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Stunning Developments

June 16, 2004|Jim Rhode

The Lakers were supposed have a team for the ages, with their four future Hall of Fame players and Lord-of-the-NBA-Championship-Rings coach. But unlike fine wine, the Laker season didn't age well. Still, the Lakers summoned enough to reach NBA Finals, where they were expected to mow down the Motown challengers, the Detroit Pistons. But the Doctors of Defense put the clamps on the Lakers and even got their offense motoring, closing out the series in stunning fashion with three home victories by an average of almost 14 points a game. A look at some other stunning moments or series outcomes involving the Lakers in the NBA Finals:

May 5, 1969

Boston 108, at Lakers 106

The Lakers had lost to the Celtics each of the six times they met in the Finals, but this was the year their luck was supposed to change with the addition of Wilt Chamberlain to go with Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. The Lakers had series leads of 2-0 and 3-2, but it was the Celtics who still had the luck. The Lakers cut a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to one at 103-102 and knocked the ball away from John Havlicek with the shot clock running out in the closing moments. But the ball bounced to the free-throw line to Don Nelson, who threw up a shot that bounced high off the back of the rim and straight through the net. The miraculous shot took the steam out of the Lakers and provided a fitting end to the playing career of Bill Russell, who won his 11th NBA championship.

May 8, 1970

At New York 113, Lakers 99

The Knicks' Willis Reed, who had not played the previous game because of a torn muscle in his right thigh, limped onto the floor moments before the Game 7 tipoff and sent Madison Square Garden into a frenzy. Reed, who had taken a injection to dull the pain, scored his team's first two baskets -- his only points of the game -- to provide the Knicks with enough soul and hearts' inspiration for a righteous outcome.

May 16, 1980

Lakers 123, at Philadelphia 107

When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stayed behind in Los Angeles to have an ankle injury treated, it was a foregone conclusion the series would return to the Forum for Game 7. Magic Johnson, the 20-year-old rookie with the infectious smile, had a different idea. Taking charge at the point and in the paint, Johnson drove the 76ers dizzy with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Lakers to the first of five championships in the Showtime era.

June 5, 1991

At Chicago 107, Lakers 86

Granted, these weren't quite the Showtime Lakers, but they still had Magic Johnson. The Bulls' dynasty-to-be was Air-lifted in Game 2 when Michael Jordan made 13 consecutive shots to break open a close game. Chicago won the next three games and the changing of the NBA guard had officially begun.

-- Jim Rhode

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