The 1984 NBA Finals

By Jeff Twiss

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A Look Back On The Year 1983-84
It was not the famous author George Orwell's 1984. It was June 1984.

The proud Boston Celtics franchise has many admirers and loyal fans but they also have many opponents and rivals. Throughout the history of the Boston Celtics several teams have been classified as 'intense rivals', the villains, or as the late Johnny Most would say, 'the other guys in the black hats.' The old Syracuse Nationals, the New York Knickerbockers and the Philadelphia 76ers are just a few foes that come to mind.

But in the early summer of 1984, the rivalry between the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, perhaps, hit an all-time peak with the seven-game battle for the 1984 NBA world championship trophy. These two brilliant and marquee organizations had not faced off against each other for the championship since 1969 (remember the balloons in the
Pandemonium brakes out after the final buzzer.
ceiling waiting to be released after a Lakers series-clinching victory... that never happened, thanks in part to Don Nelson's "clutch" shooting?).

Think back to some of memories and images of 1984: Jack Nicholson being Jack Nicholson; east coast vs. west coast; the 2-2-1-1-1Finals format vs. the 2-3-2 format of today; Showtime vs. Celtics Pride; the chant of, 'Beat L.A.' roaring through the hallowed halls of the Garden; the contrasting broadcast styles of veteran announcers Johnny Most and Chick Hearn; Lakers girls vs. no girls (OK, maybe Louise Boland the team aerobic instructor); two former NBA players K. C. Jones and Pat Riley leading their respective teams; the masterminds of Red Auerbach vs. Jerry West and, of course, Bird vs. Magic.

The 1984 NBA Finals was the first Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson Final. It marked their first meeting for 'all the marbles' since their college days and the 1979 NCAA Championship of Indiana State vs. Michigan State. The Celtics were in the Finals for the 16th time and second stop of the decade of the '80's (winning in 1981 vs. the Houston Rockets), while the Lakers were making their fourth Finals trip of the 1980's (defeating Philadelphia in two of the three series in 1980 and 1982, losing in 1983). By 1984, Bird and Magic were the two eminent superstars of the sport. Both players led their respective teams to the best record in their respective conferences: Bird and Boston posting a 62-20 regular season slate while Magic and L.A. topped the West with a 54-28 record.

To meet in June, the Celtics defeated the Washington Bullets, three games to one, in the first round of the playoffs and then had to 'survive'
Fans lineup outside the Garden for their Finals tickets.
a seven-game war with the Knicks (that rivalry was renewed after this series), beating New York four-games-to-three. After getting swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1983 NBA Playoffs, the Celtics got revenge and dusted off the Bucks in five games to meet the Lakers. Los Angeles cruised by the Kansas City Kings in three straight, polished off the Dallas Mavericks in five games and in the western finals handed the Phoenix Suns a four-games-to-two setback and the right to meet the Celtics.

Bird and Magic may have put a major jolt back into the league and the post-season play, but each player had quality teammates with them. Robert Parish, Cedric Maxwell, Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, Gerald Henderson, M.L. Carr, Quinn Buckner and Scott Wedman were powerful weapons in K.C.'s arsenal. The Lakers boasted superior talent as well with veteran Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, Bob McAdoo and Jamaal Wilkes providing spark for Riley's purple and gold.

If the Boston gang hadn't figured out that things were not going to be easy, in Game One at the Boston Garden (in front of the 168th consecutive sellout) Abdul-Jabbar sky-hooked his way to 32 points (12-17, 8-9) in 35 minutes to give the visitors a 115-109 win and the 1-0 edge.

Game Two didn't look all that appealing to the Boston faithful either. Oh, the contest started in good shape, with the Celtics jumping out to a 36-26 first quarter lead. But, with thirteen seconds remaining on the scoreboard the Lakers led 113-111. A two game advantage heading to Los Angeles would be HUGE for the Lakers. But a lobbed Worthy inbound pass under the Celtics basket was quickly snatched up by Henderson who layed it in for two points and a 113 tie! The game proceeded to overtime where Wedman made a key jump shot to put the Celtics in the lead for good. Wedman (10 points), McHale (13 points) and Ainge (12) all came off the bench to give the team the needed lift.

Games Three and Four were played at the Fabulous Forum. In the days before charter flights, maybe it was the commercial flight or jet lag, but
The Celtics enjoy their 1984 Championship Parade in downtown Boston.
the Celtics got bounced big-time in Game Three, 137-104. Magic established a Finals record of 21 assists and L.A. poured-in 47 third quarter points (80 second-half points) to cruise to victory. Bird, despite scoring a game-high 30 points, blasted his team and himself with post game comments that his team, 'played like a bunch of sissies.'

In Game Four, the Lakers would shoot .588% (50-85) from the floor, Magic would dish-out another 17 assists (to go with 20 points) and Abdul-Jabbar (32 points) and Worthy (30 points) would lead the scoring attack. So, the Lakers won you say? Remember Bird's parting words in Game Three? With Dennis Johnson now on Magic and a McHale clothesline foul on Rambis, Boston came to play... and win. The Celtics were down by five points in the final minute of play but Bird's jump shot and a steal and breakaway dunk by Carr sealed the win for the Green and White, 129-125 in overtime. Series tied 2-2 and back to Boston.

Game Five, June 8, 1984, 90 degrees outside, 97 degrees inside the Boston Garden, which had no air conditioning at all. In this game, Bird was Bird. Game high totals of: 34 points (15-20, 2-2, 2-4), 17 rebounds and 42 minutes of duty pretty much summed it up.

But the Celtics could not deliver the knockout punch in Game Six back in Los Angeles. Boston led after each quarter: 33-29 after one, 65-59 at halftime and 87-83 after three quarters of play but were out-scored 36-21 in the final stanza (to lose 119-108) and force a seventh and deciding game in Boston.

The glorious 1983-84 Boston Celtics season came to a dramatic and victorious close on June 10, 1984 as the Green and White defeated the Lakers, 111-102, at the Boston Garden to capture their 15th NBA title. The Celtics were spurred on by veteran forward Cedric Maxwell's pre-game proclamation of, 'just hop on my back boys and I'll take you on in". True to his words, 'Max' delivered scoring a team-high 24 points (5-10, 14-17) and adding 8 rebounds and 8 assists in a game-high 43 minutes of work. 'Max' had some help along the way with this game, as eventual Most Valuable Player Bird (20 points and 12 rebounds), Dennis Johnson (22 points and 6 rebounds) and Parish (14 points and a game-high 16 boards) helped to bring the championship hardware back to where it belongs... Boston.