DAR Sports: 1987 NBA Finals: Lakers vs Celtics

By @TrueGodImmortal

You know, as the NBA Finals series continues, I find myself covering more current Finals as we go along. To depart from this some, and to coincide with the classic feel of DAR Classic Soul Week, I present to you a look at the 1987 Finals and the greatest rivalry in basketball history, Lakers vs Celtics. This was a very special series and though this writer didn't watch it live (not even sure I was born yet), I've gone back and reflected on this enough times to remember this series and the importance of it. As the 1986-1987 season concluded, the Celtics were on a roll. They went 59-23 for the year, to lead the Eastern Conference, going an amazing 39-2 at home, while having an interesting 20-21 record on the road. The Lakers would have a tremendous season, going 65-17 to end the year and would have the home court advantage going into the Finals.

The path to the Finals for both teams were pretty interesting, as the Celtics swept the Bulls(and a young Michael Jordan) in the first round of the playoffs, before being pushed to 7 games in the semifinals and conference finals against the Bucks and Pistons, respectively. The Lakers would have a slightly easier path to the Finals, sweeping the Nuggets, beating the Warriors in 5, and then swept the Supersonics in the Conference Finals. With a roster that is full of now hall of famers on both teams, the stage was set for the 10th Finals matchup against these two legendary teams. As Game 1 approached, the Lakers had all the momentum. Could the Celtics pull out a victory??

*Game 1

-Both teams came ready to play, though the Lakers might have an advantage of more rest over the Celtics, and it showed some. Magic Johnson played very well in this game, putting up a near triple-double with 29 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds along with no turnovers. James Worthy would also play great, racking up 33 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a game 1 victory over the Celtics 126-113. Larry Bird would post numbers for the Celtics, racking up 32 points and 7 rebounds. The Celtics had struggled on the road during the season, and it seems as if they met a similar fate starting off in the NBA Finals. Would game 2 be any different?

*Game 2

-To answer that question simply?  No. While the Celtics were able to play well, they struggled on the road yet again. Whatever curse they had placed upon then during the season on the road continued here. Magic would post 22 points and an amazing 20 assists for the Lakers, while Kareem Abdul Jabbar would put up 23 points and Byron Scott would lead all scorers with 24 points. Michael Cooper would have a hell of a game as well, helping lead the charge during the second quarter, as the Lakers would defeat the Celtics 141-122 to give the Celtics their sixth straight road loss in the playoffs. Larry Bird would finish with 23 points for the Celtics as they were down 2-0 and needed a win at home in game 3.

*Game 3

-The Celtics would bounce back after a near 20 point loss in game 2. Greg Kite would prove to be effective in this game, as he managed to block pivotal shots and rack up some rebounds for the Celtics, but of course it was Bird who led the charge with 30 points and 12 rebounds, while Kevin McHale posted 21 points and 10 rebounds and Dennis Johnson finished with 26 points to give the Celtics a 109-103 victory. Magic played great for the Lakers in a losing effort, putting up 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists for his team. The Celtics made the series 2-1 and with such a great record at home during the regular season, would they be able to even the series up 2-2?

*Game 4

-This would prove to be the best game of the series. The Celtics had a lot of fight in them and would keep the game close the entire way and take a lead in the closing minutes. The final moments of the fourth quarter were all about back and forth work, with the Celtics being up 103-95 until the Lakers managed to cut the deficit down. The Lakers took the lead 104-103 with 29 seconds left to go, until Larry Bird hit a big three to the take the lead 106-104. There were 12 seconds left in the game. You would think this was over. Kareem got fouled and made one out of his two free throws and the Lakers caught a break when the ball went out of bounds off the Celtics on the missed free throw. With the clock running down, the ball ended up in Magic's hand and he hit a lucky hook shot to give the Lakers a 107-106 victory to take the game 4 win. It stands as the most important shot in the whole series. Kevin McHale would put up 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, while Magic led the Lakers with 29 points and 5 assists to give them a 3-1 series lead. After a rare home loss, would the Celtics be able to regroup and win game 5?

*Game 5

-Yes they would. After a disheartening loss at home in game 4, the Celtics would play hard and pull out a game 5 victory over the Lakers 123-108. The Celtics controlled the game for the most part and ended up with a solid lead as Dennis Johnson took over for the team, with 25 points and 11 assists. The Lakers had Magic playing great, as he carried his team with 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 12 assists. With the series now 3-2, one could only wonder if the Celtics could break the road curse and win game 6 in LA. Could they do it?

*Game 6

-It looked like early on that the Celtics would pull it off, but this time around the difference maker for the Lakers wasn't Magic, but the legendary Kareem. He would finish the game with 32 points to lead his team to a 106-93 victory to win the NBA Championship, and have the Lakers bask in glory yet again. Magic started off slow but still finished with 16 points and 19 rebounds, earning himself the NBA Finals MVP and his fourth NBA title. Dennis Johnson managed to put up 33 points and 10 rebounds in a losing effort for the Celtics as well.

With the win in the bag, the Lakers promised a repeat and they did that the following year. However, their victory in 1987 was a true solidifier of the Showtime era and the final championship run of it.

Your 1987 NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers!



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