AP Was There: Bird beats Magic in 1st Finals showdown

BOSTON (AP) June 12, 1984: The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers 111-102 in Game 7 in the first NBA Finals between Boston’s Larry Bird and Los Angeles’ Magic Johnson. They would meet in the finals two more times, with the Lakers winning both. The Associated Press is republishing verbatim the story on Bird and the Celtics downing Johnson and the Lakers for the NBA title on June 12, 1984:


AP Sports Writer

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics, pro basketball’s most successful team, used a 24 point performance by Cedric Maxwell and 20 by Larry Bird to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 111-102 Tuesday night in the seventh game of their championship series and win an unprecedented 15th NBA title.

The Celtics, who captured their first National Basketball Association championship in 19557 in seven games over St. Louis, are now 7-0 when they have taken the final round to the limit.

Maxwell, the Most Valuable Player when the Celtics last won the title in 1981, tied his season-high point total. The MVP award this time went to Bird, who played a strong all-court game. Bird was averaging 28 points per game going into Tuesday night’s contest.

The Celtics led by 13 going into the fourth quarter, but the Lakers frantically rallied to cut the deficit to 105-102 with 1:15 left on a three-point play by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who finished with 29 points and a basket by James Worthy, who had 21.

But two free throws by Dennis Johnson, who had 22 points, made it 107-102 with 45 seconds left and two more foul shots by Bird set off a wild celebration by the sellout crowd of 14,890.

For the second time in a row in Boston Garden, the two teams battled in sauna-like temperatures in the non air-conditioned arena, although it was not as hot as during Game 5 last Friday night, which the Celtics won by 18 points. As in that game, Boston used a strong rebounding advantage and an occasional dead-eye outside shooting to hold off the Lakers in Game 7.

Four of Boston’s seven seventh-game triumphs have come against Los Angeles, the Celtics’ old rival who had not met them in 15 years. Since 1959, Boston has won all eight championship series meetings between the two teams.

Gerald Henderson, scoreless in the first half when he picked up three quick fouls, came back to score nine points in first 4:43 of the third period. But at the same time, the Lakers worked desperately to trim Boston’s six-point halftime margin, scoring 20 points in the first 6:43 to cut the deficit to 73-72.

After a basket by Bird, Abdul-Jabbar had a chance to cut the margin to one again, but he missed two free throws and when Parish shot over Abdul-Jabbar for a basket and free throw, the Celtics seemed to find a spark.

Holding the Lakers to one shot every time down the floor, Boston scored the last nine points of the quarter to take a 91-78 advantage into the final 12 minutes.

The Celtics now have won 14 straight final-round appearances and are 15-1 overall with the only loss coming in 1958 in six games to St. Louis. The Lakers are 3-10 in the finals with titles in 1972, 1980 and 1982.

In the stands to see the latest triumph was Arnold »Red» Auerbach, who is retiring as Celtics’ general manager. He was coach for the first nine Boston titles, with his last game a two-point victory over the Lakers in 1966. He will now stay on as the team’s president.

The Lakers, who wilted in the Boston Garden heat in Game 5, showed no hesitancy in running from the opening tap Tuesday. They had three fastbreak baskets in the first 4:26, two of them resulting in three-point plays by Kurt Rambis and Abdul-Jabbar.

But the Celtics more than kept pace, getting eight points in less than four minutes from Maxwell to lead 20-16 with 3:38 left in the period.

Abdul-Jabbar finished with 12 points in the quarter, but it ook a three-point corner shot from Michael Cooper to tie the score at 30-30 just before the period ended.

Boston got the game’s first strong scoring run early in the second quarter. Bird hit four straight points, then capped the 9-0 rally with a pass to Danny Ainge for a 38-32 Celtics lead.

Moments later, Maxwell’s three-point play gave the Celtics their largest lead of the half, 47-38, with 7:42 left. Los Angeles then got its fastbreak working, forcing Boston to foul to prevent easy layups.

But the Lakers failed to come back completely as they went 1-for-2 on each of their last four trips to the free throw line.

That helped the Celtics maintain a 58-52 lead at halftime as Maxwell finished the first two periods with 17 points, including 11-for-13 free throws.

The Lakers handed Boston its first loss in 10 playoff home games with a 115-109 victory in the series opener as Abdul-Jabbar hit 12 of 17 shots and scored 32 points after missing a pregame meeting and practice with a migraine headache.

Los Angeles came within seconds of becoming he first team in the Championship Series to win the first two games on the road. The Lakers led 113-111 and had the ball with 20 seconds, left, but Worthy, who made 11 of 12 shots and scored 29 points, threw a balloon pass that was intercepted by Gerald Henderson, who scored to send the game into overtime.

Reserve guard Scott Wedman, who later suffered a hairline fracture in his left leg, hit a corner jumper with 14 seconds left to boost the Celtics into a 124-121 victory, tying the series.

Magic Johnson set a finals record with 21 assists in Game 3 as the Lakers won 137-104 with a lightning fastbreak that demoralized the Celtics.

After the third game, Bird said the Celtics »played like sissies» and promised that the Lakers would never again out-tough Boston. The Celtics, though outshot 39 percent to 43 percent, won Game 4 129-125 in overtime. The game was marked by more physical, aggressive play than the series had seen before, and Boston outrebounded the Lakers 27-12 on the offensive end.

Bird led the way with 29 points and 21 rebounds, including nine offensive.

The aggressiveness was magnified by a clothesline hit of Rambis by Boston’s Kevin McHale as Rambis drove in for a layup. Moments later, Bird and Abdul-Jabbar squared off and exchanged harsh words after jostling each other for a rebound.

Lakers Coach Pat Riley said McHale’s hit »changed the mood of the whole series» from basketball to war.

When the Celtics outrebounded the Celtics 57-37 and also outshot them for the first time in Game 5, the result was a 121-103 Boston victory and a 3-2 lead in the series. Bird was outstanding, hitting 20 of 25 shots and pulling down 17 rebounds.

Abdul-Jabbar had another migraine before the sixth game, and the result was the same as in Game 1, a Los Angeles victory and a brilliant performance by the 37-year-old center. He had nine of his 30 points in the last 5:19 as the Lakers pulled away to a 119-108 triumph after Boston led by as many as 11 points in the third period.

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