Top 20 Celtics-Lakers Finals Moments
By John Hareas
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
There have been 61 Finals in the history of the NBA and the Celtics and the Lakers have collectively participated in 47 of them. The 2008 Finals marks the 11th meeting between the franchises, with the Celtics owning an 8-2 record in the previous 10. Below are the Top 20 Celtics-Lakers moments in Finals history.

1. Magic’s “Junior, Junior, Junior” Skyhook
June 9, 1987
Game 4: Lakers 107, Celtics 106

Like so many Celtics-Lakers classic Finals matchups, this game came down to the final minute, and like so many other instances, a hero emerged. But there were several candidates vying for the role. First it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who took a Magic Johnson pass as he rolled to the basket for two. Larry Bird quickly answered with a three-pointer at the 12-second mark as Boston reclaimed the lead, 106-104.

After Abdul-Jabbar went to the line and made one of two free throws, missing the second, Boston looked to be in good shape as Kevin McHale retrieved the miss but then coughed the ball up as Mychal Thompson gave him a push.

What ensued was one of the all-time classic playoff moments as Magic received the inbound pass, sized up the Celtics defense and a possible 20-footer only to change his mind and penetrate the lane as he lofted a hook shot with three seconds remaining over the outstretched hands of McHale and Robert Parish. The shot stunned the sold-out Garden crowd. Lakers 107, Celtics 106.

Postgame, Magic enthusiastically labeled his game winner “my junior, junior, junior skyhook.”

Unamused was Bird when asked about the game-winner.

"You expect to lose on a skyhook. You don't expect it to be from Magic."

Two games later, the Lakers won the series and Bird was effusive in his praise of Magic and the Lakers.

“Magic is a great, great basketball player. The best I’ve ever seen.” ….“I guess this is the best team I’ve ever played against.” | Watch

2. Game 7 Masterpiece: Russell's 30-point, 40-rebound performance
Selvy and Lakers Miss Opportunity to End Celtics Dynasty
April 18, 1962
Game 7: Celtics 110, Lakers 107 (OT)

Game 7, score tied at 100 with five seconds remaining and the Lakers have a golden opportunity to end the Celtics' dynasty – in Boston. Hot Rod Hundley inbounds the ball, desperately looking for either Jerry West or Elgin Baylor, who are both blanketed by defenders. So Hundley passes to Frank Selvy for an eight-footer, usually automatic for the 6-3 swingman - except on this occasion. The ball hits the rim and Bill Russell grabs it as the game heads into overtime.

Only the second overtime Game 7 in Finals history saw Sam Jones score five of his 27 points and another monstrous performance by Russell (30 points, 40 rebounds) as the Celtics escaped with a victory and the franchise’s fifth championship. | Watch

3. Elgin Rocks the Garden for 61
April 14, 1962
Game 5: Lakers 126, Celtics 121

“Elgin Baylor was just a machine,” said Satch Sanders and he should know after watching Baylor set a Finals single-game scoring record of 61, surpassing Bob Pettit’s previous mark of 50 five years earlier. Sanders, one of the premier defensive forwards, fouled out trying to contain Baylor, who hit 22 of 46 field goals and grabbed 22 boards for good measure.

“He only had 32 off me,” said Sanders. “I made sure I got out of there. I fouled out and then he just kept on. Any of our forwards were trying to contain him. We all took our turn, but there was no stopping him.”

Forty six years later, Baylor’s Finals record of 61 still stands. | Watch

4. Hold the Balloons
May 5, 1969
Game 7: Celtics 108, Lakers 106

Jack Kent Cooke was a visionary. The high-profile owner, who purchased the Lakers in 1965, immediately put his stamp on the team, whether it was changing the colors from blue and white to “Lakers blue” and gold to the ultra-modern, ahead-of-its-time arena, the Fabulous Forum. Cooke knew what he wanted, and in most cases often got it, except a championship against the dreaded Celtics.

Cooke was so confident that the Lakers would win Game 7 at home that he ordered thousands of balloons, which were suspended from the Forum’s rafters, and ready to be released when the Lakers won the title - or so Cooke thought.

“I’ll never forget it,” said Jerry West. “It was the most embarrassing thing I’d ever seen. All it did was hurt us.”

And played right into the Celtics' hands.

But this game is remembered not just for Cooke’s premature celebratory plans but for Wilt Chamberlain, who left the game at the 5:45 mark with a sore knee and remained on the bench despite pleas to his coach Bill Van Breda Kolff to re-enter. It’s also remembered for Celtic Don Nelson’s improbable yet crucial jumper from the free-throw line that hit the rim, rose up and dropped in.

The Celtics managed to hang on for a 108-106 victory and secured the franchise’s 11th championship. It also was the last title for Bill Russell and Sam Jones. Not to be overshadowed was West’s heroic, triple-double performance in defeat -- 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists -- as he earned the first-ever Finals MVP honors. Thirty nine years later, West remains the lone player from a losing team to win such an honor. | Watch

5. Gerald Henderson Steal vs. Lakers
May 31, 1984
Game 2: Celtics 124, Lakers 121 (OT)

It was desperation time at the Garden as the Celtics trailed 113-111 with 18 seconds remaining and the prospect of heading to Los Angeles down 0-2 appearing very much real. With Magic Johnson inbounding the ball to James Worthy and the Lakers looking to run out the clock, it was Gerald Henderson who provided the Garden heroics. Henderson swooped in, picked off Worthy’s soft crosscourt pass to Byron Scott and easily drove in for the layup, tying the game and forcing overtime.

In OT, Henderson once again made a key play, this time finding Scott Wedman on the baseline for a jumper to help the Celtics preserve a 124-121 come-from-behind victory.

For Lakers head coach Pat Riley, Henderson's steal had a devastating impact.

"What will I remember most from that series?,” Riley said later upon reflection. “Simple. Game 2. Worthy's pass to Scott. I could see the seams of the ball, like it was spinning in slow motion, but I couldn't do anything about it.” | Watch

6. Jerry West Steal & Game Winner
April 10, 1962
Game 3: Lakers 117, Celtics 115

With the series tied at one game apiece, the first ever Finals game in Los Angeles was one for the ages as a record crowd of 15,180 packed the Sports Arena. (The Fabulous Forum wouldn’t open for another five years.) Jerry West, who tied the game at 115, stole the ball from Sam Jones, who tried to inbound it to teammate Bob Cousy. West drove roughly 30 feet in the game’s final three seconds to score the winning layup at the buzzer.

Despite pleas from the Lakers bench to pull up and shoot, West was very much aware of how much time remained.

"I had deflected the ball on the run," said West. "I knew I would have enough time, because I knew what the shot clock was." | Watch

7. Kareem/Lakers Redemption on the Parquet
June 9, 1985
Game 6: Lakers 111, Celtics 100

It was quite a turn of events for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Game 1 of the series saw the 38-year-old center embarrassed not only by his underwhelming stat line of 12 points and three rebounds but the fact that he was badly outplayed by the much quicker Robert Parish. Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t merely a step behind, he was several steps behind "The Chief."

The demoralizing Game 1 defeat ended up being a blessing in disguise as Abdul-Jabbar refocused and recommitted himself to his team. It culminated with a vintage Game 6 performance that saw him score 29 points - 18 in the second half - as the Lakers cruised, 111-100. It was the first time in nine Finals appearances the Lakers defeated the Celtics and victory was especially sweet clinching on the Celtics parquet.

The Lakers finally exonerated the ghosts of the ’84 Finals and the franchise’s seven previous near misses against the storied Celtics. It was redemption time, not only for the Lakers but for Kareem, who at age 38 became the oldest Finals MVP winner and for Johnson, whose long offseason was now a distant memory. | Watch

8. McHale Clotheslines Rambis
June 6, 1984
Game 4: Celtics 129, Lakers 125 (OT)

Looking for a momentum shift in the series? Then look no further than the second quarter of Game 4. Kevin McHale heeded the advice of teammate M.L. Carr, who screamed from the bench to his teammates to do something - anything - to stem the Lakers' tide, as they were about to run the Celtics out of the arena.

One way to stop them was to knock them down, which McHale did when he clotheslined Kurt Rambis as he drove for an easy layup. Both benches cleared as the Celtics' intimidation tactics and physical play appeared to be working.

The Celtics got under the Lakers' skin so much that the usually reserved Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went after Larry Bird in the third quarter.

Carr was up to his old tricks in overtime, when he yelled from the sideline to James Worthy that he was going to miss a free throw. When he did, Cedric Maxwell stepped into the lane and flashed Worthy the choking sign. It was the third crucial missed free throw by the Lakers down the stretch. Magic Johnson missed a pair toward the end of regulation.

The Celtics went on to win in overtime, 129-125, thanks to Bird’s fadeaway jumper with 16 seconds remaining and Carr’s steal to seal the victory.

The tone was set in the second quarter and no doubt heightened the intensity of the series.

“Before Kevin McHale hit Kurt Rambis, the Lakers were just running across the street whenever they wanted,” said Maxwell. “Now they stop at the corner, push the button, wait for the light, and look both ways.”

9. Sam Jones’ Picket Fence Play – The Lord’s Will
April 29, 1969
Game 4: Celtics 89, Lakers 88

It was yet another missed opportunity that undoubtedly would come back to haunt the Lakers. Up 2-1, L.A. was primed to make it 3-1, especially as they held an 88-87 lead and the ball with 15 seconds remaining.
The plan: Inbound the ball and run out the clock. Change of plans: Celtic Emmette Bryant came out of nowhere to produce one of the biggest steals of the series as Sam Jones raced to the other end of the court and missed his field goal attempt.

The Celtics controlled the ball with seven seconds remaining and Jones would get another opportunity. This time, Jones ran off screens (a la Hoosiers Picket Fence play) and got a shooter's roll after launching an off-balance 18-foot jumper over a hard-charging Wilt Chamberlain. The ball hit the rim, bounced upward and hit the back of the rim before going in as Celtics evened the series.

When a reporter asked Jerry West about the shot, he responded, “The Lord’s will.”

It was another crushing blow for West and the Lakers. | Watch

10. D.J. Saves the Day (and Game 4)
June 5, 1985
Game 4: Celtics 107, Lakers 105

Despite blowing out the Lakers in Game 1 by 34 points, the Celtics found themselves staring at a 2-1 deficit and on the verge of possibly trailing 3-1. With only seconds remaining, Bird had the ball and faced a double-team. He found Dennis Johnson above the foul line for the game-winner with only two seconds remaining. Celtics 107, Lakers 105.

“Those are the games where you see the heart of a good ball team,” said Lakers forward Michael Cooper. “We've just gotta buckle down and win one of these.”

11. The Heat Game
June 8, 1984
Game 5: Celtics 121, Lakers 103

It was a reported 97 degrees in the Boston Garden for Game 5 and Larry Bird couldn’t have been happier.

“I love to play in the heat,” said Bird. “I just run faster, create my own wind.”

Bird lit up the Lakers to the tune of 34 points on 15 for 20 shooting as the Celtics won, 121-103. It was a collective effort as Dennis Johnson continued to snap out of his early series funk, scoring 22 points. “This is probably the best game we ever played,” said Johnson.

12. Another Celtics Game 7 Victory
June 12, 1984
Game 7: Celtics 111, Lakers 102

It was the fourth time in seven Finals meetings that the Lakers and Celtics would clash in Game 7 of the Finals, and on all three previous occasions Boston prevailed. How confident was Boston on its own turf? M.L. Carr did his best Kareem Abdul-Jabbar impersonation, wearing the identical goggles as the 7-2 All-Star center, mocking him and the rest of his teammates, declaring no way they would win in the Garden. And he was right. The Celtics would win its fourth Game 7 versus the Lakers but it was thisclose.

After leading by as many as 14, the Celtics found themselves clinging to a three-point lead with barely a minute to play. The game’s final sequence saw Dennis Johnson poke the ball away from Magic Johnson as teammate Michael Cooper recovered, only to have Cedric Maxwell knock it from him as Boston retrieved.

Now DJ had possession and was fouled. He hit both free throws, and the Celtics had locked up title 15. For the Lakers, it was now 0-7 versus the Celtics in the Finals. The Lakers, who had won two titles in the ’80s, were denied No. 3 by their playoff nemesis.“Whatever happened to that Laker dynasty I’ve been hearing so much about?” boasted Red Auerbach in the locker room.

13. Celtics Lose Game but Earn Psychological Edge
April 17, 1966
Game 1: Lakers 133, Celtics 129 (OT)

Five NBA Finals appearances against the Celtics and five Game 1 losses. This year would be different as the Lakers (finally) won Game 1 of the 1966 Finals, 133-129, due in large part to Jerry West’s 41 points and Elgin Baylor’s 36. Wait, stop the presses. Breaking News Alert: Auerbach coaching last series, Russell to be successor. No sooner did the Lakers start celebrating their rare Game 1 triumph when Red Auerbach reached into his bag of psychological tricks and managed to successfully manipulate the situation and steal the headlines by announcing that he was coaching his last playoff series and that all-world center Bill Russell would be his replacement.

“They pulled a fast one, announcing that Red was leaving and Russell was taking over,” said Gail Goodrich, a rookie guard on the Lakers that season. “We won the Game 1, but it was buried under the announcement. Red was saving it just for when it would work against us the most.”

The bombshell stunned the Lakers, who quickly fell into a 3-1 deficit.

14. Cousy Dribbles Out the Clock, Celtic Career
April 24, 1963
Game 6: Celtics 112, Lakers 109

One of the game’s greatest passers and playmakers was calling it a career after the ’62-63 season and was there ever any doubt that Bob Cousy wouldn’t go out on top? After posting a 3-1 series lead, the Celtics saw the Lakers quickly close the gap, and Game 6 came down the wire. Cousy sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter and needed to be escorted to the bench as the Lakers were making their move.

With Boston trailing by a point, Cousy re-entered the game in the fourth quarter, and although he didn’t score again provided the Celtics with an emotional lift as they hung on for a 112-109 victory. In the game’s remaining seconds, Cousy showcased his ballhandling wizardy for the last time in the green and white as he dribbled out the clock before hurling the ball into the Sports Arena rafters.

The championship silenced the critics who deemed the Celtics juggernaut too old (see Sports Illustrated’s March edition -- “The Boston Celtics are an old team. Tired blood courses through their varicose veins.”)
While the Celtics said good-bye to Cousy that season, it was obvious the transition wouldn’t be so painful, thanks to the contributions of a rookie out of Ohio State named John Havlicek.

15. “The Greatest Clutch Performance Against the Celtics”
April 23, 1969
Game 1: Lakers 120, Celtics 118

Jerry West was more than determined to help the Lakers secure their first ever NBA title, especially against the Celtics, a team he and Elgin Baylor were 0-fer against in five previous Finals appearances. West took over Game 1, scoring 53 points (the third highest single-game Finals performance in NBA history) while dishing 10 assists. Not to be overlooked was John Havlicek’s 39 points in the Celtics' 120-118 loss.

Bill Russell called West’s performance, “the greatest clutch performance ever against the Celtics.” And added: “It wasn’t his 53 points that beat us, it was his 10 assists.”

16. Boston’s Not Dead, Celtics Defeat Lakers 4-2
May 2, 1968
Game 6: Celtics 124, Lakers 109

Red was no longer prowling the sidelines and the Celtics were no longer defending champs as the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers dethroned them by posting arguably the greatest single season to date, featured a record 68 regular-season victories and the championship over the San Francisco Warriors. Suddenly, cries of “Boston’s dead,” greeted the Celtics, not only in Philadelphia but throughout the league. The criticism only fueled the Celtics.

“When you get some help like that from opposing fans, it’s really a lift,” said Celtics forward Bailey Howell.

After outlasting the Sixers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics met the Lakers for the fifth time in seven years. With the series tied 2-2, the Lakers fought back from an 18-point deficit and narrowed it to four. Jerry West and Archie Clark tied the game on back-to-back steals followed by subsequent baskets as the game headed into overtime.

Bill Russell, the player helped Bill Russell, the coach when he blocked Elgin Baylor’s field goal attempt before Don Nelson iced the game with a late free throw. Boston went on to win Game 6 at the newly christened Fabulous Forum as Russell became the first African-American head coach in professional sports to win a championship.

17. Finals Shootout: Hondo’s 43 and West’s 41
April 25, 1969
Game 2: Lakers 118, Celtics 112

The virtuoso performances continued in the Finals as John Havlicek and Jerry West combined for 83 points. But it was Lakers great Elgin Baylor who stole the show, scoring L.A.’s last 12 points as the Lakers had their first ever 2-0 lead on the Celtics.

18. Kareem’s Migraine Headache
May 27, 1984
Game 1: Lakers 115, Celtics 109

The Most Valuable Person of Game 1 actually never stepped foot on the court. His name was Jack Curran, the Lakers trainer who came to the rescue and aid of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was suffering from one of his migraine headaches. Pregame treatment consisted of popping vertebra into place, and soon after the 37-year-old center popped the Celtics for 32 points (12 of 17 shooting), eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal as the Lakers stole Game 1, 115-109.

19. Memorial Day Massacre May 27, 1985 Game 1: Celtics 148, Lakers 114

This was the series the Lakers had desperately waited for all summer, given the number of missed opportunities in the ’84 Finals. Perhaps no one suffered more from the seven-game series loss than Magic Johnson. He hid out a portion of the ’84 offseason as it was open season on the All-Star point guard, whom Kevin McHale nicknamed “Tragic Johnson.”

So how did the Lakers respond in their long-awaited rematch? They got blown out by 34 points (148-114) on Memorial Day, May 27, as Scott Wedman, the Celtics swingman, put on a shooting clinic, nailing all 11 of his field-goal attempts, including four three pointers.

20. Red Almost Swallows Victory Cigar April 28, 1966
Game 7, Celtics 95, Lakers 93

It was classic Red. With victory in hand, the legendary coach lit one up to celebrate yet another triumph - in this particular instance, his ninth NBA title. But hold up - Was the unthinkable happening? Are the Celtics blowing the game and did Red prematurely light up?

The once sizable Celtic lead was evaporating as the Lakers clawed their way within six points with 20 seconds remaining. The margin was two with four seconds on the clock as Boston fans were chomping at the bit to celebrate the franchise’s ninth title, oblivious to what was happening on the court.

Auerbach was desperately trying to keep fans at bay and preserve the victory. Garden fans had knocked over the orange juice containers on the Celtics bench while Celtics forward Satch Sanders saw his jersey snatched from him. Order was restored - at least pertaining to the Celtics holding on. K.C. Jones successfully inbounded the ball to John Havlicek, who ran out the clock, dodging Lakers and overzealous Bostonians celebrating on the court.

“We came awfully close to putting that damn thing out,” said Lakers Coach Fred Schaus of Auerbach’s cigar.

Red’s last title as coach was arguably his most memorable as the Celtics won their eighth in a row.

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