The NBA couldn’t get enough of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. After the two teams met in the 1984 NBA Finals — their first meeting in the championship since 1969 — and again in 1985, they were knocked out four times in the 1985-86 pre-season.
The battle raged between the Celtics and the Lakers in the 1984 finals. There were fights and clashes between superstars Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the intense seven-game series. The rivalry between Bird and Magic Johnson took center stage for the first time as professionals. He needed the NBA and he got it. It went according to plan.
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers brought the NBA to a new level in 1984
While Bird and Magic gave the NBA a jolt when they came after their epic 1979 NCAA Championship game, it didn’t culminate until they met in the NBA Finals for the first time in 1984. Every year of the 1980s, either the Celtics or the Lakers reached the title role. They first met in 1984 and then dated again in 1985 and 1987.
The 1984 finals showed just how intense the rivalry was. It also showed the equivalence of the teams.
The Lakers dominated the first half of the series but found themselves tied 2-2. Gerald Henderson’s late stealing in Game 2 sent the game into overtime and prevented the Lakers from leading 2-0 as the series returned to Los Angeles. After blowing up the Celtics in Game 3, the Lakers took a 76-70 lead in Game 4 before Boston’s Kevin McHale dressed up as Kurt Rambis, who was headed for a layup.
The cruel mistake resulted in the seats being cleaned and was a prelude to Birds and Abdul-Jabbar getting into them minutes later. He also appeared to be swinging in momentum in favor of the Celtics, who tied the series tiebreaker at two games each.
The Celtics won the series in seven games. The Lakers got their revenge when the two teams met again the following season. Los Angeles also beat Boston in 1987.
The Celtics and Lakers met four times in the pre-season 85
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The NBA needed more Celtics versus the Lakers, especially after seeing them match in the Finals in ’84 and 85. Twice during the regular season wasn’t enough.
A few months after they met in June for the 85th title, the Lakers and Celtics played four pre-season games until the 1985-86 season. These meetings were far from the usual pre-season games. This was just as hot.
The bench cleared in October 1985 when they played each other in Providence, Rhode Island. The Lakers took a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but when the Celtics cut the difference to eight, Lakers coach Pat Riley put the Magic back and James Worthy back in the game. The Lakers won 124-111.
“It was this Not Just a show game,” Riley said after the game, in the Los Angeles Times. “She had more heat.”
“It’s too early in the season to be that strong. It’s only been a couple of weeks into the summer. And to deal with that. I can do without her personally.”
Mitch Kupchak of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1985
The fights broke out when Boston newcomer Bill Walton knocked Kopchak to the ground. The Rampes has been overthrown. Altaïr and Abdul-Jabbar went to it again. According to Universal Press International, six Celtics players and three Lakers players have been fined.
This was the first time Walton had experienced a Celtics competition against the Lakers up close.
“My first Celtics/Lakers game was an exhibition game in 1985. There were four of them that year,” Walton told Brian Scalabrin for the Celtics on NBC Sports Boston in April 2021.
“At first, at first, a fight broke out. It lasted for 20 minutes. Everyone was involved. KC Jones eventually came back to the bench bloodied and cut and scraped because Michael Cooper would never cut his nails.
“His (Jones) clothes were torn, and he looked at me with that shine in his eye, and said, ‘I love this game.'”
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