- 1987 NBA Finals
NBA Finals summary
year = 1987
runnerup_games = 2
Los Angeles Lakers
champion_games = 4
June 2- June 14
(Los Angeles Lakers)
television = CBS (U.S.)
Dick Stocktonand Tom Heinsohn
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar(1995) Larry Bird(1998) Magic Johnson(2002) Kevin McHale(1999) Robert Parish(2003) James Worthy(2003) Bill Walton(1993)
K.C. Jones (1989, player)
Pat Riley (2008)
referees_4 = Hugh Evans and
Jake O'Donnelland Ed T. Rush
Joe Crawfordand Darrell Garretson
ECF result = Celtics defeat Pistons, 4-3
WCF result = Lakers defeat SuperSonics, 4-0
The 1987 NBA Finals was the championship round of the
1986-87 NBA season. The match took place between the Los Angeles Lakersand the Boston Celtics. The Lakers won 4–2, beating the Celtics in the Finals for the second straight time. The key moment of the series was Magic Johnson's junior sky hook in Game 4. This was the tenth time that the Celtics and Lakers met in the NBA Finals (far more than any other Finals matchup) and would also mark the Celtics' last appearance overall until the two teams met again in 2008.
The Boston Celtics season documentary "Home of the Brave", narrated by David Perry, recaps Boston's 1987 injury-plagued season while the Los Angeles Lakers documentary "Drive for Five", narrated by legendary Lakers announcer
Chick Hearn, recaps the Lakers' magnificent 1987 season en route to a fourth title of the 1980s.
After being eliminated in the Western Conference Finals a year earlier, the Lakers returned to the NBA Finals and were rewarded with homecourt advantage as they accumulated a 65-17 record while the Celtics finished the season with a 59-23 record.
The first two games would be played in Los Angeles, the next three games in Boston, and the final two games were scheduled to be played in Los Angeles. The Lakers defeated the Celtics four games to two.
The Celtics were decimated by injuries in this series. Kevin McHale was playing on a bum ankle with a stress fracture. Bill Walton was unable to play in the series because of recurring feet and back problems and Robert Parrish was slowed by a severe ankle sprain.
Game 4 of this series is widely regarded as one of the most exciting in NBA Finals history as it came down to a flurry of activity and multiple lead changes in the final seconds.
With the well-rested Lakers coming off a four-game sweep of the
Seattle SuperSonicsand a tired and hobbled Celtic team coming off a grueling seven-game win over the Detroit Pistons, the result was anticlimactic. Magic Johnsonled a 126-113 rout with 29 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds and no turnovers. James Worthy, on the receiving end of many of Johnson's passes, had 33 points and nine rebounds. The Lakers ran 35 fast breaks in the first two quarters and led by 21 at intermission.
The Celtics plan for Game 2 was to concentrate on stopping
Magic Johnson. Danny Ainge, who at 6'5" had the height to deal with the 6'9" Magic, was successful for a short time, but that only freed up Michael Cooperto emerge.
With the Lakers leading by seven in the second quarter, Cooper pushed the Lakers through a 20-10 outburst, scoring or assisting on all 20 points. When it was over, he had popped in 6 of 7 three-point attempts, a playoff record.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbaradded 23 points on 10 of 14 shots, while Magic posted 20 assists and 22 points. In Cooper's big second quarter, he racked up eight assists, tying a Finals record. It all added up to a 141-122 rout, Boston's sixth straight road loss in the playoffs.
The Celtics recovered from their two knockout blows in Games 1 and 2 with a counterpunch of their own. A little-used backup center,
Greg Kite, provided the spark. Kite, entering the game late in the first quarter when Robert Parishencountered foul trouble, played 20 minutes, and while he failed to score, he grabbed nine rebounds, blocked a Magic Johnsonlayup, and did solid body work on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The defensive minutes Kite gave Boston from the bench were just enough, as Larry Birdscored 30 points and Dennis Johnsonhit 11 of 22 attempts from the field to finish with 26 points. The resurgent Celtics shot 17 of 21 from the floor in the second quarter. Kevin McHalehad limped off the floor in Game 2 after further aggravating his ankle injury. The Celtics' forward bounced back in Boston with 21 points and 10 rebounds while letting the air out of James Worthy's game, limiting the Lakers' forward to only 13 points and three rebounds. Magic led the Lakers with 32 points in the 109-103 loss.
After their Game 3 win,
Larry Birdsaid. "This (Game 3) was the most important game of the series for us. If we lost, it might've been tough to get up for Game 4. Now it's going to be easy."
The Celtics took it right to the Lakers, controlling the boards and going up by as many as 16 after halftime, but Los Angeles cut the lead to eight with 3½ minutes to go in the game. The game's conclusion -- the series, actually -- came down to one
Magic Johnsonsequence. With half a minute left, the Lakers called a timeout to set up a pick for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But Magic told him to fake it as his defender, Robert Parish, attempted to fight through the pick, and then roll to the basket. He did. The pass was there for an easy alley-oop dunk, and the Lakers took a 104-103 lead. However, Larry Bird broke free from James Worthy's hold and hit a three point bomb in front of the Laker's bench with 12 seconds left, and put Boston up 106-104.
On the next possession, Abdul-Jabbar was fouled and went to the line, where he made the first and missed the second.
Kevin McHalerebounded the miss shot, but Mychal Thompsonknocked the ball loose, and the officials ruled that the ball was last touched by McHale. The Celtics protested, wanting a foul, but the ball was awarded to the Lakers.
What followed was another play for the ages. Magic took the inbounds pass to the left of the key and feined 20-footer, but McHale came out to change his mind. So Magic drove into the key, and lofted a hook shot which just cleared Parish's fingertips, giving the Lakers a 107-106 lead.
The Celtics got a timeout with two seconds left to set Bird up for a game winning shot. While Bird was trying to go around a pick, Worthy made contact with Bird, however, a foul was not called. It should also be noted that at that time the Lakers still had a foul to give and so even if the officials had called the alleged violation, Bird would not have gone to the line. The Celtics would have had to try to inbound the ball again, but with only one second left on the clock. In fact, the ball was inbounded to Bird, but his shot hit the back side of the rim and bounced out. The shot almost went down, and Bird apparently told Pat Riley he was very lucky the shot didn't go, and that he was foolish for letting him get off a shot.
The Celtics had to win Game 5 in the Garden, and would control most of the game.
Danny Aingeset the tone by nailing 5 of 6 from 3-point range to give Boston early control.
Magic countered for Los Angeles with 29 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and four steals, but he received little help. Before the game Bird had told his teammates, "If they want to celebrate, let's not let them do it on the parquet." At one point during the contest, the Lakers' staff even iced down several cases of champagne. But the Celtics had incentive enough. They got their second win, 123-108, and the series jetted back across the continent.
This win would turn out to be the Celtics last win in the NBA Finals until 2008, and would also be the last NBA Finals game ever in the
Kareem Abdul-Jabbararrived for Game 6 with a shaved head and a determination to close out this series. For a while, though, it appeared like the Celtics would steal it. Magic Johnsonhad only four points at the half and Dennis Johnsonpoured in 18 for the Celtics on his way to a game-high 33 as Boston led 56-51 at intermission.
But, early in the second half, the Celtics had possession and
Larry Birdand James Worthychased a loose ball toward the sideline. Worthy got there first, batted the ball inbounds to a breaking Magic as he was going out of bounds, and Magic slammed home a breakaway dunk. This play appeared to spark the Lakers, as they took control of the game from that point, winning 106-93.
Worthy would finish with 22 points, and
Mychal Thompsonhad 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, but the play of the Lakers' two stalwarts, Magic and Kareem, would be the dagger that finished off the Celtics. Magic recovered from his cold first half to post 16 points, 19 assists, and eight rebounds, and Kareem would pump in a team-high 32 points.
"Magic is a great, great basketball player," Bird stated flatly, settling the issue for the moment. "The best I've ever seen."
Indeed, Magic would gain the
NBA Finals MVPaward and his fourth championship ring.
Back in the High Life Again" by Steve Winwoodwas the closing song at the end of this series.
1987 NBA Playoffs
* [http://www.nba.com/history/finals/19861987.html NBA History]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PIaMEagI4M&feature=PlayList&p=A4E828069882BF3B&index=0&playnext=1 Game 6 on Youtube.com]
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