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1985 NBA Finals

1985 NBA Finals
Team Coach Wins
Los Angeles Lakers Pat Riley 4
Boston Celtics K.C. Jones 2
Dates May 27 – June 9
MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
(Los Angeles Lakers)
Television CBS (U.S.)
Announcers Dick Stockton and Tom Heinsohn
Radio network WRKO (BOS)
Announcers Johnny Most and Glenn Ordway (BOS)
Chick Hearn and Keith Erickson (LAL)
Game 1: Darell Garretson and Jess Kersey
Game 2: Jake O'Donnell and John Vanak
Game 3: Hugh Evans and Earl Strom
Game 4: Ed T. Rush and John Vanak
Game 5: Darell Garretson and Jake O'Donnell
Game 6: Hugh Evans and Earl Strom
Hall of Famers Celtics:
Larry Bird (1998)
Dennis Johnson (2010)
Kevin McHale (1999)
Robert Parish (2010)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1995)
Magic Johnson (2002)
Bob McAdoo (2000)
Jamaal Wilkes (2012)
James Worthy (2003)
K.C. Jones (1989, player)
Pat Riley (2008)
Earl Strom (1995)
Eastern Finals Celtics defeat 76ers, 4-1
Western Finals Lakers defeat Nuggets, 4-1

The 1985 NBA World Championship Series was the championship round of the 1984–85 NBA season.

The Boston Celtics were looking to repeat as NBA Champions for the first time since the 1968–69 season. The Celtics had homecourt advantage for the second year in a row as they finished the regular season with a 63-19 record while the Los Angeles Lakers compiled a 62-20 record. The Lakers looked to bounce back from the previous year's painful loss to the Celtics in the championship series, and were still seeking to beat Boston for the first time ever in NBA Finals history. Also for the first time, the Finals went to a 2-3-2 format with Games 1 and 2 in Boston while the next three games were in Los Angeles. The final two games of the series would be played in Boston, if required. This change of format came after David Stern had a conversation with Celtics legend Red Auerbach in 1984, who didn't like the frequent traveling between games.[1] The 2-3-2 format would be used until the 2013 NBA Finals, after which the 2-2-1-1-1 format returned the following year.

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Celtics four games to two to defeat the Celtics for the first time in Laker history in the NBA Finals.

It would mark the last time the NBA World Championship Series branding would be in use as the NBA Finals branding would replace it the next season.

The video documentary Return to Glory recaps the 1985 NBA Playoff action. It would be the last documentary until 1989 narrated by Dick Stockton.


  • Background 1
    • Road to the Finals 1.1
    • Regular season series 1.2
  • Series summary 2
    • Game 1 2.1
    • Game 2 2.2
    • Game 3 2.3
    • Game 4 2.4
    • Game 5 2.5
    • Game 6 2.6
  • Television coverage 3
  • Quotes of the Finals 4
  • Celebration 5
  • Team rosters 6
  • Aftermath 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


After losing to the Celtics in the previous year's finals, the Lakers entered the 1984–85 NBA season with a mission. Once again using the effective Showtime offense, they ran away with the Western Conference-leading 62 wins. They eliminated the Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, going 11-2 in the three playoff rounds. James Worthy had emerged as a force in the wing position, while Magic Johnson continued his usual passing brilliance. In addition, Byron Scott provided outside shooting from his off guard position.

The Celtics repeated with the NBA's best record by winning 63 games. For the second straight season, Larry Bird won the MVP award, while Kevin McHale won Sixth Man Award for the second year running, despite making the transition from bench cog to starter late in the season with Cedric Maxwell nursing a knee injury. The Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers, finishing with an 11-4 record heading into the finals.

From[2] "For the first time in years, the Finals returned to a 2-3-2 format, with the first two games in Boston, the middle three in Los Angeles, and the last two, if necessary, back in Boston. The situation set up an opportunity for the Lakers to steal one in the Garden, then pressure the Celtics back in Los Angeles. In whatever fashion, they figured on rectifying their humiliation from 1984."

Road to the Finals

Los Angeles Lakers (Western Conference Champion) Boston Celtics (Eastern Conference Champion)
# Western Conference
1 c-Los Angeles Lakers 62 20 .756
2 y-Denver Nuggets 52 30 .634 10
3 x-Houston Rockets 48 34 .585 14
4 x-Dallas Mavericks 44 38 .537 18
5 x-Portland Trail Blazers 42 40 .512 20
6 x-Utah Jazz 41 41 .500 21
7 x-San Antonio Spurs 41 41 .500 21
8 x-Phoenix Suns 36 46 .439 26
9 Seattle SuperSonics 31 51 .378 31
9 Los Angeles Clippers 31 51 .378 31
9 Kansas City Kings 31 51 .378 31
12 Golden State Warriors 22 60 .268 40
1st seed in the West, 2nd best league record
Regular season
# Eastern Conference
1 z-Boston Celtics 63 19 .768
2 y-Milwaukee Bucks 59 23 .720 4
3 x-Philadelphia 76ers 58 24 .707 5
4 x-Detroit Pistons 46 36 .561 17
5 x-New Jersey Nets 42 40 .512 21
6 x-Washington Bullets 40 42 .488 23
7 x-Chicago Bulls 38 44 .463 25
8 x-Cleveland Cavaliers 36 46 .439 27
9 Atlanta Hawks 34 48 .415 29
10 New York Knicks 24 58 .293 39
11 Indiana Pacers 22 60 .268 41
1st seed in the East, best league record
Defeated the (8) Phoenix Suns, 3–0 First Round Defeated the (8) Cleveland Cavaliers, 3–1
Defeated the (5) Portland Trail Blazers, 4–1 Conference Semifinals Defeated the (4) Detroit Pistons, 4–2
Defeated the (2) Denver Nuggets, 4–1 Conference Finals Defeated the (3) Philadelphia 76ers, 4–1

Regular season series

Both teams split the two meetings, each won by the home team:

Series summary

Game Date Home Team Result Road Team
Game 1 Monday, May 27 Boston Celtics 148-114 (1-0) Los Angeles Lakers
Game 2 Thursday, May 30 Boston Celtics 102-109 (1-1) Los Angeles Lakers
Game 3 Sunday, June 2 Los Angeles Lakers 136-111 (2-1) Boston Celtics
Game 4 Wednesday, June 5 Los Angeles Lakers 105-107 (2-2) Boston Celtics
Game 5 Friday, June 7 Los Angeles Lakers 120-111 (3-2) Boston Celtics
Game 6 Sunday, June 9 Boston Celtics 100-111 (2-4) Los Angeles Lakers

Game 1

May 27
Los Angeles Lakers 114, Boston Celtics 148
Scoring by quarter: 24–38, 25–41, 30–29, 35–40
Pts: James Worthy 20
Rebs: Kurt Rambis 9
Asts: Magic Johnson 12
Pts: McHale, Wedman 26 each
Rebs: Kevin McHale 9
Asts: Dennis Johnson 10
Boston leads the series, 1–0
Boston Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Attendance: 14,890
  • No. 10 Darell Garretson
  • No. 20 Jess Kersey

The Celtics beat the Lakers 148-114 in a game that came to be known as the "Memorial Day Massacre." The game was a profound embarrassment for the Lakers. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had only 12 points and 3 rebounds in his matchup with Robert Parish, and Magic Johnson pulled down only one rebound. Danny Ainge of the Celtics started hot, scoring 15 points in the first quarter. Scott Wedman made all 11 shots he took from the field. Afterwards, Abdul-Jabbar apologized to his teammates for his terrible performance.

Before Boston's 131-92 victory over the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, this was the most lopsided finals game in the history of the Lakers–Celtics rivalry.

Game 2

May 30
Los Angeles Lakers 109, Boston Celtics 102
Scoring by quarter: 31–26, 33–20, 23–29, 22–27
Pts: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 30
Rebs: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 17
Asts: Magic Johnson 13
Pts: Larry Bird 30
Rebs: Larry Bird 12
Asts: Dennis Johnson 8
Series tied, 1–1
Boston Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Attendance: 14,890
  • No. 11 Jake O'Donnell
  • No. 9 John Vanak

The Lakers evened the series behind Abdul-Jabbar's 30 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, and 8 assists. Laker swingman Michael Cooper helped in the cause by finishing with 22 points on an 8 for 9 shooting performance. The series was evened at 1-1.

Game 3

June 2
Boston Celtics 111, Los Angeles Lakers 136
Scoring by quarter: 29–25, 30–40, 26–35, 26–36
Pts: Kevin McHale 31
Rebs: Kevin McHale 10
Asts: Danny Ainge 10
Pts: James Worthy 29
Rebs: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 14
Asts: Magic Johnson 16
Los Angeles leads the series, 2–1
The Forum, Inglewood, California
Attendance: 17,505
  • No. 25 Hugh Evans
  • No. 12 Earl Strom

The Celtics held a 48-38 lead in the second quarter before the Lakers, led by James Worthy, took a 65-59 lead at halftime. The Lakers pulled away in the second half and won the game 136-111. During the game, Abdul-Jabbar became the league's all-time leading playoff scorer. Meanwhile, Larry Bird's shooting slump from game 2 continued. He shot 17 of 42 from the field. He had been troubled by a bad back and a sore right elbow, although most people believed he was having trouble with Michael Cooper's defense.

Game 4

June 5
Boston Celtics 107, Los Angeles Lakers 105
Scoring by quarter: 28–32, 31–26, 23–26, 25–21
Pts: Kevin McHale 28
Rebs: Kevin McHale 12
Asts: Dennis Johnson 12
Pts: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 21
Rebs: Magic Johnson 11
Asts: Magic Johnson 12
Series tied, 2–2
The Forum, Inglewood, California
Attendance: 17,505
  • No. 4 Ed T. Rush
  • No. 9 John Vanak

The Celtics tied the series in the fourth game with a 107-105 win, as Dennis Johnson hit a jumper as time expired.

Game 5

June 7
Boston Celtics 111, Los Angeles Lakers 120
Scoring by quarter: 31–35, 20–29, 30–31, 30–25
Pts: Robert Parish 26
Rebs: Kevin McHale 10
Asts: Dennis Johnson 17
Pts: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 36
Rebs: Kurt Rambis 9
Asts: Magic Johnson 17
Los Angeles leads the series, 3–2
The Forum, Inglewood, California
Attendance: 17,505
  • No. 10 Darell Garretson
  • No. 11 Jake O'Donnell

In this game, the Lakers stomped out the Celtics by jumping out to a 64-51 lead and stretched it to 89-72 before the Celtics cut the deficit to 101-97 with six minutes remaining. However, Magic Johnson made three shots while Kareem added four more shots and the Lakers came away with a 120-111 victory to take a 3-2 series lead. It was the first Game 5 to be played in the 2-3-2 Finals format in which the team without home court advantage hosted.

Game 6

June 9
Los Angeles Lakers 111, Boston Celtics 100
Scoring by quarter: 28–26, 27–29, 27–18, 29–27
Pts: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 29
Rebs: Johnson, Rambis 10 each
Asts: Magic Johnson 14
Pts: Kevin McHale 32
Rebs: Kevin McHale 16
Asts: Danny Ainge 11
Los Angeles wins the series, 4–2
Boston Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Attendance: 14,890
  • No. 25 Hugh Evans
  • No. 12 Earl Strom

In the last game, the Lakers were led by Abdul-Jabbar who scored 29 points as the Lakers defeated the Celtics 111-100. Celtics' forward Kevin McHale scored 32 points in the losing effort. Thanks to Michael Cooper's defense and an injured right hand (which led to Bird's offensive numbers plummeting midway through the postseason, and was later revealed to have been suffered during a fight with a Boston bartender named Mike Harlow), Larry Bird had a mediocre 12-for-29 shooting performance in the final game. It was the first and only time an opposing team would claim an NBA championship in the Boston Garden. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was named MVP of the series, his second Finals MVP award (he also won it in 1971). In the Lakers' four victories, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 30.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.0 blocks. In one memorable sequence, Abdul-Jabbar grabbed a rebound, drove the length of the court and swished a sky-hook. He also dove for a loose ball. "What you saw," Laker head coach Pat Riley told Sports Illustrated, "was passion."

During a postgame interview with Brent Musburger, Lakers owner Jerry Buss stated that "this trophy removes the most odious sentence in the English language: It can never be said again that 'the Lakers have never beaten the Celtics'"—a reference to the Lakers' eight failed attempts at beating Boston in the World Championship. Starting in 1985, the Lakers have won 3 out of 4 times they faced the Celtics in the Finals, with two more head-to-head wins in 1987 and 2010, while Boston notched its 9th Finals win over L.A. in 2008.

Television coverage

The Finals were telecast by CBS in the United States, with its coverage anchored by Brent Musburger. Dick Stockton on play-by-play and Tom Heinsohn as color analyst worked their second Finals together, while Pat O'Brien (for the Lakers), and Lesley Visser (for the Celtics) reported from the sidelines.

Quotes of the Finals

No contest, Game 1, but it's just Game 1, given to the Boston Celtics by a wide margin.
— -CBS's Dick Stockton after the 'Memorial Day Massacre' in Game 1.
And Larry (Bird) walks through the lane coming to the right. And he gets the pass. Goes into the lane, jump pass back out to D.J., D.J., throws and the shot is good and no time left. It's all over, it is all over, and it's good by D.J. from the left side, IT'S ALL OVER!!!! Boston wins the all-important fourth game.
— -Boston Celtics announcer Johnny Most calling Dennis Johnson's game winner in Game 4.
The Lakers are winning it. Three in six years and LA comes to Boston and wins the world title!
— -Dick Stockton calling the final seconds of Game 6.


The Lakers were invited to a reception at the White House with President Ronald Reagan, where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar presented the President with a jersey. The following Tuesday would be declared "Laker Day" by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley with a parade beginning at 9th and Broadway.

Team rosters


The Celtics made key off-season moves that would set the tone for the 1985-86 NBA season, acquiring Bill Walton and Jerry Sichting to strengthen an already fragile bench. With contributions from everywhere the Celtics won 67 games, 40 of which came at home, the best home record all-time in an NBA season. They would lose just once en route to their third straight trip to the NBA Finals.

The Lakers, despite winning 62 games, fell in five games to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, the last straw came when Rockets forward Ralph Sampson sank a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer in Game 5. The Celtics would win their 16th NBA championship in six games over the Rockets in the finals. The Lakers suffered primarily due to the departures of key bench players such as Bob McAdoo and Jamaal Wilkes, as well as the aging of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After the season, the Lakers would bring in Mychal Thompson in midseason to back up Kareem, as well as promoting then-second year forward A. C. Green to the starting unit. Led by MVP Magic Johnson, the Lakers regained the NBA title by defeating the erstwhile defending champion Celtics in 1987, their first of two consecutive titles.

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^

External links

  • NBA History
  • 1985 NBA Finals at Basketball Reference
  • "Return to Glory" – Documentary on the 1985 NBA Playoffs on YouTube
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