 when Gminski hit from the top of the key at the end of the shot clock.  Then after a Sparrow miss, Williams hit a turnaround from the post and with 1:56 left, New Jersey led 114-111.  After a Knicks timeout, King missed on the drive and then Richardson hit a tough fadeaway from the wing.  The Nets finished it on the next possession when they got two offensive rebounds to run time off the clock and Ransey hit two free throws.

While the Nets did win this one and did climb their way to the 5th seed in the East (only to get swept by Detroit), the story didn’t have a happy ending for the two leading players of this game, Bernard King and Michael Ray Richardson (although each was able to find redemption in their own way).

On March 23, 1985 when the Knicks took on the Kansas City Kings in their last season in Kansas City, King went up to block a Reggie Theus shot and seemed to injure his knee before he jumped.  He was on the floor writhing in pain in a sight all too familiar to Bulls fans like myself.  King tore his ACL and was out for all of the 1986 season and all but the last 6 games of the 1987 season.  King would eventually rebound with the Washington Bullets and was a starter in the 1991 All-Star Game, but he wasn’t the same.

Michael Ray Richardson had had drug problems early in his career but seemed to be on an upward path since joining the New Jersey Nets.  That all came to a crashing halt after a Nets Christmas party a year after this game.  Richardson went missing for a few days before he called his agent and told him he needed help again.  At the time, the NBA had a three-strike failed drug test policy, which basically meant after the third strike you were banned.  Richardson was banned on February 25, 1986.  He did spend the next 16 years in various other (mostly foreign) leagues and now is coaching the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada and has led them to back-to-back championships.

New Jersey starters (points scored)

Jeff Turner (3) – Small Forward

Buck Williams (16) – Power Forward

Mike Gminski (27) – Center

Michael Ray Richardson (36) – Point Guard

Otis Birdsong (8) – Shooting Guard

New Jersey bench (points scored)

Kelvin Ransey (24)

Kevin McKenna (3)

Chris Engler (1)

George Johnson (2)

New Jersey Coach: Stan Albeck

New York starters (points scored)

Bernard King (60) – Small Forward

Pat Cummings (13) – Power Forward

James Bailey (2) – Center

Rory Sparrow (13) – Point Guard

Darrell Walker (9) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

Louis Orr (6)

Trent Tucker (4)

Butch Carter (2)

Ken Bannister (2)

Eddie Lee Wilkins (2)

Ron Cavenell (1)

New York Coach: Hubie Brown


Michael Ray Richardson led the Nets to a win in Madison Square Garden despite 60 from Bernard King *photo courtesy of NBA Hoops Online

January 27, 1985 – Portland Blazers 127 @Boston Celtics 128

This regular season game in the middle of January just proves that you never know what could happen during any given game, in any sport.  On paper, this game is just 1 of 82 but for the fans in Boston Garden that day and probably fans watching this on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it is unforgettable.

The World Champion Celtics’ only move in the off-season was trading Gerald Henderson to Seattle for a 1986 1st round pick.  They returned the likes of Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Cedric Maxwell, Scott Wedman, Quinn Buckner and M.L. Carr.

Portland had the big move of acquiring Kiki Vandeweghe from Denver for Calvin Natt, Fat Lever, Wayne Cooper and two draft picks.  They had also drafted Sam Bowie with their own pick.  Bowie and Vandeweghe joined the likes of Mychal Thompson, Jim Paxson, Clyde Drexler and Darnell Valentine.  Other rookies for Portland included Jerome Kersey, Steve Colter and Bernard Thompson.

Vandeweghe started with 4 of Portland’s first 6 points as they took a 6-2 lead.  But Bird scored 6 of Boston’s next 10, including a nifty overhead layup on a D.J. assist, to tie the game at 12.  The scoring came in waves as each team was finding the open man and hitting their shots.  Kiki finished with 12 first quarter points while Bird had 12 of his own in the first.  Boston led 30-29 at the end of the quarter.

Portland started out strong in the 2nd led by their bench.  Drexler and Kiki hit jumpers.  Kersey hit a running hook in the lane.  Drexler got a steal and Colter got a layup.  Bernard Thompson hit two free throws and Colter added a charity shot.  Then Colter alley-ooped to Bowie and suddenly Portland led 42-30.

Celtics broadcaster Mike Gorman did note that Larry Bird had that look in his eye at this point.  After Larry fed Parish for a slam, he hit a high-arcing three from the wing.  Then Bird got a steal and fed D.J. for a reverse and a three-point play.  D.J. then found Bird for another three and just like that, it was back to 42-41.

The Celtics momentum continued throughout the period but Portland was able to stay in the game thanks to Jim Paxson’s hot shooting.  Paxson made three jumpers in a row and a Vandeweghe three-point play cut the lead to 55-54.  Boston did lead 59-56 at the half as Bird poured in 22.

The scoring barrage from both teams continued in the third.  Bird scored 10 more points but Drexler, Paxson and Mychal Thompson balanced the Blazers.  Drexler’s highlight was a 360 spin in mid-air and then a finish on the break.  Boston led 94-91 going into the fourth.

A Darnell Valentine steal and three-point play tied the game at 96 and then Drexler’s pull-up jumper gave Portland a 100-99 lead.  But then two straight field goals from Parish gave the Celtics the advantage and later, two straight field goals from Ainge gave Boston a 110-105 lead.  Boston eventually took a 116-108 lead with only a few minutes left on two Parish free throws.

On the next possession, Drexler penetrated and kicked out to Kiki for a three.  Even though the three was coming along in its 6th season, it was still kind of seen as only a desperation by some teams (I’m not sure Portland attempted any threes before this one.. if so, then not many).  The Celtics did regain a 122-115 lead with 1:45 left when Bird found McHale for a layup.

But Portland stayed alive when Colter nailed a three from the top.  Then after a D.J. turnover, Drexler found Kersey for a baseline jumper and suddenly the lead was down to 122-120.  With 1:05 left, D.J. found Bird for a cutting layup.  But Portland came back as Drexler found Kersey on the baseline for a slam.  After a McHale miss with 6 seconds on the shot clock, Portland called timeout with 26 seconds left, down 124-122.

They isolated Drexler at the top of the key against D.J.  Clyde spun and hit a fallaway from the foul line while D.J. fouled him.  The three-point play gave Portland a 125-124 lead with 17 seconds left.  After a timeout, Boston got it to Bird at the foul line.  He spun into the lane and finished with the left-hand.  Portland got a timeout with 9 seconds left.

They gave it to Drexler again against D.J.  Clyde went 1-on-1 but didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  Finally he pulled up at the foul line and hit a tough fadeaway jumper with 3 seconds left.  Boston called time and D.J. inbounded toward Bird at the baseline.  Kersey deflected that pass out of bounds with 2 seconds left.  D.J. again found Bird who was covered by Drexler and Kersey.  But Larry was able to get off a fallaway from the baseline and he nailed it at the buzzer to give Boston the win.  Check it out here.

Portland starters (points scored)

Kiki Vandeweghe (22) – Small Forward

Mychal Thompson (18) – Power Forward

Sam Bowie (10) – Center

Darnell Valentine (12) – Point Guard

Jim Paxson (24) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Clyde Drexler (19)

Steve Colter (6)

Jerome Kersey (10)

Audie Norris (0)

Bernard Thompson (4)

Tom Scheffler (2)

Portland Coach: Jack Ramsay

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (48) – Small Forward

Cedric Maxwell (14) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (30) – Center

Dennis Johnson (9) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (15) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (10)

Scott Wedman (2)

Carlos Clark (0)

Quinn Buckner (0)

Boston Coach: K.C. Jones

February 10, 1985 – NBA All-Star Game @Indianapolis: West 140, East 129

For this All-Star Game at the Hoosier Dome, there was a record crowd of 43,146.  There were rookies Jordan and Olajuwon to go with the normal veterans of Bird, Magic, Isiah, Dr. J etc…

Perhaps the most famous thing about this game was that it was supposedly the Michael Jordan freeze-out game.  Because of all the attention he received and what others took as ‘showing off,’ there was supposedly a coalition, led by Isiah Thomas, to not give Michael the ball.

There were definitely some interesting sequences.  For example, on an East fast break Isiah and Jordan were 2-on-1 against Magic.  Isiah had the ball and Magic dropped off to guard Jordan, leaving Thomas an uncontested layup.  There were a few other 3-on-1 breaks where Isiah was in the middle and Jordan was on the wing.  Thomas went the other way each time (once surprising Moses Malone with the pass so much that Moses dropped it out of bounds).  They (not just Isiah) also didn’t seem to be too willing to swing the ball to Jordan at the wing, instead waiting for Bird, Erving, or whoever to come off a screen to the baseline.

Even with all of that said, it may be reading too much to say that Jordan was frozen out by teammates.  But that theory has transcended throughout time and MJ isn’t one to take any slight, no matter how light or nonexistent, without making you pay for it the next time he saw you.

Jordan did get the first basket of the game on a tip-in and then Bird found Isiah with a cross-court pass for a three.  But three straight Magic assists (two of them on the fast break, including an over-the-shoulder pass to Ralph Sampson) got the West back into the game.  There were plenty of highlights and good shooting early on, as well as back-and-forth action.

Magic responded to a few East baskets by pushing the ball right back and going coast-to-coast for layups.  Isiah also pushed the ball.  Erving did Dr. J-like things including a right-handed scoop in which he seemed to bring the ball ‘around the world.’  And of course, Dr. J got an alley-oop slam from Isiah.

The East took as much as a 6-point lead in the first quarter but the West came back led by Gervin, who had an assist and two field goals to give the West a 27-26 lead.  The West bench also provided a lift as Norm Nixon, Larry Nance and Rolando Blackman contributed.  It was Blackman’s pull-up from the wing with 4 seconds left that gave the West a 40-35 lead after the first quarter.

The West lead continued through a good part of the 2nd quarter but didn’t extend beyond 6.  The East tied it at 53 after Isiah hit a three and then found Bird for a corner jumper.  But then Magic put back his own miss and then went coast-to-coast after Adrian Dantley got a steal.  When Magic went coast-to-coast for a slam, the West led 63-55.

But late in the 2nd quarter, Isiah took over.  He hit from the top of the key and then got a steal and layup to cut into the lead.  Then the East isolated Jordan at the top for the last shot of the first half.  MJ penetrated and kicked out to Thomas for a corner three with 1 second left.  This three tied the game at 68 but Isiah walked off the floor limping.  He pulled a quad and wouldn’t play much in the 2nd half.

The 2nd half started with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar being the only West starter on the floor.  It worked.  Larry Nance was the beneficiary of assists from Nixon and Blackman for three layups.  Kareem made two sky hooks to hold the East off and then Sampson hit a turnaround jumper from the mid-post area and was fouled.  His three-point play gave the West a 6-point lead.

A Sampson hook eventually gave the West an 11-point lead but the East cut into it led by Bernard King and Terry Cummings.  A Michael Ray Richardson pull-up jumper after a steal cut the lead to 97-91 with 7 seconds left in the third.  That score remained going into the fourth.

Isiah scored his only 5 points of the 2nd half in a minute stretch that cut the lead further but the West regained its advantage at the free throw line.  Nance was also doing explosive things defensively.  He cleanly blocked a Dr. J dunk attempt on the break.  An ensuing sky-hook from Kareem put the West up 112-102.

The East made several comeback attempts but weren’t helped by Isiah’s injury as well as Bird getting accidently hit in the nose with a Dantley elbow and having to sit for a few minutes to get his nose to stop bleeding.  The closest the East got was when Cummings hit a pull-up in the lane and was fouled.  The three-point play cut the lead to 120-116.

But then Magic cut to the basket and got a feed from Kareem for a layup.  Then Magic got a steal and layup.  Later, Magic alley-ooped to eventual-MVP Ralph Sampson to put the West up nine.  The game was put away when Blackman got a few breakaways.  Sampson finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, each led the West.

As for Jordan, he would get his chance at revenge as the Bulls hosted Isiah’s Pistons two days later at the Chicago Stadium.

West starters (teams) and point totals

Adrian Dantley (Utah Jazz) 10 – Small Forward

Ralph Sampson (Houston Rockets) 24 – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers) 11 – Center

Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers) 21 – Point Guard

George Gervin (San Antonio Spurs) 23 – Shooting Guard

West bench (teams) and point totals

Rolando Blackman (Dallas Mavericks) 15

Norm Nixon (Los Angeles Clippers) 11

Larry Nance (Phoenix Suns) 16

Akeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) 6

Alex English (Denver Nuggets) 0

Jack Sikma (Seattle Sonics) 0

Calvin Natt (Denver Nuggets) 3

West Coach: Pat Riley (Los Angeles Lakers)

East starters (teams) and point totals

Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) 21 – Small Forward

Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers) 12 – Power Forward

Moses Malone (Philadelphia 76ers) 7 – Center

Isiah Thomas (Detroit Pistons) 22 – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls) 7 – Shooting Guard

East bench (teams) and point totals

Bernard King (New York Knicks) 13

Sidney Moncrief (Milwaukee Bucks) 8

Terry Cummings (Milwaukee Bucks) 17

Michael Ray Richardson (New Jersey Nets) 5

Dennis Johnson (Boston Celtics) 8

Bill Laimbeer (Detroit Pistons) 5

Robert Parish (Boston Celtics) 4

East Coach: K.C. Jones (Boston Celtics)

February 12, 1985 – Detroit Pistons 126 @Chicago Bulls 139 (OT)

The 30-19 Pistons were 6 games ahead of the Bulls coming into this one.  Detroit’s only major off-season move was trading Cliff Levingston and the contract of Antoine Carr (who was drafted by Detroit in 1983 but didn’t want to play for them so he played in Europe instead) to Atlanta for Dan Roundfield.

Roundfield and Kelly Tripucka were out for this game but the Pistons still had the likes of Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, John Long and Vinnie Johnson.  Each had a big game.  For the Bulls, three of their starters from the beginning of the year were injured.  Only Jordan and Orlando Woolridge remained.  Steve Johnson, Caldwell Jones, and Ennis Whatley were replaced by Sidney Green, Dave Corzine and Wes Matthews in the lineup.

The Bulls started out with some firepower as Jordan got a steal and Matthews fed Woolridge for a slam.  MJ’s first basket was a coast-to-coast drive to give the Bulls a 6-2 lead.  Later, Jordan got a reverse layup after a Bulls steal and then he got a steal and slam in the backcourt.  The Pistons got a timeout with the Bulls up 14-8.

Matthews also got off to a great start for Chicago as he hit four field goals and dished out a few assists.  Matthews had 9 first quarter points and Woolridge led the Bulls with 14.  Jordan only had 6 but as a team the Bulls were flying.  The Pistons back court of Isiah, Long and Vinnie kept them within striking distance.  But the Bulls maintained a 10-point lead and ended the quarter when Jordan penetrated and found reserve Jawann Oldham for a slam.  Chicago led 41-31 after 1.

As with many Pistons games in the 80’s, Vinnie Johnson gave them a spark off the bench.  The microwave legend started in the 1985 playoffs against Boston which we’ll get to, but in this game Vinnie hit three pull-up jumpers early in the 2nd quarter to get Detroit right back into it.

Jordan single-handedly kept the Bulls in the lead.  He hit a jumper in the lane and then hit another pull-up after a cross-over dribble.  Later, MJ went coast-to-coast again with a cross-over for a three-point play.  Then he got another three-point play on a drive and a right-handed finger roll.  This gave the Bulls a 55-47 lead and gave MJ 17 points.

But he wasn’t done for the half.  After the Pistons used an 8-0 run to cut the Bulls lead back to six, Jordan went 1-on-1 from the top of the key.  In typical angry Jordan fashion, he went right at the defender and then got by him and flew in for a slam over Bill Laimbeer.  Two Vinnie Johnson free throws cut the lead to 67-61 at the half.

The Pistons started the third with Isiah hitting a three and Long hitting a wing jumper.  Once again, it was Jordan who kept the Bulls in the game as the teams went back-and-forth.  He hit a driving double-pump in the lane and then took a Matthews lob for another three-point play.  The Pistons eventually took a 76-74 lead before Sidney Green became the 2nd Bull to score in the quarter.

The teams went back-and-forth as Jordan continued his assault with a jump-hook in the post and then fast break slam.  But then he committed his 4th foul and sat down.  But Woolridge and Quintin Dailey kept the Bulls even as Vinnie continued to spark the Pistons.  Laimbeer also got loose for his first field goals.  The quarter ended with Detroit rookie Tony Campbell getting a steal and Vinnie hitting a pull-up three to give the Pistons a 98-95 lead going into the 4th.

The Pistons took a five-point lead before Woolridge got a steal and Jordan finished and drew Isiah’s 4th foul.  Detroit maintained a 110-105 lead though when Isiah committed his 5th.  Jordan came back with a double-pump banker from the right side but MJ later committed his 5th foul on a charge.

Detroit maintained its lead and with 3:26 left, Vinnie found Laimbeer at the top pf the key for a jumper.  This gave Detroit a 119-114 and Chicago called timeout.  But then Vinnie committed his 5th foul and Jordan hit two free throws to bring his total to 41.  Laimbeer missed two free throws with 2:11 left and Woolridge responded with a spin and a driving banker from the left box while he was fouled.  The three-point play tied the game at 119.

The teams exchanged baskets before Isiah hit two free throws to give Detroit a 123-121 lead with 31 seconds left.  The Bulls went to Jordan but he missed.  Sidney Green got the offensive rebound and was fouled with 18 seconds left.  The 2nd-year forward from UNLV tied the game at the line.  Detroit isolated Isiah, but he lost the ball before he could get a shot off on the drive.  The game was going into overtime.

The overtime got off to a bit of a slow start as Detroit couldn’t hit a shot and Chicago couldn’t take care of the ball.  Kent Benson hit a hook shot and was fouled.  This gave Detroit a 126-124 lead and would be the Pistons’ last point.  MJ found Green for a jumper from the top.

Then with under 2:00 left, Green outletted to Jordan on the break.  Michael was wrapped up by Vinnie Johnson but maintained his balance and concentration to put it in the hoop.  Vinnie fouled out on the play and the Bulls took a 129-126 lead.  Later, Dailey got a steal and layup and then hit two free throws after Isiah missed a three to seal it.  Green added insult by hitting a banker from the top at the buzzer to get the Bulls a 13-point winning margin.

Detroit ended up with the 4-seed in the East with a 46-36 record.  They finished 8 games ahead of the Bulls and while they wouldn’t see each other in the playoffs for a few years, the rivalry between Chicago and Detroit (perhaps mostly so with Isiah and Jordan) was starting to develop.

Detroit starters (points scored)

Terry Tyler (4) – Small Forward

Kent Benson (9) – Power Forward

Bill Laimbeer (19) – Center

Isiah Thomas (19) – Point Guard

John Long (26) – Shooting Guard

Detroit bench (points scored)

Vinnie Johnson (28)

Earl Curetan (6)

Tony Campbell (10)

Brook Steppe (2)

Major Jones (3)

Detroit Coach: Chuck Daly

Chicago starters (points scored)

Orlando Woolridge (31) – Small Forward

Sidney Green (16) – Power Forward

Dave Corzine (6) – Center

Wes Matthews (14) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (49) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

Quintin Dailey (21)

David Greenwood (0)

Rod Higgins (0)

Jawann Oldham (2)

Chicago Coach: Kevin Loughery

March 12, 1985 – Boston Celtics 126, Atlanta Hawks 115 @New Orleans

The Hawks home away from home was the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.  They probably disbanded it largely because for this game, it might as well have been Boston Garden because the crowd was behind the Celtics.

Atlanta came into the game with a 25-39 record but as their announcer John Sterling (yes, New Yorkers, the same guy that is the radio voice of the Yankees) noted, they seemed to play well whenever they played the Celtics.  In reality, the Hawks had a young team.  The core included third-year forward Dominique Wilkins, second-year guards Doc Rivers and Randy Wittman and rookies Kevin Willis and Antoine Carr.  For this game, their only veteran with a prominent role was point guard Eddie Johnson.  Veteran center Tree Rollins was out.

The young Hawks were dubbed the ‘Baby Birds’ by Sterling and Carr got off to a flying start with a layup and a slam.  But Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge hit outside shots and Larry Bird hit a driving finger roll.  After a Wilkins finger roll cut the Celtics lead to 12-11, Boston went on a 6-0 run as all five of their starters got involved.  Cedric Maxwell had injured a knee a month earlier so Kevin McHale was in the lineup and stayed for the next 4 years.

Bird scored six straight Celtic points at one point in the 1st.  But Atlanta stayed on their heels and once again were playing hard and determined against the Celtics.  Boston did take a 10-point lead when Ray Williams (who was in his 6th game with the Celtics since signing on February 21) hit a three from the corner.  But the Hawks ended the quarter on a high note when Rivers blew by the still not in shape Williams for a layup.  Boston was up 35-27 after 1.

The Hawks went on an 8-0 run early in the 2nd quarter and took the lead at 42-41 when Eddie Johnson’s shot was goaltended by Robert Parish.  McHale came back with a hook from the post.  And then on back-to-back transition breaks, Ainge found Bird for a corner jumper and then Danny found D.J. for a layup on a 4-on-1 break.  Eddie Johnson led the Hawks back as they took a 54-52 lead on a Dominique finger roll against Bird on the break.

Then Larry came right back with a layup and a foul off a D.J. feed.  Bird then came off a screen and nailed a wing jumper.  The 6-0 Bird run concluded with two free throws and gave Larry 21 points.  He finished the first half with 23 as Boston took a 65-58 lead at the half.

Antoine Carr started the 2nd half with a bang as he got a steal and went coast-to-coast for a slam.  Carr showed off his ball-handling talents a lot for a 6’9″ guy in this game (he had an impressive coast-to-coast drive and slam in the 1st quarter).  But Bird answered with a jumper and each team traded blows for awhile.  Atlanta did tie it at 69 on a Wilkins wing jumper.

But Boston regained a five-point lead as their starters kept firing them in.  Scott Wedman joined the party with back-to-back baskets to give Boston an 87-80 lead.  Bird then hit two turnaround fadeaway jumpers from the post followed by a three from the wing to give him 38 points.  Bird then ended the quarter with his 42nd point on a high arching runner in transition.  The crowd was starting to ooh and ahh at each Larry Bird move and shot.  Boston led 100-89 going into the 4th.

The Hawks cut it seven early on but back-to-back jumpers from Wedman and back-to-back field goals from Parish put Boston up 108-93 and forced an Atlanta timeout.  The Hawks made a run as Wittman found Wilkins for a finger roll on the break.  Then Eddie Johnson took it himself on a 2-on-1 break, Wilkins hit two free throws and then Dominique got a dunk from Eddie Johnson on the break.  Atlanta had cut it to 108-101.  It was time for the Celtics’ answer.

The answer was Larry Legend all by himself.  McHale first found him for a cutting layup.  But before his next move, Carr hit a wing jumper and then found Wilkins on the break for a slam to cut the lead to 110-105.  Then Bird hit a free throw, another fallaway from the wing over Wilkins and then a corner jumper.  This forced an Atlanta timeout with 1:56 left and the Hawks down 115-105.  It also forced a technical on Hawks’ assistant coach Ron Rothstein.  Bird added a free throw.

It was sensed at about this point that Bird was going for a Celtics’ record that Kevin McHale set 9 days earlier with 56 against the Pistons.  After Wilkins hit a corner jumper, Bird hit a baseline fallaway over Wilkins.  And then after a Willis slam, Bird hit a tough leaner on the baseline after a spin.  Bird later hit two free throws to tie the record and give Boston a 122-111 lead.

Then Bird had his best highlight of the night.. on a basket that didn’t count!  Bird was fouled just before releasing a three from the wing in front of the Hawks bench while falling out of bounds.  He banked it in.  The crowd and the Hawks bench went crazy (perhaps the Hawks coaches had quite a meeting with the team about how they were celebrating every Bird basket late in the game, quite frankly I hope so.. OK, OK I’m not Stephen A.).

Bird hit two free throws after the three didn’t count and then ended the game with a jumper from the foul line at the buzzer to give him 60 points.  It is still the Celtic’s all-time single-game scoring record.  Boston ended up finishing with the best record in the league at 63-19, but they ran into some problems in the playoffs even before the Finals.

Atlanta finished at 34-48, which was two games out of the playoffs.  But the Baby Birds would be a factor for the rest of the 1980’s, so much so that I don’t think they were called the Baby Birds much longer.

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (60) – Small Forward

Kevin McHale (14) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (12) – Center

Dennis Johnson (15) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (10) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Scott Wedman (12)

Ray Williams (3)

Quinn Buckner (0)

Greg Kite (0)

Boston Coach: K.C. Jones

Atlanta starters (points scored)

Dominique Wilkins (36) – Small Forward

Kevin Willis (8) – Power Forward

Antoine Carr (13) – Center

Eddie Johnson (26) – Point Guard

Randy Wittman (4) – Shooting Guard

Atlanta bench (points scored)

Doc Rivers (16)

Cliff Levingston (8)

Scott Hastings (2)

Rickey Brown (2)

Atlanta Coach: Mike Fratello

Larry Bird attempts a shot

Larry Bird had an incredible game versus the Hawks in 1985 *photo courtesy of The Sports Cult

April 18, 1985 – West Quarterfinals, Game 1: Portland Blazers 131 @Dallas Mavericks 139 (2OT)

It was the first day of the NBA playoffs and it was a classic between the two teams who battled to earn the right to probably lose to the Lakers in the 2nd round.

The Dallas Mavericks finished with a 44-38 and were the 4th seed in the West.  Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman still led the way with Jay Vincent, Brad Davis, Derek Harper and Dale Ellis contributing.  The big acquisition was drafting North Carolina’s Sam Perkins with the 4th pick in the draft.

Portland had recovered from a slow start to finish at 42-40 and in 5th place in the West, winning 12 of their final 16 games.

The Blazers got off to an early lead in Game 1 thanks to Kenny Carr (who was back from injury) and Darnell Valentine (who was back in the starting lineup).  Each scored four points as Portland led early 10-4.  Dallas probably got off to a slow start because for some reason Wallace Bryant was starting in place of Jay Vincent.  But Vincent came in and scored six early points to lead Dallas back.  They led 23-22 before Jim Paxson’s driving left-handed layup gave Portland a 24-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Because of the talent on Portland, Paxson and Mychal Thompson (both of whom would start almost anywhere else) came off the bench.  But they did lead Portland to a 9-point lead in the 2nd quarter.  That lead increased to 46-34 on a Kiki Vandeweghe three.  That lead increased to 53-38 on a Paxson three and forced a Dallas timeout.  The Mavericks did make a mini-run to cut into the lead.  After Ellis got a steal and slam, the Blazers lead was cut to 57-48 at the half.

That momentum continued into the 2nd half as Dallas put on a quick 14-4 run and took the lead at 62-61 when Aguirre found Blackman for a three-point play on a baseline drive.  Valentine and Vandeweghe helped Portland regain a slim lead.  But Kiki committed his 4th foul and Portland brought in rookie Jerome Kersey for him.

Kersey had to guard Aguirre and Mark abused him down low.  Aguirre hit a turnaround from inside to give Dallas a 77-73 lead.  He then hit two free throws after drawing a foul on Kersey.  Mark completed his 6 points in a row with a tip-in on a Harper miss.  Dallas maintained an 88-85 lead going into the 4th quarter.  The Mavericks had scored 40 points in the quarter.

Jumpers from Perkins and Blackman gave Dallas a 7-point lead.  Then a 6-0 Blazers run cut the lead to 94-93.  The Blazers had a chance to take the lead but Drexler missed a pull-up in the lane.  Just before Drexler’s move, disaster struck Portland away from the ball.

Jim Paxson was cutting baseline while Kenny Carr was trying to get into rebound position.  They had a violent collision that left both dazed.  Paxson was carried off on a stretcher but it was just precautionary and as it turned out he had a gash on his head and was a bit groggy.  Paxson didn’t return for Game 1 but was back for Game 2.  Carr came back later in Game 1 with a band-aid over his eye.

While Dallas had a 5-on-3 advantage, Vincent scored in the lane before timeout was called.  After seeing two of their players hurt, Portland went on an 8-0 run.  Mychal Thompson hit a hook in the lane.  Valentine hit a pull-up from the elbow.  Thompson finished a beautiful fast break and then Vandeweghe hit a wing jumper.

But Dallas came back after a timeout and tied it at 102 when Vincent finished a 3-on-2 break.  Blackman then put back a Vincent missed jumper and was fouled.  The three-point play put Dallas up 105-102.  Then, from the post, Aguirre fed a cutting Perkins for a reverse slam.  Portland called a timeout with 2:47 left, down 107-102.

Drexler came back with a pull-up in the lane and Valentine hit two free throws with 1:49 left to cut it to one.  Vincent split a pair of free throws after Bowie committed his 5th foul to put Dallas up 108-106.  Drexler then drove down the lane to tie the game.  Then Drexler got a steal and Valentine fed Thompson for a slam and a 110-108 Portland lead.  Dallas called timeout with 41 seconds left.

They got the ball to Blackman, who easily went by Drexler on the baseline for a reverse layup.  After a Portland timeout, they went inside to Thompson.  Mychal hit a turnaround with 10 seconds left to give Portland the lead again.  Dallas called timeout again and again went to Blackman.  This time Rolando drove down the lane and scored with 4 seconds left to tie the game again.  Drexler missed a three at the buzzer and the game was going into overtime.

Drexler and Valentine did get early field goals in the overtime to give Portland a 116-113 lead.  But Rolando Blackman came back with a baseline jumper and Perkins tied the game at 117 with a rebound-slam off an Aguirre miss.  Drexler, after committing his 5th foul, drove and fed Bowie for a slam.  Perkins came back and hit on a third shot and was fouled.  He missed the free throw though and the game was still tied.

On Portland’s next possession, Valentine penetrated and found Bowie for a short jumper with 34 seconds left.  Portland led 121-119 and Dallas called timeout.  But when action resumed, Perkins missed a baseline jumper and Portland had a chance to run the clock and shoot free throws to win it.  Instead, Thompson threw the ball out of bounds and Dallas got another timeout with 17 seconds left.

They went to Blackman again and he pulled up from about 6 feet away and drilled a jumper to tie the game.  Portland’s answer was a forced shot by Vandeweghe at the buzzer.  It was way short and the game continued.

The Blazers scored the first four points of the 2nd overtime and then Bowie blocked a Blackman shot.  But Perkins got the rebound, scored and drew Bowie’s 6th foul.  The three-point play cut the lead to 125-124 and then Dallas took the lead for good when Perkins kicked out to Harper for a wing jumper.

Rolando Blackman then put the game away by scoring Dallas’ next seven points to bring his point total to 43 and give the Mavericks a 133-127 lead.  The Mavericks were on their way to a hard earned Game 1 victory.

But as we’ll learn from Game 2 next, the series was far from over.

Portland starters (points scored)

Kenny Carr (16) – Small Forward

Kiki Vandeweghe (25) – Power Forward

Sam Bowie (8) – Center

Darnell Valentine (24) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (18) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Mychal Thompson (17)

Jim Paxson (19)

Steve Colter (0)

Jerome Kersey (4)

Portland Coach: Jack Ramsay

Dallas starters (points scored)

Mark Aguirre (27) – Small Forward

Sam Perkins (26) – Power Forward

Wallace Bryant (0) – Center

Brad Davis (7) – Point Guard

Rolando Blackman (43) – Shooting Guard

Dallas bench (points scored)

Jay Vincent (23)

Derek Harper (7)

Dale Ellis (2)

Kurt Nimphius (4)

Dallas Coach: Dick Motta

Rolando_Blackman (1)

Rolando Blackman led Dallas to a win with 43 points in Game 1 *photo courtesy of Mavs Wikipedia

April 20, 1985 – West Quarterfinals, Game 2: Portland Blazers 124 @Dallas Mavericks 121 (OT)

Portland had given away a great opportunity to steal Game 1 on the road, and it looked like they were still recovering from that heart-breaker early in Game 2.  They hit 3 of their first 15 shots and trailed 19-6.  Jay Vincent was starting in this game and was the key factor in that early lead.  Dallas led by as many as 14 before a Jerome Kersey driving basket and a Jim Paxson breakaway cut the Mavericks lead to 25-15 after one quarter.

Paxson was back after suffering concussion-like symptoms in Game 1 after a collision with teammate Kenny Carr.  He and Steve Colter hit field goals early in the 2nd quarter to cut the Mavericks lead to 25-19.  But then Derek Harper hit a wing jumper and Brad Davis hit from the foul line.  Mark Aguirre found Sam Perkins for a slam to give Dallas a 12-point lead again.

But Paxson, Sam Bowie and Kenny Carr led the Blazers back.  They tied it at 38 on a Clyde Drexler driving banker.  Portland took the lead when Colter found Drexler for a slam on the break.  But Dallas came back and took a 45-43 lead at the half.

Game 1’s hero Rolando Blackman and Portland’s leading scorer Kiki Vandeweghe got going in the third quarter as the game went back-and-forth.  Blackman had 10 points in the quarter after being held to 6 in the first half.  Vandeweghe had 11 in the quarter after being held to 2 in the first half.  Dallas had a 5-point lead in the 3rd while Portland’s biggest was 3.  The Blazers led 78-77 going into the 4th.

The game continued back-and-forth but a big moment came with 10:35 left in the game.  Drexler hit a pull-up jumper from the baseline and drew Aguirre’s 5th foul.  The three-point play gave Portland an 83-81 lead and forced Aguirre to sit with 20 points.  But Dallas got a spark as Dale Ellis came in for Aguirre, hit a corner jumper and then hit a three from the top to give the Mavericks an 88-86 lead.

Vincent got a basket on a Portland goaltending and then Ellis hit a wing jumper after a fake and step-in.  Portland called a timeout but it didn’t help as Drexler picked up a technical after fouling Blackman.  Rolando’s two free throws, plus the technical, gave Dallas a 95-88 lead.

Blackman then drove and forced Bowie to commit one of his 5 goaltending violations on the game.  Dallas led by nine and Rolando was wowing the crowd.  Portland cut into the lead but Blackman personally kept Dallas ahead.  He hit a driving off-balance shot in the lane and was fouled.  That three-point play gave the Mavs a 104-96 lead.  Blackman then hit a pull-up from the wing to give Dallas a 106-96 lead with just under 2:00 left and give him 32 points.

As the three-point line was starting to evolve in its 6th season, teams were starting to learn that a 10-point lead with 2:00 left wasn’t impossible to overcome (even if TBS announcer Skip Caray mentioned that it was almost cocktail hour for the Mavericks.. he also said during the telecast that the only thing harder then being a referee was being happily married).

Colter hit a step-back three and then after Ellis missed a three at the end of the Mavericks shot clock, Drexler nailed a trey from the wing and just like that, it was 106-102 with 1:23 left.  To keep it going, Drexler got a steal and then found Vandeweghe for a slam on a 3-on-1.

The Mavericks again ran down the shot clock and got it down low to Aguirre.  Mark was doubled and kicked it out to Harper, who nailed a three from the wing to give Dallas a 109-104 lead with 41 seconds left.  Portland ran its offense quickly as Drexler penetrated and found Mychal Thompson for a slam.  Then after Harper missed a wing jumper at the end of the shot clock, Bowie rebounded and Drexler found Vandeweghe for an easy layup with a long pass with 6 seconds left.  Portland had cut the lead to 109-108.

Vincent was fouled upon receiving the inbounds pass.  He made the first and missed the second, giving Portland a chance to tie it with a two-pointer after a timeout.  It was another quick-hitting play as Drexler got the inbounds pass on the move and then found a cutting Thompson for a slam with 1 second left.  Dallas’ inbounds pass was deflected by Bowie and for the second straight game, we were going into overtime.

Portland’s run continued as Thompson found Vandeweghe for a slam off the tip.  After Blackman hit a jumper, Thompson put back a Colter miss.  Then Drexler fed Vandeweghe for a cutting reverse.  After two Vincent free throws, Kiki hit a pull-up from the wing and then Colter found Thompson for a tough shot inside.  Portland led 120-114 and Dallas called timeout.

Portland almost put the game away when Drexler got a steal, but he missed at the other end.  Blackman then got re-ignited.  He got a driving slam down the lane and then hit a pull-up after a Vincent steal.  Dallas then had a chance to tie it when Harper got a steal with 48 seconds left.  Perkins missed but Dallas got the rebound and called timeout with 28 seconds left.

Dale Ellis, after sparking the Mavericks in the 4th quarter, perhaps showed his youth as he threw the ball away after Dallas got it inbounds.  Portland was able to run quite a few seconds off the clock before Aguirre had to commit his 6th foul on Vandeweghe with 7 seconds left.  Kiki’s two free throws gave Portland a 122-118 lead.

Blackman hit a tough three on the inbounds pass to bring his total to 41 points in this game.  But Darnell Valentine sealed it with two free throws and Perkins’ heave from just in front of half-court was an airball.

Portland won the next two games at home to take the series 3-1.  As a reward, they got to play the Lakers in the next round.

Portland starters (points scored)

Kenny Carr (6) – Small Forward

Kiki Vandeweghe (27) – Power Forward

Sam Bowie (6) – Center

Darnell Valentine (12) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (19) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Mychal Thompson (25)

Jim Paxson (18)

Steve Colter (6)

Jerome Kersey (2)

Audie Norris (3)

Portland Coach: Jack Ramsay

Dallas starters (points scored)

Mark Aguirre (20) – Small Forward

Jay Vincent (19) – Power Forward

Sam Perkins (14) – Center

Brad Davis (11) – Point Guard

Rolando Blackman (41) – Shooting Guard

Dallas bench (points scored)

Derek Harper (7)

Dale Ellis (9)

Kurt Nimphius (0)

Dallas Coach: Dick Motta


At least from our 1985 perspective, Portland drafting Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan wasn’t that big of a mistake *photo courtesy of ESPN

April 23, 1985 – East Quarterfinals, Game 3: Boston Celtics 98 @Cleveland Cavaliers 105

This next game comes from the Vintage NBA of World B. Free.  Free had not been heard much from since being 2nd in the league in scoring and starting in the All-Star Game in 1980 with the San Diego Clippers.  The Clippers traded him to the Warriors in the summer of 1980 for Phil Smith.  He played 2 seasons with Golden State before they traded him to Cleveland straight up for Ron Brewer early in the 1983 season.  Free had not played for a playoff team since being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers in 1978.

Similarly, the Cleveland Cavaliers hadn’t seen a playoff game since 1978 and they had to go through the Ted Stepien era in the early 1980’s.  Stepien was the owner of the team from 1980 to 1983.  It was an era in which Stepien traded away high draft picks for mediocre talent (like acquiring Don Ford from the Lakers for a 1982 1st round pick that turned into James Worthy).  This occurrence led to the ‘Stepien rule’ in which a team couldn’t trade 1st round picks in consecutive seasons.  Stepien also signed players like Scott Wedman, James Edwards and Bobby Wilkerson for huge amounts of money.  Stepien hired and fired 5 different coaches and fired popular broadcaster Joe Tait for a time.  All in all, the Cavaliers (or the Cleveland Cadavers, as they were referred to locally) finished 66-180 in the Stepien era.

Free came into the last year of the Stepien era and played with young teammates.  In 1982, the Cavs drafted point guard John Bagley and acquired forward Phil Hubbard in a trade with Detroit.  In 1983, they grabbed forward Roy Hinson in the draft and acquired Lonnie Shelton from Seattle.  In 1984, they acquired center Melvin Turpin in a draft day deal and signed center Mark West as a free agent.  The Cavs also gave George Karl his first head coaching job.  Even with all of these young pieces, the Cavs started the 1985 season with a 2-19 record.

But they recovered to a 36-46 record and finished 2 games above Atlanta for the final playoff spot.  Their reward was the Boston Celtics.  But the Cavs played Boston closely in the first two games, losing 126-123 and 108-106.

For Game 3, Free came alive early and scored 11 of Cleveland’s first 15 points to give the Cavs a 15-8 lead.  The Celtics were playing this game without Larry Bird.  While former Cav Scott Wedman contributed a Bird-like game in terms of points, the Celtics were a little lackadaisical and missed several easy layups and inside shots.

After the Cavs led 25-24 after one, they increased their lead to ten at the half (55-45) and at the end of the third (76-66).  But Boston had cut it to 82-76 with 7:15 left and two Dennis Johnson free throws cut it to four.  But Free, Hinson and Hubbard were able to come alive to keep the lead and hold off Boston, who was led by Wedman in this charge.  Wedman was firing them in from the perimeter and finished with 30 points.

But Wedman fouled out with under 1:30 left.  This came just after D.J. missed a layup that could have cut Cleveland’s lead to two.  Bagley hit a free throw to put Cleveland up 97-92.  Then Bagley got a deflection and Hubbard and Free went on a 2-on-1 break.  Hubbard found Free for a layup and a foul.  The crowd, who was seeing a playoff game after the Stepien era, was loud throughout the game at the Richfield Coliseum but this play set them off.  The Cavs had a 100-92 lead with a minute left and Free had 30 points.

Free hit two more free throws later as the Cavs finished it out.  Free mentioned on Vintage NBA that he and Lonnie Shelton had talked about giving the long suffering Cavs fans at least one win to be happy about and for the team to build on.  The Cavs lost Game 4, 117-115, as Bird came back and scored 34 points.

This did end up being a building block for the Cavs, but none of these players were around for their oncoming success.  This cast of Free, Bagley, Hinson, Hubbard, West, Shelton, Turpin and others would be battling for a playoff spot again in 1986, but ended up losing it by one game to the team that beat them on opening night (and wouldn’t have its best player for most of the season).

Boston starters (points scored)

Scott Wedman (30) – Small Forward

Kevin McHale (21) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (19) – Center

Dennis Johnson (18) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (0) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Cedric Maxwell (6)

Ray Williams (4)

Quinn Buckner (0)

Greg Kite (0)

Boston Coach: K.C. Jones

Cleveland starters (points scored)

Roy Hinson (21) – Small Forward

Phil Hubbard (15) – Power Forward

Mark West (0) – Center

John Bagley (6) – Point Guard

World B. Free (32) – Shooting Guard

Cleveland bench (points scored)

Johnny Davis (3)

Melvin Turpin (10)

Edgar Jones (0)

Ben Poquette (4)

Lonnie Shelton (14)

Ron Anderson (0)

Cleveland Coach: George Karl


World B. Free had been languishing on non-playoff teams since being traded from Philadelphia in 1978.  But he led Cleveland to a playoff appearance and win in 1985.  *photo courtesy of Right Down Euclid

April 26, 1985 – East Quarterfinals, Game 4: Milwaukee Bucks 105 @Chicago Bulls 97

Milwaukee, with their new additions, finished with a 59-23 record and finally had a better record then the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that had beaten them in 1981, 1982, and 1983.

Milwaukee’s first opponent was the 7th seeded Chicago Bulls.  The Bucks won the first two games in Milwaukee mainly by holding down Michael Jordan in the 2nd half of both games.  But MJ broke loose and hit the game-winner in Game 3 as the Bulls avoided elimination despite 37 from Terry Cummings.

The Bulls kept their momentum going early in Game 4 as Wes Matthews found Orlando Woolridge for a spin and a finger roll on the break.  Jordan got his first field goal by jumping high over the Bucks big guys to grab an offensive rebound and put the ball back in.  A Woolridge wing jumper gave the Bulls a 10-6 lead.

The Bucks then went on a 6-0 run, which was finished by Craig Hodges completing a behind-the-back pass to Cummings on the break for a slam.  But the Bulls stayed with Milwaukee throughout the first quarter despite Cummings proving to be unstoppable with 15 points in the quarter.  It was tied at 27 at the end of the quarter and the Bulls missed an opportunity to go up by two when Sidney Green missed two free throws late.

The game continued back-and-forth into the 2nd quarter as neither team shot well.  Woolridge gave the Bulls a 39-35 lead when he drove down the lane and had a vicious right-handed slam over 7’3″ Randy Breuer.  But the Bucks quickly tied it when Sidney Moncrief lobbed to Alton Lister for a layup and then Breuer put back a Paul Pressey miss.

Five straight points from Moncrief eventually gave the Bucks a 44-41 lead before the first big break of the game happened.  After a steal, Terry Cummings got out on the break.  As TC went up for the shot, the ball slipped out of his hands towards the basket.  While it was in the air, Woolridge touched the ball and was called for goaltending.  While the ball was coming down, it had no chance of going in.. so it’s a debatable call, to put it nicely.  Bulls coach Kevin Loughery obviously thought it was more than debatable as he got a technical.  The basket and the technical free throw by Moncrief gave Milwaukee a 47-41 lead.

The Bucks later used a 6-0 run to go up by nine and Breuer got credit for a tip-in (Cummings first got credit for the basket but it was later changed) to give the Bucks a 55-45 halftime lead.

Milwaukee kept its double-digit lead throughout the third and took as much as a 68-51 lead when Moncrief put the ball back in after Lister had his shot blocked.  The Bulls went on an 8-0 run after that 17-point lead that finished when Sidney Green rebound-slammed a Woolridge missed breakaway layup.  But Milwaukee’s swingmen of Sidney Moncrief, Paul Pressey and Ricky Pierce hit several perimeter shots to give the Bucks an 83-70 lead going into the 4th.

Cummings kicked out to Paul Mokeski for a 15-point Bucks lead.  The Bulls had struggled in a half-court offense against Milwaukee’s defense so they got out on the break to cut into the lead.  The Bulls also turned up their defense so that they were able to get out on the break.  Jawann Oldham started one break with a block and Jordan found Quintin Dailey on a 3-on-1 for a layup.  Later, Dailey finished a 4-on-2 with a finger roll and the Bulls had cut the lead to 85-78.

But then Moncrief hit a jumper from the top of the key at the end of the shot clock to break the run.  Pierce hit two perimeter jumpers to answer Bulls buckets and keep the lead at 10.  Jordan cut into the lead with a banker in the lane after his behind-the-back dribble split a trap at the foul line.  But when future Bull Craig Hodges hit a wing jumper, Milwaukee led 98-87.  Then with 2:52, Woolridge committed an offensive foul for his 5th and things looked bleak.

Over the next minute and a half the Bulls managed to cut it to 98-91 but then Milwaukee committed a 10-second half court violation (a team has to get the ball over half-court in 10 seconds.. now its 8 seconds) with 1:24 left.  And after a Bulls timeout, Jordan penetrated and dished out to Dailey for a three from the wing.  With 1:16 left, the Bucks lead was 98-94.

Cummings was fouled on his drive with 1:02 left.  After being way short on the first free throw, TC airballed the second shot.  The Bulls cut it to 98-96 with 51 seconds left when Jordan made two free throws.  Then the Bulls pressure defense forced Milwaukee to throw it away.  Instead of Jordan getting the ball with a chance to tie it, Dailey drove and was fouled with 36 seconds left.  His first free throw hung on the rim before falling off.  He did make the second to cut the lead to 98-97.

Milwaukee this time broke the press and Cummings was fouled on a breakaway with 32 seconds left.  This time TC made both shots for a 100-97 lead.  After a Bulls timeout, Jordan drove and had his shot blocked by Cummings.  Terry retrieved the ball and was fouled with 20 seconds left.  He made two more free throws.

The Bulls still had a slim chance but it pretty much died when Woolridge couldn’t get the ball in-bounds and committed a 5-second violation.  Pressey and Cummings finished the series at the line and Milwaukee was on to play their nemesis, the Philadelphia 76ers.  Despite the home-court advantage, the Bucks were swept by Philly who had now beaten them in their last 4 playoff meetings.

Milwaukee starters (points scored)

Paul Pressey (20) – Small Forward

Terry Cummings (29) – Power Forward

Alton Lister (5) – Center

Craig Hodges (4) – Point Guard

Sidney Moncrief (23) – Shooting Guard

Milwaukee bench (points scored)

Ricky Pierce (15)

Charles Davis (0)

Paul Mokeski (5)

Randy Breuer (4)

Milwaukee Coach: Don Nelson

Chicago starters (points scored)

Orlando Woolridge (12) – Small Forward

David Greenwood (8) – Power Forward

Dave Corzine (12) – Center

Wes Matthews (6) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (29) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

Quintin Dailey (17)

Sidney Green (9)

Jawann Oldham (4)

Chicago Coach: Kevin Loughery

April 28, 1985 – West Quarterfinals, Game 5: Utah Jazz 104 @Houston Rockets 97

The Houston Rockets had rebounded with back-to-back number 1 picks in the draft, Ralph Sampson in 1983 and Akeem Olajuwon in 1984.  But the Rockets had drafted Rodney McCray with the 3rd pick in the 1983 draft, and he teamed in the front-court with the twin towers.

In the back court, Houston had acquired Lewis Lloyd in free agency and John Lucas through trade.  Each would battle drug problems and get suspended by the NBA in the next few years while playing for Houston.  The Rockets still had some holdovers from their 1981 Finals team.  Swing man Robert Reid and point guard Allen Leavell were reserves.

Another player from that 1981 Finals team now played for the Jazz and had a 15-year playoff streak going.  Billy Paultz was a deep reserve for Utah but was a big factor in this game, and not just for taking a punch (I’ll explain later).

The Jazz had some new additions from their 1984 Midwest Division winning team along with Paultz.  They had drafted John Stockton in the 1st round (they would draft Karl Malone in the coming draft.. because, really, you can’t mention Stockton without mentioning Malone).  They also acquired Fred Roberts from the Spurs in December for two future 2nd round picks.

The holdovers for Utah were starters Adrian Dantley, Thurl Bailey and Mark Eaton in the front court and Rickey Green and Darrell Griffith in the back court.  The Jazz also had Jeff Wilkins and Rich Kelley coming off the bench.  Utah lost its 6th man from 1984 as John Drew had recurring drug problems and was out of the league.

Utah won Game 1 in Houston and, with a 2-1 series lead, took an 11-point halftime lead in Game 4 at home.  But Houston came back, led by Sampson, and won 96-94 to force a Game 5.

The game got off to a slow start as the nerves for an all-or-nothing game kicked in.  But eventually, a Sampson turnaround jumper in the post put Houston up 13-9 and gave him 6 points.  Then Lucas found Lloyd in transition for a layup and a 6-point lead.  Akeem also got into the action as he rebound-slammed Lucas’ missed shot and later hit a three-point play on a banker in the lane while Dantley was hanging on his arm.

Led by Dantley and Green, Utah stayed within range throughout the quarter despite not shooting well.  A lot of that bad shooting came from missed easy shots mostly from Mark Eaton.  The 7’4″ Eaton was contributing in other ways though.  An Olajuwon jumper from the post after a ‘dream shake‘ gave Houston a 26-20 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.

The 2nd quarter started off even slower as it took both teams about 2 minutes before any points were put on the board.  Naturally, it was Houston that got those points and took a 30-20 lead.  Reid came off the bench for three wing jumpers  to keep that lead at 10.  But eventually Utah was able to scrape out an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 37-35.

With a few minutes left in the half, Lloyd drove and was fouled.  Lloyd was tripped up on the foul and ended up cutting out Eaton’s legs and hyperextending his knee.  Eaton was eventually able to get up and jog off the floor but that’s where the good news ended, Eaton tore his MCL on the play and was out for the playoffs.

After Eaton went out, Sampson hit a hook shot and was fouled.  Then Lloyd found Olajuwon on the break for a slam and Houston led by 7.  Two Dantley free throws cut the lead to 44-39 at the half.

But Eaton’s loss would be a factor in the 3rd quarter as Sampson and Olajuwon went to work against a smaller Jazz team without the defensive player of the year.  The Twin Towers scored eight straight points on a Houston 10-0 run that put them up 54-41.  Dantley and Griffith were able to keep the Jazz from being blown out further but Houston maintained its margin and led 76-67 after three quarters.  Olajuwon had 24 points and Sampson had 15.

Late in the third quarter and into the 4th, Utah used a lineup of John Stockton and Fred Roberts in the back court with Thurl Bailey, Rich Kelley and Billy Paultz up front.  Against expert odds, they managed to cut into the lead.  Paultz was starting to frustrate Olajuwon with physical play.  Roberts got two quick field goals to cut Houston’s lead to 76-71 and then Stockton cut it to 77-73 with a jumper at the end of the shot clock.

Sampson hit back-to-back field goals to force a Utah timeout.  Bailey then responded with two jumpers and Utah cut it to 83-81 on a Paultz tip-in.  Paultz’s physical play against Akeem took a factor on the other end.  Right before Sampson drove past Jeff Wilkins for a slam, a replay caught Akeem giving Paultz a right hook away from the ball.  The refs didn’t catch that though (as evidenced by Olajuwon still being in the game).  But it painted Akeem in a bad way early in his career that he could be provoked by physical play.  A primer example of that showed up next season and almost cost Houston in a big game.

The Jazz were eventually able to tie it at 89 on two Roberts free throws.  Then Fred found Bailey at the wing for a jumper and the Jazz’s first lead in awhile.  Roberts then penetrated and found Paultz for a baseline jumper.  Houston’s only response was Sampson and Olajuwon each splitting a pair of free throws.  Utah took a 95-91 with about 2:00 left when the Jazz hustled down three offensive rebounds before Bailey scored on a goaltending.  It was thought that Akeem’s punch sparked the Jazz but for whatever reason, Utah was out-hustling Houston in a lot of ways and the possession where the Jazz got 4 shots typified that.

On Houston’s next few possessions, Sampson lost the ball out of bounds and then Bailey blocked a Lucas shot on the drive.  Bailey then hit a free throw with 1:17 left to give Utah a 96-91 lead.  Houston finally scored after a timeout when Leavell hit a wing jumper with his foot on the three-point line.

Utah ran down the shot clock but Sampson was able to block a Kelley shot.  Stockton, however, ran down the loose ball and eventually Bailey was fouled with 28 seconds left.  He made both free throws for a 98-93 Jazz lead.  Adrian Dantley saw his first 4th quarter action in the final 28 seconds and made 6 free throws to cinch the game and the series for Utah.  Not only was Dantley out until the final seconds, Rickey Green and Darrell Griffith didn’t play at all in the 4th quarter.

So what did Utah do with three of their top four scorers barely seeing action in the final quarter?  They outscored Houston 37-21 to advance into the 2nd round to take on the Denver Nuggets.

Utah starters (points scored)

Adrian Dantley (25) – Small Forward

Thurl Bailey (20) – Power Forward

Mark Eaton (0) – Center

Rickey Green (12) – Point Guard

Darrell Griffith (14) – Shooting Guard

Utah bench (points scored)

Fred Roberts (9)

Jeff Wilkins (6)

John Stockton (5)

Rich Kelley (7)

Billy Paultz (6)

Utah Coach: Frank Layden

Houston starters (points scored)

Rodney McCray (2) – Small Forward

Ralph Sampson (23) – Power Forward

Akeem Olajuwon (32) – Center

John Lucas (16) – Point Guard

Lewis Lloyd (8) – Shooting Guard

Houston bench (points scored)

Robert Reid (12)

Mitchell Wiggins (0)

Lionel Hollins (0)

Allen Leavell (2)

Larry Micheaux (2)

Houston Coach: Bill Fitch


Billy Paultz takes a right hook from Olajuwon during play away from the ball *gif courtesy of gifrific

May 3, 1985 – West Semifinals, Game 3: Los Angeles Lakers 130 @Portland Blazers 126

In the 5 playoff games the 62-win Lakers had played so far in 1985, they were 5-0 and their closest margin of victory was 16.  That came in Game 2 against Portland to take a 2-0 lead.

For the Lakers, the only turnover from their roster in 1984 was deep on the bench.  Swen Nater retired.  Jamaal Wilkes was on his way out and not on the playoff roster.  Mitch Kupchak was getting more playing time as his knee was improving.  But the core was still the same.  The top 7 of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper and Bob McAdoo played most of the minutes.

The Blazers challenge in Game 3 at home was to stay with the run-and-gun Lakers early.  They actually got out to an early lead despite two early fouls on Sam Bowie.  A Bowie slam after a Clyde Drexler steal put Portland up by three.  Then a Kiki Vandeweghe three-point play on a Drexler feed and a slam put the Blazers up 13-9.

The Lakers then went on a 9-1 run.  Kareem had a vicious left-handed slam after a spin move from the post.  Kareem was mad after being called for two cheap fouls.  Magic then got a three-point play with a driving left-handed layup and Worthy tipped in a Kareem miss.  But Vandeweghe and the Blazers bench of Mychal Thompson and Steve Colter kept the Blazers in the game.

They managed to pull a 32-all tie late in the 1st quarter but then with 1 second left, McAdoo put back a Worthy miss and was fouled.  The three-point play put L.A. up 35-32 going into the 2nd quarter and started momentum.

After Thompson hit two free throws to cut the lead to one, Kareem found a cutting Mike McGee for a layup.  McGee then hit a wing jumper in transition and Kareem found Cooper for a cutting reverse.  When McAdoo hit a baseline jumper, L.A. led 43-35.  A Thompson three-point play was countered by three field goals from Worthy.

Portland cut the margin back to seven before the Lakers went on a 7-0 run on three Magic Johnson assists.  Magic first fed Cooper for a cutting layup and then found McAdoo for a jumper in the lane.  To round it out, Magic found Scott for a corner three.  Magic had more assists as the Lakers looked like a well-oiled machine and, quite simply, a better team than Portland.

Magic rounded out the half with two field goals to put the Lakers up 72-54 late in the half.  The Blazers got a break as Jim Paxson was fouled on a three-point attempt at the buzzer.  At the time, there were only two shots on a foul even if it was beyond the three-point line (this would become a great what-if in a Bulls/Celtics playoff game in 1986 that we’ll get to in the next NBA post).  Paxson made both free throws to cut it to 72-56 at the half.

Clyde Drexler, who was scoreless in the first half, made the first basket as Portland came out with momentum.  Later, a Drexler three-point play on a drive down the lane and left-handed finish cut the lead to 76-67.  But led by Worthy, the Lakers didn’t let the margin get much closer in the third.  James, who was starting to come into his own in the NBA, scored 9 points over the next few minutes.

Portland did cut it to 94-88 after a 5-0 run in which Colter hit a three and Drexler hit a layup over Magic after a Vandeweghe steal.  But then Worthy hit two free throws and then Cooper found him on the break for a dunk.  Six L.A. free throws put them up 104-90 late in the quarter but once again there was a buzzer-beater that started momentum.  Paxson found Colter for a baseline jumper as the horn sounded.  The Blazers had cut the lead to 104-92.

Early in the 4th, Magic found Kupchak for a layup.  This was Magic’s 21st assist.  He would pick up two more to finish one short of his playoff record of 24 assists in a game.  Portland cut it to 110-102 when Drexler found Bowie for a slam.  But then Bowie committed his 5th foul and Portland momentum regressed for the moment.  A Kareem shy-hook from the bottom of the free throw circle put L.A. up 116-104.

However, Portland’s final run started when Thompson came right back in transition and banked in a runner.  Three free throws later, the lead was down to seven.  Then Drexler got a breakaway slam after a Thompson rebound and outlet.  The lead was down to 116-111.  Kareem hit a free throw before Kenny Carr came right back with a hook shot from the post.  The lead was down to 117-113 and L.A. called timeout.

Kareem came back with two straight sky hooks and then Worthy hit a shot in the lane while drawing the 6th foul on Carr.  This three-point play put the Lakers up 124-116.  Two Kareem free throws put the Lakers up 10 with 1:56 left.  Portland was able to scramble back to within four over the next minute, but Kareem hit two more free throws to all but cinch the game.

The Blazers managed to give the Lakers their first playoff loss in Game 4 but the Lakers managed to clinch the series in Game 5.  Magic led the Lakers to a 139-120 victory with 34 points and 19 assists.

LA Lakers starters (points scored)

James Worthy (28) – Small Forward

Kurt Rambis (4) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (26) – Center

Magic Johnson (13) – Point Guard

Byron Scott (15) – Shooting Guard

LA Lakers bench (points scored)

Bob McAdoo (23)

Michael Cooper (9)

Mike McGee (6)

Mitch Kupchak (6)

LA Lakers Coach: Pat Riley

Portland starters (points scored)

Kenny Carr (10) – Small Forward

Kiki Vandeweghe (27) – Power Forward

Sam Bowie (12) – Center

Darnell Valentine (6) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (18) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Mychal Thompson (20)

Jim Paxson (16)

Steve Colter (17)

Jerome Kersey (0)

Audie Norris (0)

Portland Coach: Jack Ramsay

May 5, 1985 – East Semifinals, Game 4: Boston Celtics 99 @Detroit Pistons 102

The Detroit Pistons were trying to gain some respect as they move up in the playoffs.  They swept New Jersey in round 1 to earn their first playoff series victory since 1976 (and actually it was their third series victory since moving to Detroit).  But now their respect would come if they could present any challenge to the world champion Celtics.

Boston easily won the first two games but Detroit did win Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena (the roof of the Pontiac Silverdome was still being fixed after collapsing during a March snowstorm).  But the way they won Game 4 would bring some respect and create “The Microwave.”

Detroit’s 1984 off-season addition Dan Roundfield scored 4 early points as Detroit took a 6-0 lead.  He then made another baseline jumper for an 8-2 lead.  But Boston got back into the game as Isiah 2 early fouls.  McHale topped that with 3 fouls in the 1st quarter but Boston took a 20-16 lead with a 7-0 run after Kevin’s 3rd foul.  They could have increased it but Roundfield had a big block on Robert Parish on a breakaway layup.

Terry Tyler, who scored 18 off the bench for Detroit in Game 3, came in and sparked them again.  He scored 6 points to bring Detroit back into the lead.  Vinnie Johnson finished the quarter with two field goals, including a pull-up from the elbow with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.  This jumper gave Detroit a 26-23 lead into the 2nd quarter.

Kent Benson also hit two early field goals for the Pistons off their bench.  His production, along with Tyler and Vinnie, kept Detroit in the game.  McHale, despite the 3 fouls, and Parish were providing sparks for Boston as the game stayed relatively even throughout the 2nd quarter.  Detroit ended up leading 54-53 at the half as they held Bird to 4 points.

But Larry got going in the third, and so did the Celtics’ outside shooting.  Bird hit the first jumper from the corner and hit two more wing jumpers as Boston took a lead.  Dennis Johnson’s wing jumper increased it to 63-58.  McHale committed his 4th foul but stayed in the game.  The Celtics lead increased to 71-63 after a D.J. drive down the lane.

A technical on Isiah after a bad foul call on Tyler increased the Celtics’ lead more.  D.J. hit the technical and then hit from the top of the key after a Bird kickout.  After an Isiah three cut it to 74-66, the teams traded baskets in a brilliant offensive stretch.  Detroit finally put together a 4-0 run to cut the lead to 82-76 on a Vinnie Johnson turnaround from the foul line.

But then Bird kicked out to McHale for a wing jumper with 37 seconds left.  Detroit missed and Boston was able to run down the third quarter clock.  D.J. found Bird at the wing beyond the three-point line.  With 7 seconds left, Larry launched immediately after the catch and nailed it for his 15th third quarter point and an 87-76 Boston lead going into the 4th.

While some credit for the 4th quarter goes to Detroit’s defense, the shots that were going in for Boston in the third were not going in early in the 4th.  Boston was held scoreless for the first 4 1/2 minutes.  But the memorable attention of this quarter goes to one, Vinnie Johnson.

Vinnie came into the quarter with 12 points.  He started with a runner in the lane and then on the next possession he hit a pull-up on the baseline.  Boston called a quick timeout but Detroit came back in transition and Isiah found Vinnie at the elbow for a pull-up.  On the next possession, Vinnie pulled down an offensive rebound, dribbled back to the top of the key and hit a pull-up as Joe Louis Arena had become a madhouse.

After McHale committed his 5th foul, Vinnie hit a pull-up from the baseline and it was 87-86 Boston.  After another Boston miss, Vinnie came back with an elbow jumper over D.J. to give Detroit the lead.  Boston called a timeout with 7:44 left and Vinnie was 6-for-6 in the quarter.

For the next few minutes, however, Detroit forgot to go to Vinnie and he was 0-for-1 in a stretch that saw Boston regain a 94-90 lead on a McHale three-point play.  Detroit called timeout and I’m sure Chuck Daly got in their faces to give the ball back to Vinnie (Detroit got to 90 points as Terry Tyler got credit for a basket on a Cedric Maxwell goaltending, it was Detroit’s only non-Vinnie field goal in the 4th).

Isiah found him for an elbow jumper to cut the lead back to two.  Bird hit a wing jumper to respond but Vinnie came right back as Isiah found him for a baseline jumper.  Vinnie then hit two free throws to tie the game at 96 with 3:30 left.  There was no scoring for the next few minutes.

Finally, Vinnie (who else) hit a pull-up in the lane with 1:50 left to give Detroit a 98-96 lead.  He then came back a minute later with perhaps his most incredible shot of the 4th.  He got the ball at the left elbow and was about to launch when D.J. came out to challenge.  Vinnie double-pumped in the air while D.J. flew by and had the ball by his right ear.  He then launched and nailed the jumper just like all the others to give Detroit a 100-96 lead.  Vinnie had scored 22 points in the 4th and had missed only one shot.

But the game wasn’t quite over.  McHale kicked out to Ainge for three to cut the lead to 100-99.  Then Bill Laimbeer missed a jumper with 24 seconds left and Boston came down without calling a timeout, they knew where they were going with the ball.  Bird got the ball in the mid-post area against Kelly Tripucka.  However, he was way short on his fallaway and Isiah got the rebound and was fouled with 3 seconds left.  He made both shots.

Boston this time called timeout down three and brought in M.L. Carr and Scott Wedman to go along with Bird, Ainge and D.J. to try and tie the game from distance.  D.J. inbounded to Ainge who was covered up top.  Danny swung the ball to a wide open Carr in the corner.  But M.L. seeing his first action of the game in his last season had his foot on the out of bounds line when he received the ball.

Detroit had won to tie the series and Danny Ainge in post-game commented that Vinnie Johnson ‘heated up quickly.. like a microwave.’  The nickname stuck and Vinnie Johnson had more ‘microwave’ moments during the rest of the 80’s and into the 90’s.  But he’d need another one in Game 5 if Detroit was thinking of stealing a game in the Boston Garden.

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (21) – Small Forward

Kevin McHale (24) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (16) – Center

Dennis Johnson (15) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (10) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Cedric Maxwell (3)

Scott Wedman (4)

Ray Williams (6)

M.L. Carr (0)

Boston Coach: K.C. Jones

Detroit starters (points scored)

Kelly Tripucka (2) – Small Forward

Dan Roundfield (10) – Power Forward

Bill Laimbeer (5) – Center

Isiah Thomas (21) – Point Guard

John Long (6) – Shooting Guard

Detroit bench (points scored)

Vinnie Johnson (34)

Terry Tyler (18)

Kent Benson (4)

Earl Curetan (2)

Detroit Coach: Chuck Daly

vinnie johnson

Vinnie Johnson scored 22 points in the 4th quarter of Game 4 to lead Detroit to a victory to tie the series against Boston *photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

May 5, 1985 – West Semifinals, Game 4: Denver Nuggets 125 @Utah Jazz 118

The Denver Nuggets won 52 games and the Midwest Division.  They had entertaining 1980’s teams that scored a lot of points and played no defense.  But this was their first of two division titles in the 80’s and the only time they made much noise in the playoffs.

They had acquired Calvin Natt, Fat Lever and Wayne Cooper from Portland for Kiki Vandeweghe and it improved their team but it took them five games in the first round to dispatch the San Antonio Spurs.  But they did have one of the most under-rated players in NBA history.  Alex English was a scoring machine who found a home in Denver.  This game was from his Vintage NBA.

English and the Nuggets had blown out Utah in Game 1 of this series.  Utah gave away a 4th quarter lead in Game 2 to lose in overtime and then won Game 3 to trail 2-1.  Denver came out flying in Game 4 as English hit a running hook in the lane and then two free throws.  Cooper hit three straight jumpers and then an English banker gave the Nuggets a 14-6 lead.

In game action that is unknown to me, Denver took a 36-26 lead after the 1st quarter and led by as many as 24 in the 2nd quarter as English had 22 first half points.  Utah cut it to 69-55 at the half but Frank Layden gave them a tongue-lashing.  It didn’t help much initially as Denver still led 98-88 after the third quarter and 111-99 when game action picked up.

English hit a pull-up in the lane to bring his total to 36 points.  But Adrian Dantley scored 7 straight points as Utah was completing a 16-7 run that cut the lead to 113-106.  A rookie by the name of John Stockton came into the game and showed what he would be doing in Utah for the next 18 seasons as he ran the team well and provided big plays at both ends of the court.

Stockton got a steal and was fouled on a breakaway.  His two free throws and then two more from Dantley cut the lead to 113-110.  Utah missed a few chances to cut the lead to one and then Natt got a breakaway slam.  But Stockton came back and found Dantley for a layup.  English hit two free throws with 2:12 left to put Denver up 117-112.

But Stockton hit a double-pump banker on the drive at the end of the shot clock (soon to become-typical Stockton creating and making a tough shot).  Then Stockton got a knock-away and released to the Denver basket as Dantley got the ball and threw the lead pass to John for the layup.  The lead was down to 117-116.

English and Dan Issel, playing with a broken finger in his final season, worked a pick-and-roll and Issel got fouled inside with 1:01 left (Stockton, no doubt, took note of this pick-and-roll thing).  Issel made two free throws.  Stockton then found Thurl Bailey for a jumper in the lane to cut the lead back to one.  Denver ran down the shot clock and Issel had to launch from the top of the key as the time ran out.  Normally, Dan was deadly and would swish it in but the finger threw off his shooting and he ended up banking this one in.

With 16 seconds left, Stockton tried to go to the post to Dantley but Adrian was fouled while the ball was on its way.  Normally a deadly foul shooter who got to the line often, Dantley bricked the two shots and English put the game away with two free throws.  Alex finished with 40 points, which was two off his playoff career-high.

Denver won Game 5 116-104 to take the series and take on the Lakers.  While Denver was expected to lose, they put up a good fight.  Perhaps they would have put up a better fight if an injury to a key player didn’t swing the series in a critical game.

Utah would draft Karl Malone in the 1985 draft but would bomb out in the 1st round the next two seasons (including after taking a 2-0 lead over Golden State in 1987).  They traded Dantley to Detroit following the 1986 season.

Denver starters (points scored)

Alex English (40) – Small Forward

Calvin Natt (18) – Power Forward

Wayne Cooper (14) – Center

Willie White (8) – Point Guard

T.R. Dunn (8) – Shooting Guard

Denver bench (points scored)

Dan Issel (12)

Mike Evans (15)

Bill Hanzlik (9)

Elston Turner (1)

Denver Coach: Doug Moe

Utah starters (points scored)

Adrian Dantley (33) – Small Forward

Thurl Bailey (21) – Power Forward

Rich Kelley (8) – Center

Rickey Green (2) – Point Guard

Darrell Griffith (28) – Shooting Guard

Utah bench (points scored)

Fred Roberts (2)

Jeff Wilkins (8)

John Stockton (12)

Bobby Hansen (2)

Pace Mannion (2)

Utah Coach: Frank Layden


Alex English made his only Conference Finals appearance in 1985 against the Lakers after his big 40 points against Utah *photo courtesy of CNN Sports Illustrated

May 8, 1985 – East Semifinals, Game 5: Detroit Pistons 123 @Boston Celtics 130

This game would be contrary to memorable Pistons/Celtics playoff matchups that happened a few years later.  Offense was more of the theme than defense.  In fact, there was a string of about 8 consecutive possessions in the 2nd quarter where each team scored.

The last time Boston had lost a Game 5 at home in a 2-2 series was the 1962 NBA Finals (and they won that series anyway) and Boston had also never lost a series when they had a 3-2 lead.  So young Detroit had a lot of history to play against.  And they played like it early as they didn’t seem poised.

Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson hit field goals to give the Celtics a 4-0 lead.  Later, Ainge and Larry Bird hit back-to-back jumpers to give Boston a 10-4 lead and force a Detroit timeout.  Boston took an 8-point lead before John Long hit three consecutive field goals to cut the lead to 16-12.  Detroit eventually cut it to 18-16 after Dan Roundfield blocked a Parish layup and Kelly Tripucka hit a jumper at the other end.

Dennis Johnson kept Boston ahead by being more aggressive offensively.  D.J. scored his 8th point on a drive to give Boston a 20-16 lead.  Then he found Bird in the post for a fall-away.  D.J. and Bird came to the rescue again when Detroit cut it back to 24-23.  D.J. hit a step-back from the wing and Bird hit a hook shot from the middle of the lane.  D.J. scored 14 first quarter points and Bird added 12.  Boston led 38-33 after a quarter.

Vinnie Johnson hit his first shot on a pull-up from the wing after Scott Wedman hit a jumper for Boston to start the 2nd quarter.  Boston brought in physical defensive guards Quinn Buckner and M.L. Carr to play Vinnie.  While it didn’t work in the 2nd quarter, Vinnie eventually wore down and didn’t have any 4th quarter magic.

Boston took an 8-point lead in the 2nd quarter but Terry Tyler, Kent Benson and Vinnie provided a spark off Detroit’s bench again.  Detroit eventually cut it to one when Roundfield hit a turnaround from the post.  Boston regained a 5-point lead and then both teams started cooking offensively.  Vinnie hit three straight shots, each time it cut Boston’s lead to one.  But D.J. answered each basket and finished the half with 22 points.  Vinnie hit a runner in the lane with 8 seconds left to cut Boston’s lead to 68-67.  Isiah got a steal before the half ran out but Vinnie slammed one home after the buzzer sounded and the Celtics kept their lead at the half.

Detroit took the lead three separate times early in the third but Boston took a 78-73 lead after a 6-0 run to force a Detroit timeout.  An Isiah three-point play on a drive and double-pump in the lane cut the lead back to one.  But then Ainge hit a wing jumper and then Bird hit a reverse and got fouled on a long continuation play that caused Detroit coach Chuck Daly to get a technical.  After Scott Wedman hit a pull-up three a minute later, Boston led 89-79.

Vinnie Johnson led Detroit back with 7 points late in the 3rd.  His two free throws with 3 seconds left cut the lead to 95-90 going into the 4th.

The 4th quarter was a classic Larry Bird takeover.  It started when Bird found Parish for a slam on a pick-and-roll.  Then Larry hit a jumper from the mid-post area.  An Isiah pull-up in the lane cut the lead back to 99-96 but Bird responded with a layup on a baseline drive.  Isiah hit another jumper to cut it back to three but Bird hit on a drive to the lane and drew Isiah’s 5th foul.  Bird completed that three-point play and then got a layup on an Ainge feed to put Boston up 106-98.

Detroit cut it back to 106-102 after McHale committed his 5th foul and Vinnie hit two more free throws.  But McHale kicked out to Ainge for a wing jumper and then Cedric Maxwell hit two free throws to put Boston up 110-102.  The Pistons big weakness that would be more-or-less corrected in the next few years (other than defense) was that they were a jump-shooting team with no inside presence.  Because of this, they could not and did not attack McHale trying to get the 6th foul on him.

A D.J. steal and an Ainge baseline jumper put Boston back up by eight.  Bird hit two jumpers to counter Detroit baskets as the game was going back-and-forth at a time when Detroit needed stops.  The Pistons finally got a chance to cut it to four with under 3:00 left but Tripucka missed a banker from the post.  Bird came back with a wing jumper for his 41st point (15th of the 4th quarter) and a 120-112 Boston lead.  Bird then got a defensive rebound and pushed the ball ahead.  He pulled up and did a behind-the-back dribble before hitting D.J. for a wing jumper.

That sequence more-or-less put Detroit away.  They got no closer than 5 points before losing by seven.  Detroit was eliminated two days later in Game 6 as Boston won at Joe Louis Arena 123-113 and moved on to play the Philadelphia 76ers.

Detroit regressed a bit in 1986 as they posted a 46-36 record (identical to 1985) and lost in the 1st round to Atlanta.  The Pistons traded Roundfield to Washington for Rick Mahorn in the 1985 off-season and also lost Tyler to free agency.  They also drafted Joe Dumars in 1985.  Then after the 1986 season, John Long was traded away for two future 2nd round picks and ended up in Indiana.  Earl Curetan was traded to Chicago for Sidney Green and in the biggest move of all, Kelly Tripucka and Kent Benson were sent to Utah for Adrian Dantley.  This Pistons also drafted John Salley and Dennis Rodman in 1986.  They were a different and better team when they played Boston again in the playoffs in 1987 with only Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson remaining from 1985.

Detroit starters (points scored)

Kelly Tripucka (20) – Small Forward

Dan Roundfield (9) – Power Forward

Bill Laimbeer (9) – Center

Isiah Thomas (18) – Point Guard

John Long (15) – Shooting Guard

Detroit bench (points scored)

Vinnie Johnson (30)

Terry Tyler (10)

Kent Benson (8)

Earl Curetan (4)

Brook Steppe (0)

Detroit Coach: Chuck Daly

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (43) – Small Forward

Kevin McHale (12) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (12) – Center

Dennis Johnson (30) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (16) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Cedric Maxwell (4)

Scott Wedman (11)

Ray Williams (0)

M.L. Carr (0)

Quinn Buckner (2)

Boston Coach: K.C. Jones

May 19, 1985 – Western Finals, Game 4: Los Angeles Lakers 120 @Denver Nuggets 116

The first three games were blowout wins and the road team had won two of them.  The Lakers took a 2-1 lead after a Game 3 victory in Denver.  Game 4 would provide a close game and an end to the series before the series actually ended (perhaps even before the game ended).

Alex English scored the first 7 points for Denver while the Nuggets took a 7-4 lead and James Worthy committed two fouls.  The Nuggets were able to maintain that lead for much of the 1st quarter.  English scored 15 points and point guard/defensive ace Elston Turner and Dan Issel also contributed.

The Lakers stayed in the game with a balanced attack.  Worthy and his two fouls contributed along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Byron Scott.  L.A. also got an unexpected bench contribution from Larry Spriggs.  Magic Johnson’s first shot attempt came when Spriggs found him on a backdoor cut and a layup plus the foul.  The three-point play put L.A. up 31-30.

The Lakers got a cheap basket to go up 35-32 as several Denver players were hustling after a loose ball but it was saved into the hands of Spriggs who found Mike McGee for a wide-open layup.  But English found Turner at the top of the key for a jumper at the buzzer.  Denver trailed 35-34 going into the 2nd quarter.

Denver took a lead in the 2nd quarter by scoring the first 6 points.  The Nuggets attack for Game 4 consisted of attacking the offensive boards.  James Worthy committed his 3rd foul trying to get a defensive rebound.  L.A. ended up trailing at the half despite shooting in the 60’s from the field.  This was because Denver got off twice as many shots as the Lakers did.

Denver took a 44-37 lead as great ball movement found a wide-open Fat Lever for a baseline jumper at the end of the shot clock.  Lever was a future NBA All-star but was still recovering from knee surgery and wasn’t the factor that he would normally be.  Even with that, Denver took a 48-41 lead when Bill Hanzlik finished inside against Bob McAdoo.

But then Magic penetrated and found Kareem for a slam.  Scott put back a McAdoo miss and was fouled and Michael Cooper got a steal and Magic a layup.  Just like that, it was tied.  Denver twice regained 4-point leads but the Lakers came right back each time.  A Kareem layup against two people and a foul gave L.A. a 60-58 lead.  English came back with a three-point play for his 20th point to give Denver the lead again.

English would score 6 more points from the line to bring his 1st half total to 26 points.  But the Lakers were able to maintain a 68-66 lead until Hanzlik nailed a jumper from the elbow.  Then Lever stole the inbounds pass and English made his final two free throws with 18 seconds left to put Denver up 70-68.  The half ended with Magic missing a three and Denver being ahead.

English hit from the top of the key to start the 2nd half.  It would be his last points until the 1986 season.  Baskets by Kareem, Magic, and Scott put L.A. back ahead 74-72.  Three baskets by Turner and three more by Natt helped Denver maintain an 86-84 lead.  Then with 5:00 left, disaster struck.

Larry Spriggs battled for an offensive rebound with English.  Spriggs got the ball and drew the 4th foul on Turner.  But after making 1 of 2 from the line, Denver had to call timeout as English was holding his shooting hand.  He already had his thumb wrapped but when the Nuggets took him back to the locker room, they determined he had broken his thumb.  While English sat on the bench with his team for the rest of the game, he was obviously done and believe it or not, it hurt Denver.

The Lakers took a 90-87 lead on a Worthy runner before more disaster struck Denver, although not as bad.  Calvin Natt was bodied by Kareem going for a breakaway layup and hurt his knee on the landing.  Natt’s knee already would require surgery in the off-season but this just aggravated it more.  Natt did return but he was limping for the rest of the game.

Even with all of this going on, a Hanzlik drive and left-handed finish tied the game at 93 at the end of the third quarter.  The Lakers though took a 99-95 lead early in the 4th when Magic alley-ooped to Cooper.  After Dan Issel came back with a layup, Issel challenged a Larry Spriggs slam on a Kareem feed.  He couldn’t stop the slam and ended up hurting his thigh.  Issel was in his final year and would be out for the game.

With that, the Nuggets had English and Issel out as well as Natt and Lever struggling with injuries.  These guys were only the top four scorers on the Nuggets team during the season and playoffs.  Worthy scored five straight points to put L.A. up 106-99 and Denver was down to three timeouts after all of these injuries.

But to their credit, Doug Moe and his Nuggets didn’t throw in the towel.  After one of those three timeouts with 6:33 left, Moe designed a play that got reserve sharp-shooter Mike Evans a three.  But then Scott scored on a baseline drive and Kareem found Worthy cutting down the lane for a slam.  The Lakers led 110-102.

But then Lever found Natt for a layup and later Natt followed up his own miss on the break to force an L.A. timeout.  But after a Kareem miss, Natt hit a pull-up from the top of the key to give him 26 points and cut the Lakers lead to 110-108.  Kareem and Natt each hit two free throws before a Kareem sky hook and a Worthy turnaround from the post put the Lakers up 116-110 and forced Denver to use their second-to-last timeout with 2:08 left.

Again, Moe designed a play for a three as Evans penetrated and dropped it back to Turner who hit from the top of the arc.  Then after a Lever steal, Denver hustled its way into three opportunities to score.  On the third, Turner handed off to Evans while setting a screen.  Evans stopped behind the three-point line at the right wing and nailed it to tie the game at 116 with 1:00 left.

Denver had hustled its way to this tie, but the Lakers hustle decided the game.  L.A. went to Kareem after a timeout.  He missed a sky hook but Worthy got the rebound.  They went back to Kareem who missed again, and then again after getting the rebound.  Worthy then got the rebound and missed.  The ball was in Denver hands for a second but Michael Cooper came up with it again and missed.  But then Worthy tipped in Cooper’s miss with 21 seconds left.

Denver did not use their last timeout and it ended up costing them.  Natt threw a bounce pass past Danny Schayes in the post and Kareem stole it.  Scott was fouled and hit two free throws with 5 seconds left to put the game away.

Denver’s effort ended up going for naught with Game 5’s result.  The Lakers demolished the English-less Nuggets 153-109 to head into their 4th straight NBA Finals.  It would actually be determined on the same day as Game 5 who they would play.

LA Lakers starters (points scored)

James Worthy (19) – Small Forward

Kurt Rambis (4) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (29) – Center

Magic Johnson (17) – Point Guard

Byron Scott (26) – Shooting Guard

LA Lakers bench (points scored)

Bob McAdoo (7)

Mike McGee (6)

Michael Cooper (2)

Larry Spriggs (10)

LA Lakers Coach: Pat Riley

Denver starters (points scored)

Alex English (28) – Small Forward

Calvin Natt (28) – Power Forward

Dan Issel (11) – Center

Elston Turner (17) – Point Guard

T.R. Dunn (0) – Shooting Guard

Denver bench (points scored)

Fat Lever (6)

Wayne Cooper (6)

Mike Evans (8)

Bill Hanzlik (9)

Danny Schayes (3)

Willie White (0)

Denver Coach: Doug Moe


James Worthy had come into his own in 1985.  His tip-in in Game 4 against Denver gave L.A. a 3-1 lead and eventually the series *photo courtesy of CNN Sports Illustrated

May 22, 1985 – Eastern Finals, Game 5: Philadelphia 76ers 100 @Boston Celtics 102

It turned out to be fairly easy for the Boston Celtics to take a 3-0 lead on the Philadelphia 76ers.

In essence, the 76ers had the same roster that won the title in 1983 and had added Charles Barkley to it.  But in reality, Julius Erving, Moses Malone or Andrew Toney were quite the same as in years past.  Each of their playoff scoring averages were down and Erving and Malone were starting to fight age.  Bobby Jones was also fighting age.  The 76ers were a team in transition.

Cheeks and Barkley were starting to pick it up and each did in stretches in Game 5.  It was Barkley who led Philly to a Game 4 win to send the series back to Boston.

The Celtics, on the other hand, were about to be at the apex of their 1980’s run.  But that waited a year thanks in large part to a peculiar story that didn’t surface for another 23 years.  In between Game 2 and 3 of this series, Larry Bird had gotten into a bar fight with the owner of a place called Chelsea’s and hurt his shooting hand punching the guy.  For the rest of the playoffs, Bird shot around 42% (this didn’t include an 11-for-19 in Game 3).

Erving, in particular, was drawing criticism after a 1-for-10 and 5 points in Game 3.  But the Doctor got off to a good start in Game 5 as the 76ers took the early lead.  Erving’s 6 points led Philly to a 10-2 lead and a Boston timeout.  The 76ers couldn’t grab a bigger lead as Dennis Johnson blocked a Cheeks breakaway layup.

But Philly kept its lead as Boston hung around.  Erving led the way with 8 points but each team was showing balance.  And despite his finger and elbow injuries, Bird could still find ways to make amazing plays.  He broke up a 2-on-1 Philly break by blocking a Toney shot.  D.J. found McHale to finish that break.

Philly held a 30-25 lead as Boston was going for a last shot.  D.J. missed from the wing but with 1 second left, Clemon Johnson went over the back of Ray Williams.  Neither Clemon or Billy Cunningham (coaching his last NBA game) liked the call.  Cunningham got a technical and Williams hit three free throws to end any Philly momentum that they had gained in the 1st quarter.

Williams ended up scoring 9 points before spraining his ankle and missing the rest of the game.  Philly did keep its lead for awhile as Barkley and Malone got into the scoring act.  But Boston took a lead at 46-45 when D.J. fed Danny Ainge for a corner jumper.  Then Bird fed Johnson for a layup and a three-point lead.  Philly was killing themselves with bad passes, especially on breakaway situations in which they could have had layups.

Boston took a 6-point lead late in the half when D.J. hit from the wing at the shot clock buzzer.  But Philly got a free throw with 1 second left in the half to cut the Celtics’ lead to 56-51.

Back-to-back buckets by Philly’s back-court of Cheeks and Toney cut Boston’s lead to 58-57 early in the third.  But back-to-back baskets by Boston’s back-court of D.J. and Ainge put it back to five and forced a 76ers timeout.  D.J. and Toney committed their 4th fouls as each team played even for the rest of the quarter.

Boston’s biggest lead was nine but back-to-back field goals by Cheeks cut the lead to 81-77 going into the 4th quarter.  One could tell Bird’s shooting was off when he banked one in from the top of the key early in the 4th (he wasn’t even laughing or smiling.. like Bird does soooooooo many times on the court).  But two free throws by Clint Richardson after his steal tied the game at 83.

But D.J. found Ainge for a wing jumper and then Dennis scored on a drive.  Robert Parish later put back a D.J. miss and then kicked it out to D.J. who swung it to Ainge for another jumper.  When McHale kicked out to Bird for a jumper from the top of the key, Boston led 93-88.

But Cheeks and Toney came back with field goals and it was a 1-point game.  Malone then tied it by splitting a pair of free throws.  Moses had made some strong moves inside but they were few and far between.  He wasn’t getting the ball and sometimes didn’t seem to work for it (he only had 2 offensive rebounds).  The 1983 Moses Malone was a distant memory.

After a Bird field goal and two McHale free throws put Boston up 97-93, Bobby Jones hit a reverse on a Malone feed.  But with a chance to tie the game, Moses bricked a jumper in the lane (personifying the last paragraph).  McHale then hit a free throw and D.J. two more after an Ainge steal.  Boston led 100-95 with 1:40 left.

I’m sure what happened next wasn’t in Billy Cunningham’s playbook but it worked.  Cheeks ran a pick-and-pop with Barkley and gave Charles the ball behind the three-point line.  Barkley nailed it and it was a two-point game.  Boston ran down the shot clock and Parish kicked out to D.J. who’s jumper from the top of the key bounced in.

The 76ers cut it back to two again when Erving hit a scoop in the lane with 56 seconds left.  Boston ran down the shot clock again but Bird missed at the wing.  However, Ainge knocked the ball out of bounds off of Philly with 34 seconds left.  Boston got the ball to Bird again but he missed again (this time on a runner) with 13 seconds left.

Erving rebounded and advanced the ball without a timeout.  Julius collided with Toney and almost traveled before getting the ball to Andrew in the corner.  As Bird was coming out to check him, Toney tried to call a timeout with 5 seconds left.  But Bird knocked it away and stole it.  Boston ran out the clock and were on to play the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (16) – Small Forward

Charles Barkley (13) – Power Forward

Moses Malone (13) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (26) – Point Guard

Andrew Toney (13) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Bobby Jones (10)

Clint Richardson (6)

Clemon Johnson (2)

Sam Williams (1)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (17) – Small Forward

Kevin McHale (17) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (20) – Center

Dennis Johnson (23) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (12) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Cedric Maxwell (0)

Scott Wedman (2)

Ray Williams (9)

Quinn Buckner (2)

Boston Coach: K.C. Jones

Jane 5, 1985 – NBA Finals, Game 4: Boston Celtics 107 @Los Angeles Lakers 105

The Lakers appeared ready to take on the Celtics after their 1984 defeat.  But Game 1 would provide one last humiliation.  Boston would win handily at the Boston Garden by a score of 148-114.  Scott Wedman was 11-for-11 from the field, including 4 three-pointers.  It was known as the Memorial Day massacre.  But Boston woke up the beast.

Kareem, after looking like a 38-year old playing basketball in Game 1, came back with 30 points and 17 rebounds to lead L.A. to a win.  The Lakers won Game 3 handily at the Forum 136-111 to take a 2-1 lead.  The series was very physical just like 1984.  But L.A. seemingly had the answers this time.  But they would have to suffer one more heartbreak.

Kareem and Byron Scott got the Lakers going in Game 4 to give them an early lead.  Scott hit a three and broke down for two layups after Celtics baskets.  Kareem got 6 early points and found several cutters for layups.  But he also committed 2 fouls in the 1st quarter.  Boston stayed around as Bird and McHale got off to good starts.  But L.A. led 32-28 at the end of the 1st quarter.

The Celtics came back in the 2nd quarter to take a 38-36 lead on a Robert Parish jumper.  Boston was doing a good job of cutting off L.A. fast breaks by getting back on defense.  Dennis Johnson scored 8 early points in the quarter and his coast-to-coast drive gave Boston a 46-42 lead.  After a Magic three-point play cut it to two, D.J. responded again with a jumper from the top of the key at the end of the shot clock.

The Lakers came back to tie it at 54 as Bird committed 3 fouls.  But another coast-to-coast drive by D.J. gave Boston a lead again and give him 17 points.  After Bob McAdoo tied the game with a turnaround jumper with 10 seconds left, Bird got the ball to Cedric Maxwell who was fouled and split a pair of free throws with 2 seconds left.  Boston led 59-58 at the half.

The Celtics increased it into the 3rd as Danny Ainge penetrated and found Parish for a jumper.  Then Parish blocked a shot and Ainge found McHale for a alley-oop.  Bird’s wing jumper forced an L.A. timeout with Boston up 65-58.  The Celtics maintained a 67-62 lead before the Lakers put together a patented spurt.

First, Kareem hit a layup while drawing Ainge’s 4th foul.  Although Abdul-Jabbar missed the free throw, Scott found Kurt Rambis for a layup and then Magic found Scott on a 2-on-1 break to give L.A. the lead and force a Boston timeout.  It was during this stretch that K.C. Jones realized that his bench wasn’t going to get anything done in a big moment like the Finals.  Guys like M.L. Carr, Quinn Buckner and Ray Williams played their last action of the series in Game 4.  Cedric Maxwell, who wasn’t himself, only played 5:00 in Game 5 and then was done for the series.

After the timeout, the Lakers got another break.  McHale blocked Scott’s layup but Rambis recovered and then on the next possession, Kareem was doubled and kicked out to Rambis who swung it to Worthy for a baseline jumper.  Boston had to call another timeout as L.A. was on a 10-0 run.

A D.J. pull-up from the elbow finally broke the run but L.A. continued to lead and led by as much as 8.  McHale kept Boston alive with three hooks shots from inside and two free throws from D.J. cut the Lakers lead to 84-82 going into the 4th quarter.

The final quarter was action packed.  Even when the two great teams weren’t scoring, there was palpable intensity in the air.  Two baskets from Worthy gave L.A. a 90-83 lead.  The Lakers had a chance to increase it but Bird tied up McAdoo on an entry pass to the post.  Bird then stole the jump ball after McAdoo mis-timed his leap.  At the other end, Bird hit a wing jumper to cut it to five.

Larry then stole a pass from Kareem intended for a cutting Magic.  Later, his putback of a Parish miss and a foul cut the lead to 92-89.  On the next possession, D.J. found Larry for a pull-up jumper.  Then Bird deflected another pass from Kareem and Ainge stole it.  D.J. was fouled on the break and hit two free throws to give Boston a 93-92 lead.  Despite the injuries and shooting woes, Bird was taking over in the 4th quarter.

Bird later drew Kareem’s 5th foul on a controversial call.  With about 4:00 left, his wing jumper gave Boston a 99-96 lead and gave him 26 points, including 12 in the 4th quarter.  But L.A. went on another run with the crowd’s encouragement.  Kareem hit a sky-hook from the baseline to initially get everyone in the Forum going.  And then Magic got a steal and Scott finished a 3-on-1 to give the Lakers the lead.

With just over 2:00 left, Kareem’s sky-hook gave L.A. a 102-99 lead.  Boston was suddenly struggling offensively and hurrying shots.  But on the next possession, they swung it to Ainge who hit from the corner to cut the Lakers lead to one.  After Kareem split a pair of free throws, McHale got a big offensive rebound of a Parish miss and was fouled.  His two free throws tied the game with 1:12 left.  McAdoo then missed in the lane and the Celtics got the ball and a timeout.

Boston ran down the shot clock and ended up getting Ainge open at the wing for just a split second.  He nailed the jumper and L.A. called timeout with 33 seconds left.  The Lakers went to Kareem (you look shocked) and his sky-hook was in-and-out but Magic got the rebound and putback with 19 seconds left.  The Celtics called a 20-second timeout with the game tied at 105.

D.J. patiently dribbled up the court and waited for Bird to come off a screen.  He did and got the ball with 6 seconds left.  Bird was double-teamed at the free throw line.  So he kicked it back to D.J. and with 2 seconds left from the left wing Dennis Johnson fired.  The shot was good as the buzzer went off.

The Celtics had stolen this one and seemed to have momentum.  But a scheduling change to the NBA Finals and K.C. Jones losing trust in his bench derailed that momentum.

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (26) – Small Forward

Kevin McHale (28) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (10) – Center

Dennis Johnson (27) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (8) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Cedric Maxwell (3)

Scott Wedman (1)

Ray Williams (2)

M.L. Carr (0)

Quinn Buckner (2)

Greg Kite (0)

Boston Coach: K.C. Jones

LA Lakers starters (points scored)

James Worthy (16) – Small Forward

Kurt Rambis (12) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (21) – Center

Magic Johnson (20) – Point Guard

Byron Scott (16) – Shooting Guard

LA Lakers bench (points scored)

Bob McAdoo (10)

Michael Cooper (8)

Larry Spriggs (0)

Mitch Kupchak (2)

LA Lakers Coach: Pat Riley


Dennis Johnson’s game-winning jumper tied the 1985 NBA Finals at 2-2 *photo courtesy of Sports of Boston

June 9, 1985 – NBA Finals, Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers 111 @Boston Celtics 100

David Stern made an executive decision starting in 1985 to change the Finals to a 2-3-2 format (games 1, 2, 6, & 7 in Boston, games 3-5 in L.A.).  It was made in part when media outlets and members had to try and schedule a last minute commercial flight after the Lakers won Game 6 of the 1984 NBA Finals to send the series back to Boston for Game 7.  The intent was to make it easier on them and on Red Auerbach, who was complaining of the constant cross-country travel.

In reality, the 2-2-1-1-1 format may have helped the Celtics in 1985, like it did in 1984.  After D.J.’s buzzer-beater, the momentum of going home in a 2-2 series may have carried the Celtics to the first back-to-back championships since 1969.  But instead they played Game 5 in L.A.  Boston fell behind, made a run in the fourth quarter but came up short, losing 120-111.

With that, the Lakers had a chance to do what no Laker team had done, beat Boston in the Finals.  Furthermore, Boston had only lost once in the NBA Finals.  In 1958, the Celtics had lost the series in St. Louis to the St. Louis Hawks.  So the only championships that were clinched on the parquet floor of Boston Garden was from the Celtics themselves.  The Lakers had a golden opportunity to change that.

The opportunity was more golden as Boston was running on fumes.  K.C. Jones had lost confidence in his bench and played only 7 guys in Game 5.  Dennis Johnson, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish each played over 44 minutes (D.J. played the entire 48).  Game 5 was played on a Friday night and Game 6 was to be played on Sunday afternoon to accommodate other sporting events that CBS was carrying.  So less than 48 hours after a grueling Game 5 and a cross-country commercial flight, the Celtics were battling for their lives.

It showed early as Boston made 1 of their first 8 field goal attempts.  Several of their misses were layups and easy inside shots.  Frankly, the only starter that didn’t look tired was McHale.  McHale was the catalyst for Boston in the first half as the Celtics somehow stayed with the Lakers despite only playing 7 players again.

McHale scored 13 first quarter points and Parish contributed early but neither Bird, Ainge or D.J. could hit a shot to save their lives.  Worthy led the Lakers with 8 points but Kareem committed 2 early fouls.  However, the Lakers were able to take a 28-26 lead with 9 seconds left in the 1st quarter after Michael Cooper was fouled and threw in a shot a second after the foul and got the continuation.  The lead held into the 2nd.

The 2nd quarter started out sloppily as perhaps both teams were feeling the effects of having played in L.A. less than 48 hours ago.  Kareem committed his 3rd foul mid-way through the 2nd quarter.  He stayed in the game for another minute and hit a sky-hook for his 11th point on 5-for-5 shooting.  But then he sat for the half.   And while Mitch Kupchak gave L.A a spark, it was sensed that the Celtics had to take an advantage with Laker reserves out there.

Worthy didn’t allow them to do so.  As the only starter in the game in stretches of the 2nd quarter, Worthy scored 15 points.  The Celtics continued to look dragged but somehow managed to obtain a 55-53 lead just before the half.  Bird tried a three from the corner to give the Celtics momentum but he missed.  D.J. committed a loose-ball foul on Cooper and Michael hit two free throws to tie the game at 55 at the half.

The strategy for the 2nd half for L.A. was to run at Boston.  Kareem hit his first two shots and was 7-for-7 from the field.  Scott and Worthy hit jumpers but a Bird fallaway from the post cut the lead to 65-63.  Then Kareem drove for a score in the paint, Bird missed a wing jumper and failed to hustle back on defense.  Magic rebounded, pushed and fed Worthy (Bird’s man) with a whip pass from half-court for a slam.  A Scott pull-up forced a Boston timeout with L.A. up 71-63.

Despite Magic committing his 4th foul, L.A increased its lead to 79-67.  But McHale came alive again and scored back-to-back baskets.  Then Ainge hit from the wing and the lead was down to 79-73.  Then Cooper hurt his knee on a hustle play and was carried off the court.  The Boston crowd did give Coop a nice hand but Michael did receive the bird from a young Bill Simmons.

The Celtics almost got the ball back with a chance to cut the lead to four but Magic recovered a deflection and found Scott for a corner jumper.  A Mitch Kupchak free throw put L.A. up 82-73 with just one quarter to go before they exorcised their jinx.

But Magic committed his 5th foul early in the quarter and slowly the Celtics dented the lead.  A Bird drive and left-handed finish cut the lead to five and a McHale putback cut it to 86-82.  Kareem then drove against Parish and drew a foul from the Chief.  Kareem made the two free throws.  Worthy then got a steal and was fouled on a breakaway.  He made two free throws to put it back to eight.

The Celtics cut it back to 94-88 before McHale committed his 6th foul with 5:20 left on a cheap call (sure it was a foul, but not nearly hard enough to foul out a star like McHale who was having a great game.. O.K. O.K. I know how you hate the superstar treatment, but the announcers did call it ‘gutsy’ to call that and foul out McHale).

A Bird putback cut the lead to five but that was as close as Boston got.  It was a combination of Boston missing key shots that could cut the lead and L.A. making plays to keep and increase their lead.  Magic drove down the lane for a layup to put the Lakers up 99-90.  He did the same to put L.A. up 103-92 as the clock was ticking down.  Magic was making up for his short-comings in the 1984 Finals.

Kareem hit a sky-hook at the end of the shot clock on one possession and then Magic fed him for a slam to put L.A. up 107-97.  The dagger was thrown when Kareem hit a long sky hook from the wing to put L.A. up 109-97 with 1:00 left.  The Garden was quiet as the Lakers would get a chance to celebrate on the parquet floor (or more accurately, in the locker room.. can you imagine the scene in Boston had they celebrated on the floor itself).

Magic finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists.  Kareem was named the Finals MVP after averaging just under 26 points per game in the Finals.  Kareem’s last Finals MVP came way back in 1971, it was the largest gap between Finals MVP’s in NBA history.  But Kareem wasn’t done setting the record for the largest gap between his 1st and last NBA Championship.

First, L.A. would have to answer to a new team that looked to be a dynasty in the making.  Boston would also have to answer to that team too as it turned out.

LA Lakers starters (points scored)

James Worthy (28) – Small Forward

Kurt Rambis (9) – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (29) – Center

Magic Johnson (14) – Point Guard

Byron Scott (14) – Shooting Guard

LA Lakers bench (points scored)

Bob McAdoo (2)

Mike McGee (0)

Michael Cooper (9)

Mitch Kupchak (6)

LA Lakers Coach: Pat Riley

Boston starters (points scored)

Larry Bird (28) – Small Forward

Kevin McHale (32) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (14) – Center

Dennis Johnson (11) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (6) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Scott Wedman (7)

Greg Kite (2)

Boston Coach: K.C. Jones

jerry buss

Jerry Buss celebrates the Lakers championship in 1985 *photo courtesy of ESPN Los Angeles


From → NBA

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