May 31, 2010
Celtics-Lakers Classic Finals Moments
10 Disappearing Act
Magic Johnson committed two critical turnovers in the final 90 seconds of the Lakers' 111-102 loss in Game 7 in 1984, a bitter end to his first Finals showdown with Larry Bird. The following season, SI's Bruce Newman wrote of Magic, "The nightmare of the final game last June so thoroughly engulfed Johnson that when it was over he was too numb even to move. ... Magic had failed in a way that seemed to diminish him so conspicuously that earlier this season even the Celtics' Kevin McHale referred to him as "Tragic Johnson."
From the SI VAULT: Don't call him Magic, just call him unreliable (8.20.84)
Bird set up Dennis Johnson for the buzzer-beating jumper that gave the Celtics a series-tying 107-105 victory in Game 4 in 1985. Johnson's shot comes at 9:15 of the clip, which picks up the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 99-98 with 2:51 left.
8 Breakthrough Performance
After losing the first eight Finals matchups to the Celtics, the Lakers finally turned the tables in 1985. The clip below shows the final minute of L.A.'s Game 6 clincher, starting with a skyhook from 38-year-old Finals MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who finished with 29 points. The road victory came only two weeks after the Lakers were blown out 148-114 in the series opener in Boston, a romp that became known as the Memorial Day Massacre.
From the SI VAULT: Finally, a happy Laker landing (6.17.85)
7 How West Won It
Before Elgin Baylor's Game 5 scoring spree (see below), Jerry West put his stamp on the 1962 series. With Game 3 tied at 115-115 with four second remaining, the Logo swiped a mid-court inbounds pass and raced in for a buzzer-beating layup.
From the SI VAULT: Frank Deford profiles star Jerry West (2.7.72)
6 Let's Play The Feud
McHale's clothesline of Kurt Rambis in Game 4 was viewed by some as the turning point in the 1984 Finals, with the Celtics finally getting physical in trying to slow down the Lakers. (Notice how the benches emptied after the hard foul -- a no-no in today's NBA.) The Celtics rallied to win in overtime to even the series, then took two of the next three to push their record in Finals against L.A. to 8-0.
5 What A Steal!
The Lakers had the Celtics on the ropes in 1984, leading the series 1-0 and nursing a 115-113 advantage with 15 seconds left in Game 2. But Gerald Henderson picked off James Worthy's lazy backcourt pass and turned it into a game-tying layup. Boston prevailed in overtime to climb back into the series.
4 Jonesing For A Game-Winner
Trailing 88-87 in the final seconds of Game 4, the Celtics got this buzzer-beating jumper from Sam Jones to level the 1969 Finals at 2-2.
3 Nellie To The Rescue
With the Celtics' 17-point lead down to one in crunch time of the 1969 Game 7, Don Nelson made a lucky-bounce free-throw line jumper that slowed the Lakers' push. The underdog Celtics won 108-106 in the last game for Bill Russell, who retired with his 11th championship.
From the SI VAULT: Celtics win 11th title in 13 years (5.12.69)
2 Shooting Star
The 1962 series produced a couple of tremendous individual efforts, none more spectacular than Baylor's Finals-record 61-point outburst in the Lakers' Game 5 victory. The Celtics, however, prevailed in an epic Game 7, highlighted by Russell's 30 points and 40 rebounds (which deserves to be part of this No. 2 ranking).
From the SI VAULT: Elgin Baylor is one of a kind (10.24.66)
1 Magic Makes Like Kareem
Magic Johnson beat the Celtics in Game 4 of the 1987 Finals with what he called his "junior, junior, junior skyhook." "You're probably going to get beat by a skyhook, but you don't expect it from Magic," Bird told reporters after the game. The 107-106 victory gave the Lakers a 3-1 series lead en route to defeating the Celtics for the second time in the last three champinship rounds.

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