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The Greatest NBA Playoff Ever

May 13, 1990|STEVE HERBERT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Before 1985, the Lakers and the Boston Celtics had met eight times for the NBA title. The Celtics won each of those championships.

In that stretch: a seventh game loss in 1962 that Boston won by three in overtime, two-point losses in 1966 and 1969 and another seventh game loss in 1984.

But it was the next year, when the Lakers and Celtics met again for the title, that left thousands of Southern Californians delighted and made for what many consider the most memorable playoff game ever in the NBA.

The Celttcs began with a 148-114 win in a game dubbed "The Memorial Day Massacre." But the Lakers responded to win the next three games.

That set the stage for the memorable Game 6. An informal TV Times survey of NBA announcers found that game the greatest playoff game ever.

"To me that carried the most drama of any game," said CBSU NBA play-by-play announcer, Dick Stockton, who will again call this year's finals with analyst Hubie Brown.

"I said to myself, 'If this gets any better, there ought to be an investigation,' " said Pat O'Brien, who hosts CBS' "At the Half."

"I couldn't believe the intensity. I was sitting court side and there were goose bumps on my arms because it was so thrilling."

It was a hot June 9 in Boston--the Lakers were so concerned about the heat at the Boston Garden that they brought oxygen into their locker room.

More foreboding than the conditions was the fact that the Celtics had never lost a deciding game in the championship series on their home court.

The Lakers chief nemesis turned out to be Celtics forward Kevin McHale, who finished with 32 points before fouling out with 5:21 left.

The Lakers began the second half making their first five shots, four by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for a 65-61 lead. After Larry Bird sank a jumper to bring the Celtics to within two, the Lakers moved to a 73-63 lead.

Abdul-Jabbar scored on a drive; James Worthy dunked off an assist by Magic Johnson. Then Byron Scott, a non-factor for the first five games, made his presence felt.

Scott dropped a jump shot from the baseline, then stole the ball from McHale, a play that led to Kurt Rambis tipping in a missed shot, giving the Lakers their 10-point margin.

Boston did have one spurt left, coming as close as 86-82 with 8:56 left. But two free throws each by Abdul-Jabbar and Worthy and a Rambis lay-up rebuilt the lead to 92-82.

Michael Cooper dribbled out the clock for the 111-100 win.

O'Brien had the difficult assignment of going into the Celtics' locker room.

"They were not too pleased," O'Brien recalled. "There was a hush over Boston Garden. The ghosts of the Garden were scared off by that one."

Following the broadcast, O'Brien went into the Lakers locker room.

"Magic was sitting by himself in the trainer's room saying, 'I did it, I did it,' " O'Brien said.

Two years later, the Lakers beat Boston in the finals at the Forum. In 1988, the Lakers became the first team since the 1968-69 Celtics to win consecutive titles.

But to at least two who were there, that hot day in Boston was special.

"That game really started them on their way," Stockton said. "Who knows what would have happened if Lakers hadn't won that one?"

"That's always the best," Johnson said recently. "A tremendous feeling that you'll never forget."

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