All-time NBA/ABA tournament of champions: Part IV

All-time NBA/ABA tournament of champions: 
Part IV Decade semifinals and final rounds

By Cort Reynolds

Two great rivalry series between the Celtics and Lakers and others by the Celtics/76ers and Pistons/Bulls headlined the latest round of the all-time tournament of champions.
When the dust cleared, the Celtics are the only franchise to have two unbeaten teams left in the winner's bracket.

All-time NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions
Third Round Results (all series are best of 7)
Seed, title year and team with season record, playoff record and head coach listed in parentheses

2000s bracket 2nd/3rd round results
#4 seed 2007 San Antonio Spurs (58-24, 16-4, Gregg Popovich)
Starters: T. Duncan, M. Ginobili, T. Parker, B. Bowen, F. Oberto
Key reserves: B. Barry, M. Finley, F. Elson, R. Horry, B. Udrih
#2 seed 2013 Miami Heat (66-16, 16-7, Erik Spoelstra)
Starters: L. James, D. Wade, C. Bosh, M. Chalmers, U. Haslem
Key reserves: R. Allen, M. Miller, C. Andersen, S. Battier

Result: San Antonio 4, Miami 3.
Series recap: The Spurs and Heat alternated series wins, with the Heat winning close games 1, 3 and 5 with the Spurs tying it up each time with victories in games 2, 4 and 6. SA reversed the trend by winning game 7 in Miami, however. Manu Ginobili gave the Spurs the lead late in game seven by one with a driving basket. LeBron James missed a pull-up jumper to put Miami up one, the Spurs rebounded and got the ball to Tim Duncan. Duncan faced up Chris Bosh and banked in his trademark left wing banker to put SA up by three. James passed up a three try to set up Wade, who missed a triple. Bosh rebounded and passed out to James, who missed badly. Mike Miller ran down the loose ball, head faked and passed to Ray Allen, who drilled a corner shot but was called for traveling while backing up to take the tying three, negating the tying hoop with just seconds left. Tony Parker was fouled and split a pair to put the Spurs up four. James then had his pass intercepted by Bowen to end the game and the series. The Heat had no answer inside for an in-his-prime Duncan, who averaged 26 points, 16 boards and four blocks a game. Ginobili offset Wade while Parker outplayed Mario Chalmers clearly and defensive ace Bruce Bowen did a solid job on James, holding him to 41% shooting for the series.
Series MVP: Tim Duncan

#3 seed 2008 Boston Celtics (66-16, 16-10, Doc Rivers)
Starters: P. Pierce, K. Garnett, R. Allen, R. Rondo, K. Perkins
Key reserves: J. Posey, T. Allen, E. House, G. Davis, L. Powe
lost to
#2 seed 2013 Miami Heat (66-16, 16-7, Erik Spoelstra)
Starters: L. James, D. Wade, C. Bosh, M. Chalmers, U. Haslem
Key reserves: R. Allen, M. Miller, C. Andersen, S. Battier

Result: Miami 4, Boston 3
Series recap: Miami won games 1, 3 and 5 while Boston took games 2, 4 and 6 to even the series 3-3.
In Miami for game seven, the home court advantage proved to be crucial for the Heat. When Paul Pierce went down with an ankle injury after hitting the game-tying shot at the end of regulation, Miami was able to pull away in overtime. Dwyane Wade hit a clutch bank shot to give the Heat the victory.
Series MVP: Dwyane Wade.

1970s bracket 3rd round results
#1 seed 1972 Los Angeles Lakers (69-13, 12-3, Bill Sharman)
Starters: J. West, G. Goodrich, W. Chamberlain, J. McMillian, H. Hairston
Key reserves: F. Robinson, P. Riley, K. Erickson, E. Baylor
#4 seed 1974 Boston Celtics (56-26, 12-6, Tom Heinsohn)
Starters: J. Havlicek, D. Cowens, J. White, P. Silas, D. Chaney
6th man: Don Nelson.  Key reserves: P. Westphal, S. Kuberski

Series recap: Those ancient foes, the Lakers and Celtics, renewed hostilities in this latest version of their storied rivalry. Coming off their record 33-game win streak and 69-win season after eight Finals losses from 1959-70, LA was brimming with new-found confidence.
With the early-season retirement of aging one on one star Elgin Baylor and the insertion of his heady replacement in sweet-shooting young Jim McMillian into the lineup, LA became a running team ironically reminiscent of the 1960s Celtics.
In fact, their 33-game win streak started the night Baylor retired nine games into the campaign. Coached by ex-Celtic guards Bill Sharman and assistant K.C. Jones, they helped turn an aging Chamberlain into a version of Russell with his new emphasis on shot-blocking, rebounding and triggering the fast break while shooting much less.

Neither team was overly deep, with fine Laker swingman Keith Erickson missing most of the season with injury and Boston reserve/future all-star Paul Westphal in his second season as seventh man. Yet LA invoked an unusual rule to activate Baylor as well, since he had played in nine games at the beginning of that season, a move that paid dividends. Baylor was too proud to be a reserve that season and retired, but after LA won it all he agreed to rejoin the squad to make a run in the all-time tournament. Having lost in the NCAA finals in college and eight times in the NBA Finals, he was hungry for a ring. With Baylor and Erickson both back, the Laker bench was now nine-deep in quality, although both were limited to no more than 15 minutes a game.

The lone real Celtic weakness, other than a short bench, was spotty shooting at off guard by defensive specialist Don Chaney. With the long-armed Chaney assigned to try and stop West, he repeatedly got into foul trouble, which forced Boston to use Westphal more than Heinsohn wanted to, and also forced him to move Havlicek to guard while playing Silas and Nelson at forward.  While trying to guard the speedier West or Goodrich, even the indefatigable Havlicek became slightly worn down and it affected his shooting negatively. 

All-Stars Goodrich and White dueled at the other guard, while Hondo taught the talented but relatively inexperienced McMillian a few lessons. With seven titles under his belt to that time, Havlicek was one of the premire clutch players of all time and an exceptionally heady, tenacious and skilled competitor, as well as one of the league's best athletes.

Cowens was also able to run the much older Chamberlain, leading Boston to a game one upset in the Forum by a 117-113 count. Dave scored 32 points and snared 13 boards while Hondo added 30 and White 26. West topped the Lakers with 31 points and 11 assists while Goodrich added 29 points. But Chamberlain scored just six and McMillian 10 as the Celtics took a 1-0 edge.

LA roared back in game two at home, winning 129-110. Chamberlain pulled down 28 rebounds and muscled inside for 18 points. West doled out 17 assists and scored 23 while Goodrich and McMillian combined for 49 points. Baylor also added 12 off the bench.

Havlicek tossed in 28 for Boston and White added 25, but Cowens was held to just 11.
Game 3 in Boston was a sizzler, as the Celtics regained the series upper hand with a 112-111 overtime win. Cowens took the immobile Wilt outside and hit jumpers over him, then drove around him for runners and hooks.

LA countered by putting Happy Hairston on Dave and switching Chamberlain onto Silas, which also kept the weak-shooting Paul away from the offensive glass, where he excelled. Cowens continued to score well on his way to 36 points, but West put the clamps on White while scoring 29 himself. Goodrich forced overtime on a pair of foul shots late in regulation.

West then put the Lakers on top 111-110 by nailing a 22-footer. But Havlicek won it on a running left-side banker with two seconds to go.  

LA tied it back up again at 2-2 with a needed road win as West and Goodrich, the highest-scoring backcourt in NBA history at 51.8 ppg, combined for 62 as the Lakers won 125-119. Havlicek and White each scored 29 but Chamberlain got Cowens in foul trouble and scored 17 points while snaring 23 boards and swatting eight shots. Dave was limited to nine points and 11 caroms.

In game five back home the Lakers took their first lead of the series at 3-2 with a 121-118 squeaker. McMillian outscored Hondo for the first time in the series (28-25). West dealt 19 assists and Goodrich scored his series-high 39 points. Cowens bounced back with 20 points and 18 boards, but Wilt negated that with 16 points, 22 rebounds and six blocks.

Back in Boston for game six, the Celtics staved off elimination by running out to a 59-44 halftme lead. White scored 19 and Hondo 15 by intermission, and Wilt ended up with just six points as he missed nine of his 11 foul shots.

Cowens tallied 23 points and Westphal had his best game off the bench with 16 points. Chaney and Nelson each also contributed 14 markers as Boston evened the series 3-3 with a convincing 116-100 win.
With the series boiled down to one game back in LA West, Baylor and Wilt were tormented by memories of 1969, when the favored Lakers lost 108-106 in game seven in what turned out to be th elast game for Bill Russell and Sam Jones.

Boston came out firing again and led 29-20 after the first period. Havlicek continued his hot shooting with 20 first half points, leading the Celtics to a 60-49 intermission bulge.

The Lakers started to edge back in the game int he third period. Baylor, who didn't play at all in the first half, entered the game near the end of the quarter and scored eight points to pull LA within 77-74.
The Lakers took their first lead on a fast break layin by Goodrich from West after a Chamberlain block, 80-79. The Forum crowd roared but after the lead increased to five, Boston clawed back in front.
Havlicek, Nelson, White and Cowens each hit baskets to put the Celtics back on top 87-84. West caught fire and reeled off 10 of the next 12 points, forcing Heinsohn to move defensive ace Havlicek to guard in an attempt to slow Jerry down.

The move seemed to work but West then hurt Boton with his passing, getting easy shots for Goodrich and McMillian. Both teams went with their best offensive lineups down the stretch, with LA playing Wilt, Baylor, McMillian, West and Goodrich. Boston countered with Cowens, Nelson, Hondo, Westphal and White.
Westphal's 15-footer went in to give the Celtics a 106-104 lead, but Baylor tied it on a pair of foul shots.
Havlicek had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but as he went up Wilt came over to double him and forced a miss and overtime.

In OT, Cowens fouled out forcing Wilt to shoot two free throws late. Chamberlain split the pair to put LA on top 111-110, but White knocked down a clutch jumper. Silas came in for Cowens and attempted to contain Wilt, fouling him again. Once more he split the pair to tie it and the game went to a second overtime.
In this extra session West scored six points and dealt two assists to get LA to the brink of victory. With Baylor's minutes long expired, Keith Erickson came in and appeared to make a game-breaking steal. He poked the ball from behind away from a dribbling Havlicek, but it went right to Nelson, whose foul line jumper bounced in to give Boston a 122-121 lead.

With everyone in the Forum expecting Mr. Clutch to take the last shot, the Celtics wisely doubled him on the sideline. But his pass went to Goodrich, who buried a 19-footer fromt he circle with two seconds left.
After a timeout Boston had one last chance after a timeout moved the ball to halfcourt. The play was drawn up for Havlicek first and White second, but Nellie's in-bounds pass was picked off by West and time expired.

West averaged nearly 30 points and 12 assists a game for the series, while Havlicek averaged 27 points and White 22. But Goodrich, who scored 27 ppg, made the series-winner as Cowens could onyl watch on glumly from the bench. Had he not fouled out the seventh game outcome may well have been different.
Result: Los Angeles 4, Boston 3
Series MVP: Gail Goodrich

#3 seed 1973 New York Knicks (57-25, 12-5, Red Holzman)
Starters: W. Frazier, D. DeBusschere, W. Reed, E. Monroe, B. Bradley.  6th man: J. Lucas.
Key reserves: P. Jackson, D. Meminger, D. Barnett
#2 seed 1971 Milwaukee Bucks (66-16, 12-2, Larry Costello)
Starters: L. Alcindor (Jabbar), O. Robertson, B. Dandridge, J. McGlocklin, G. Smith        Key reserves: L. Allen, B. Boozer

Series recap: The series featured great individual matchups: Reed vs. Alcindor, Robertson vs. Frazier, Monroe vs. McGlocklin, Bradley vs. Dandridge. But the one where there was a clear advantage was the DeBusschere/Smith matchup at forward, plus the Knicks boasted a better, deeper bench.

New York seemed to have Milwaukee's number, as even in the Buck title season of 1971 the Knicks were the only team to win the season series over the champs, and they did it by a convincing 4-1 margin to boot. In fact over New York-native Alcindor's first five NBA campaigns, Milwaukee never beat NY in a season series, and also lost in the 1970 playoffs to the Gothams in five games.

The Bucks had trouble with the physical play of Reed and DeBusschere in particular, and a younger Frazier was also able to negate if not outplay the 11-year vet Robertson in the backcourt. The balanced Knicks boasted better outside shooting and took cmmand of the series right away by taking game one in the Milwaukee Arena, 113-105.

The top six Knicks each hit for double figures, led by Frazier with 22 and DeBusschere with 21 and 16 rebounds. Reed and Lucas, the "Willie Lucas" combination center, totaled 30 points and 17 rebounds to somewhat offset Alcindor's 35 and 19.
The Bucks evened it with a big 14-point win in game two as Robertson scored 25 and doled out 16 assists. Dandridge tallied 22 and Alcindor 29, and McGlocklin hit for 19 from outside as the Knicks struggled uncharacteristically shooting.

Back in the friendly confines of MSG in New York, the Knicks dominated games three and four, winning by 10 and nine points to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Frazier scored 31 points in game one and the other half of the Rolls Royce backcourt, Earl Monroe, hit for 33 in game two.

DeBusschere scored 41 and grabbed 28 rebound sin the two wins, while Phil Jackson came off the bench to contribute surprisngly solid defense aganst Alcindor and 10 points in game three.

Milwaukee took out its frustrations back home in game five with a 21-point victory. Alcindor broke loose for 44 points and 21 boards against the aging, smaller duo of Lucas and Reed, as well as the 6-8 Jackson.

But back in Gotham for the sixth game, the Knick fans would not let their heady team lose. Bradley enjoyed his finest game with 25 points on 11-12 shooting, and DeBusschere tossed in 24 points with 17 rebounds.

Frazier put the game away with four clutch late foul shots as he stymied the older Robertson and added 19 points and 13 assists himself.

As the Knicks clinched the series at home 115-110, the sold-out Garden crowd serenaded the Buck center, who scored 33 points, with chants of "Good night Lewie, Good night Lewie."
Result: New York 4, Milwaukee 2
Series MVP: Dave DeBusschere

1950s/60s 3rd round results

#1 seed 1967 Philadelphia 76ers (68-13, 11-4, Alex Hannum)
Starters: W. Chamberlain, H. Greer, W. Jones, C. Walker, L. Jackson  6th man: B. Cunningham.
Key reserves: D. Gambee, M. Guokas, L. Costello
#5 seed 1957 Boston Celtics (44-28, 7-3, Red Auerbach)
Starters: B. Russell, B. Cousy, T. Heinsohn, B. Sharman, J. Loscutoff    6th man: F. Ramsey.
Key reserves: A. Phillip, A. Risen, D. Hemric

Result: Philadelphia 4, Boston 3
Series recap: The battle between the NBA's two goliaths in the pivot went down to the literal wire. Bill Sharman's 20-footer just before the buzzer gave Boston a 111-109 road win in the opener. Philly tied it with a big win in game two as Wilt posted a triple-double with 24 points, 23 rebounds and 11 assists. Boston forged back in front with a victory in game three in the Garden as Russell yanked down 32 caroms and held Wilt to 18 points. But the 76ers came back to tie it again with a key road triumph in game four as Billy Cunningham scored 29 and Chet Walker 25.
Back home for game five, the Sixers took their first lead of the series. Hal Greer hit for 35 and canned two of his trademark jump shot free throws late to give Philly a 117-115 victory.

Boston tied it up 3-3 as underrated Tom Heinsohn, the 1957 Rookie of the Year, poured in a series-high 38 points. Bob Cousy doled out 22 assists as the Celtic fast break ran Philly out of the Garden, 127-110.
In the seventh game showdown, neither team led by more than five points the entire way. Pushed on by their home fans, the 76ers took a 95-90 lead in the fourth period when Wilt found Cunningham and Walker on consecutive double team passes out of the post for easy baskets.

Boston stopped doubling Chamberlain and when in trouble, Russell fouled him, sending Wilt to the foul line. With the pressure on, Chamberlain missed four of five. Cousy canned a long one-hander and then Sharman hit from deep to bring the Celtics within 96-94. Again the Celtics fouled Chamberlain, and he split the pair.
Heinsohn knocked down a long hook to bring Boston within one. Sixer coach Alex Hannum refused to take out Chamberlain, and they rushed a shot by Greer to avoid a foul, with Russell rebounding the miss.

But at the other end, the 76ers turned the tables and fouled Russell, just a 56 percent career foul shooter and a 49 percent free thrower that season, intentionally with just eight seconds left. Russ missed the first but managed to bounce in the second shot to tie it.

After a timeout, Philly lobbed the ball into Wilt, one on one against Russell. Chamberlain maneuvered for his patented finger roll in the lane, yet Russell anticipated the move and blocked the shot out of the air to Cousy. But the official called goal-tending to put Philly in front, 99-97, with two seconds left.

Cousy, after a timeout, threw in to Sharman, and his 45-footer at the buzzer hit the rim, bounded well into the air and hit a wire above the basket before dropping back down and out to give the 76ers a controversial series win as their fans stormed the court.
Series MVP: Wilt Chamberlain

#2 seed 1963 Boston Celtics (58-22, 8-5, Red Auerbach)
Starters: B. Russell, B. Cousy, S. Jones, T. Heinsohn, T. Sanders 
Key reserves: J. Havlicek, F. Ramsey, KC Jones, C. Lovellette
#6 seed 1958 St. Louis Hawks (41-31, 8-3, Alex Hannum)
Starters: B. Pettit, E. Macauley, C. Hagan, S. Martin, J. McMahon    Key reserves: C. Share, J. Coleman, W. Wilfong

Result: Boston 4, St. Louis 2
Series recap: The rival Celtics and Hawks met four times for the title between 1957 and 1961, with Boston winning three of their memorable matchups. The lone Hawk win came in 1958, when Bob Pettit scored 50 points and 19 of the last 21 in game six to lift St. Louis to the only title in franchise history, 110-109. But Bill Russell had played with a sprained ankle, and was determined not to let that happen again.
The Celtics roared to wins at home in the first two games by 15 and 16 points as seven players hit double figures. St. Louis stayed alive with a game three win at home as Pettit poured in 39 points and snared 26 boards.

Boston took a commanding 3-1 lead by winning game four as Russell pulled in 25 boards, scored 19 and blocked 11 shots. The Hawks staved off elimination in game five in the Garden as Pettit and former Celtic Ed Macauley each scored 29, and Boston draft pick Cliff Hagan added 22.

Back in St. Louis for game six, the Hawks took an 11-point lead into the fourth period and appeared poised to force a seventh game. But then the Celtics defense tightened up and limited them to just 10 points. The fast break cut loose and Boston ran away to a 113-108 triumph.

Sam Jones scored 24 to pace the victors. Cousy passed out 16 assists while Heinsohn scored 19, Russell pulled in 28 rebounds and rookie John Havlicek added 17 key points off the bench.
Pettit scored 33 in defeat.
Series MVP: Bill Russell

1990s bracket Final Round results
#1 seed 1996 Chicago Bulls (72-10, 15-3, Phil Jackson)
Starters: M. Jordan, S. Pippen, D. Rodman, L. Longley, R. Harper
6th man: T. Kukoc. Key reserves: S. Kerr, B. Wennington, J. Buechler
#3 seed 1990 Detroit Pistons (59-23, 15-5, Chuck Daly)
Starters: I. Thomas, J. Dumars, B. Laimbeer, M. Aguirre, J. Edwards  6th man: V. Johnson. Key reserves: D. Rodman, J. Salley

Result: Chicago 4, Detroit 2
Series recap: Two familiar rust belt rivals faced off int he 1990s finals. Detroit had eliminated Chicago in seven games in 1988, in 6 in 1989 and in 7 in 1990 before the Bulls broke through and swept the defending two-time champs in 1991 en route to their first title. That sweep evoked the infamous Piston "no handshake" at the end of the series as they marched off the floor together before the final buzzer in game four. Thus the stage was set for an angry revival of hostilities between the pair of bitter upper midwest foes.

Chicago took the first two games at home surprisingly fairly easily. Jordan scored 45 and 47 points to offset 61 points by Thomas in the two contests. Detroit stayed alive by winning game three at home by 18 points as Thomas, Dumars and Vinnie Johnson combined for 67 points.

The Pistons tied it with another win at home in game four 118-116. Jordan knotted it on a jumper over a double team with four seconds left, but Thomas responded by canning a 21-footer at the buzzer.

Back in Chicago for game five, the Bulls blew out the Pistons by 25. Jordan scored 43 and Pippen recorded a triple-double to lead Chicago to the win.

In the Palace for game six, the physical play went to a new low. Piston Rodman slammed Pippen into the stanchion, forcing him out of the game with a head and neck injury. Bull Rodman body slammed the Detroit version of himself, and Laimbeer was given flagrant fouls for hammering Jordan and Toni Kukoc.

Thomas appeared to have won another game for Detroit with a bank three-pointer that put the Pistons up 118-117 in the final seconds. But after a timeout, the Bulls fooled Detroit, which doubled Jordan and stayed home on Kerr, and went instead to an open Kukoc. The southpaw supersub from Croatia drained a top of the key shot at the buzzer to win the series.

The Pistons streamed off the court without shaking the hands of the Bulls again as their home crowd cheered. Daly did shake the hand of Jackson, however.

Jordan, who averaged just under 40 ppg, was the series MVP although Thomas nearly matched him. Chicago, which won six titles in the expansion-diluted decade, clearly claimed the mantle of team of the decade.

Afterward, Jordan offered that any of the first three-peat Bulls champs of 1991-93 would have beaten the Bad Boys as well. Rodman of the Bulls agreed, while Rodman of the Pistons and Thomas disagreed, saying Jordan was overrated.
Series MVP: Michael Jordan

1980s bracket Final round results
#1 seed 1986 Boston Celtics (67-15, 15-3, K.C. Jones)
Starters: L. Bird, K. McHale, D. Johnson, R. Parish, D. Ainge
6th man: B. Walton. Key reserves: S. Wedman, J. Sichting
#2 seed 1987 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17, 15-2, Pat Riley)
Starters: E. Johnson, K. A.-Jabbar, J. Worthy, B. Scott, AC Green   6th man: M. Cooper. Key reserves: M. Thompson, K. Rambis

Result: Boston 4, LA Lakers 3 
Series recap: The top two title teams of the star-studded 1980s met in a titanic showdown. The Celtics, eager to gain revenge for their rubber-match loss in the 1987 Finals to the Lakers when they were far less than full strength due to injuries, were postively foaming at the mouth to face LA.

This time the Celtics had the homecourt advantage due to a better record. In game one, Bird authored a triple-double to lead the Celtics to a blowout win. Scott Wedman came off the bench to hit all seven of his shots, including three triples, to help Boston to a 24-point rout.

The Celtics made it 2-0 with another win at home in game two.
Even with his ex-college teammate Mychal Thompson acquired by LA to beat on him, McHale was unstoppable inside with 35 points and 16 rebounds, eight on the offensive glass.

Yet the Lakers had a chance to tie it late yet Johnson missed a pair of foul shots. When Thompson knocked the ball out of bounds, the call still went LA's way, giving them one last chance. But Johnson's entry pass to Jabbar was picked off by Parish, who passed to Bird. Larry canned both shots and the Celtics hung on, 124-121.

Back home in LA, the Lakers won convincingly in game three as Jabbar and Worthy each scored 28 and Johnson pulled out a triple-double of his own.

In the key fourth game, the Lakers won late on a Worthy finger roll to tie the series despite Bird making 11 shots in a row at one point.

Back in Boston for game five, LA pulled off the upset 116-114 when Johnson's wrong-footed three from the left wing banked in at the buzzer.

With their backs to the wall in game six at the Forum, Boston trailed by seven late when Bird scored eight straight points to put the Celtics in front. Jabbar missed a hook, but Worthy tipped in the rebound to put LA in front with 16 seconds to go.

With the Lakers keying on Bird, he drew a double team and hit DJ for an open jumper, which he drained with two seconds left.

After a timeout LA went to Johnson, but he inexpplicably dribbled almost all of the clock out before McHale blocked his desperation shot at the buzzer to preserve the win and force game seven back in Boston.
The Celtics were dismayed to see Earl Strom, the road referee, and Hugh Evans as the officials for the seventh contest. The same duo had reffed the clinching game six loss at Boston vs. LA in 1985, and again the controversial game four loss in 1987.

But this time the Celtics would not let it stay close. Boston stymied the vaunted Laker running game by pounding the offensive boards, and when confined to a halfcourt game, the Laker offense bogged down as the duo of Parish and Walton helped hold a tiring 40-year old Jabbar to 16 points while McHale outscored Worthy. Kevin made James pay for his early leakouts by hitting the offensive glass to the tune of four putbacks, and Worthy finished with a paltry three rebounds. Bysron Scott, who always struggled shooting in the Garden, was benched in favor of Cooper.

With sinewy defensive ace Michael Cooper clinging to him, Bird took the smaller man inside for post-up baskets. McHale torched Worthy and Green inside, and Parish battled Jabbar even. The Celtic halfcourt offense superiroity was clearly evident, and they controlled the tempo of the contest, never letting the Lakers get out in transition.

DJ harassed his counterpart Johnson into a 2-10 shooting game with great defense and dished out nine assists. And when Parish went out with foul trouble, Walton came in and the team never missed a beat. His passing and pick and roll mastery with Bird made the Lakers look bad as Kareem failed to hedge or guard the basic play well, instead hanging back on defense. When the smoke cleared, Bird had 27 points, 14 boards and 11 assists as the Celtics won convincingly, 111-102. McHale added 28 points and DJ 21.
The 1986 Celtics, who had the best record of the decade at 67-15, thus claimed the mantle of team of the 1980s with the hard-fought win. In a decade filled with great teams, they had been hardened by the tests of the much tougher East as compared to the relatively easy Laker competition out West. A strong bench led by Walton and Wedman also made the difference as the Boston starters were better-rested and healthy, unlike in 1987.
Series MVP: Larry Bird

Upcoming pairings:
1970s finals: 1972 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 1973 New York Knicks.
1950s/60s finals: 1967 Philadelphia vs. 1963 Boston.

Clinched spots in final 8 and automatic top 5 seed:
1980s champion 1986 Boston
1990s champion 1996 Chicago
2000s champion 2007 San Antonio

The top 6 loser's bracket candidates for the 3 play-in spots to fill out the bottom three seeds in the single-elimination quarterfinals are:
1987 LA Lakers, 1983 76ers, 2013 Miami, 1974 Celtics, 1990 Pistons, 1971 Bucks;
Note: The 72 LA/73 NY loser and 67 Philly/63 Boston loser are guaranteed two of the six spots.

Check back for next round results and even more detailed series recaps in the next installment of the series coming soon.