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When the Lakers beat the Celtics in Game 2 of the 1985 NBA Finals, it marked the start of the greatest four years in the team’s history. The Lakers would go on to win another NBA title in 1987, and the entire city of Los Angeles would get behind the Lakers like never before. During that time, the Lakers were the epitome of good sportsmanship, winning the hearts of the city’s basketball fans everywhere. While they may not have had the most talented roster, they did have the hottest girl in the NBA. During the 1985 NBA Finals, the Lakers’ young talent was coming into full bloom.
It’s 1987, and the Lakers are up 3-2 in the NBA Finals. The Celtics, on the other hand, are ready to make their first ever trip to the Finals. The game is tied 58-58 with less than two minutes to play. And then, what has happened to the Lakers over the last three games? They’ve gone from dominant to pathetic. Can they recover?
After the way the series started, the Boston Celtics had little chance of defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals. The Celtics defeated the Lakers in seven games, relying on a last-second Gerald Henderson steal in Game 2 and a Kevin McHale clotheslining of Kurt Rambis in Game 4 to shift the tide.
After a year of mourning, the Lakers and their “sewer rat” exacted sweet vengeance on their East Coast rivals.
In the 1984 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers let one slip through their fingers.
The Los Angeles Lakers are a professional basketball team based in Los On the bench during the 1985 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, June 2, 1985, in Inglewood, California, Magic Johnson speaks with Kurt Rambis. | Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.
The Celtics had the best record in the NBA in 1983-84, going 62-20. They were the only team in the East to win 60 games, while no other club ended with more than 52 wins. The Lakers led the Western Conference with a 54-28 record. In June 1984, the two met for the first of three Finals matches in the 1980s.
In Game 1, the Lakers accomplished exactly what they needed to do, leaving the Boston Garden with a 115-109 victory and seizing homecourt. In Game 2, they came close to putting the series out of reach. With 18 seconds remaining with the Lakers leading by two points and playing keep-away from the Celtics, Henderson intercepted a pass and drove in for the game-tying layup. The Celtics prevailed in overtime when the Lakers were unable to make a shot in the last 13 seconds.
The Celtics needed to do something after the Lakers blasted away the Celtics in Game 3, winning 137-104 in the opening game in Los Angeles. With a 76-70 advantage in Game 4 and a chance to put the series out of reach, the Lakers accomplished just that.
During the Locked On Celtics podcast last year, former Celtics guard Danny Ainge remarked, “I remember Larry (Bird) saying something to the media (after Game 3) about how soft the team is.” “However, our performance in Game 3 in Los Angeles embarrassed and humiliated every single individual who saw that film.”
McHale clotheslined Rambis as the Lakers forward drove in for a basket with his team down by six. The benches have been removed. The momentum shifted. Boston has regained its vibrancy. The Celtics took advantage of their newfound energy and momentum to win 129-125 in overtime and even the series at one game each. In the end, Boston prevailed in seven games.
In 1985, the Los Angeles Lakers exacted vengeance on the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers took their disappointment into the summer. With the loss of a loved one comes a newfound resolve. They were not going to let it happen again.
In 2015, Magic Johnson told Sports Illustrated, “You can’t look at 1985 without looking at 1984.” “We all believed we deserved to win. It was the most powerful motivator.”
The Lakers’ early season did not go according to plan. With home court advantage once again, Boston humiliated their opponents, winning the first game 148-114.
“It was the first — and only — time I recall us having a look on our faces that indicated, ‘We don’t know what to do,’” Johnson said.
With a Game 2 victory, the Lakers reclaimed homecourt advantage and went on to win the opening game in LA to grab a 2-1 series lead. To square the series, Boston won Game 4 107-105. The NBA switched to a 2-3-2 format for the Finals in 1985, and the Lakers won 120-111 at home in the decisive fifth game. They won Game 6 111-100 in Boston to wrap up the series.
Pat Riley, the Lakers’ coach, stated, “We drew inspiration from the year before.” “We went into (Game 6) with a lot of confidence.”
Kurt Rambis, the Lakers”sewer rat,’ had a sweeter taste for vengeance.
Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons was a clear-cut No. 1 when it came to individual opponents of the Boston Celtics in the 1980s. Rambis was most likely No. 2 on the list. In the series, even renowned Celtics commentator Johnny Most went all over Rambis, calling him “something that crawled out of a sewer.”
Rambis took it all in stride.
In 2015, he told Sports Illustrated, “I liked it.” “How many individuals have ever been dubbed a sewer rat in their lives?”
Even more than the name-calling and the vengeance they exacted on the Celtics in 1985, Rambis relished the fact that they had won the championship on their own floor.
“There’s a part of you that wants to win a title in front of your home crowd,” Rambis added. “However, nothing beats slamming it to a team on their own floor for a competitive player. Especially the Celtics.”
It all came back to McHale’s clotheslining the previous year for Rambis.
Rambis said, “I saw two men coming in on me and I knew one of them was going to strike me.” “It was Kevin, of course. Kevin didn’t even get a technical, did he?”
He didn’t do it. He didn’t repeat as champion as the sewer rat, and his Lakers got delicious retribution.
Larry Bird once revealed the only player “who can really shut me down.”
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