Lakers Countdown: At #4…

J.M. Poulard —  August 26, 2012

Sometimes unfair labels get cast on athletes or teams and for whatever reason they just tend to stick. At times it’s because the label itself has some minor truth to it even though previous events have proven to the contrary, and at times it’s just easier to roll with them.

As the story went, the Boston Celtics owned the Los Angeles Lakers; and they always would. It didn’t matter which year, which decade or which millennium it was, the Celtics had the ghosts on their side that always tipped the scales in their favor. Whether it was a missed shot at the end of regulation, a critical injury, a bad pass that led to a game going into overtime or an inability to execute in crunch time, Boston would always get the breaks at the expense of the Lakers…

Until they no longer would.

At some point, the curse would eventually come to an end.

Clocking in at the fourth spot in the Los Angeles Lakers title teams countdown…

The 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers

Larry Bird would lead the Celtics to a victory over the Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals after a tough seven-game series. With the championship lost, the purple and gold would spend an entire summer hearing about how James Worthy was a choker — with the Lakers leading by two points in Game 2 and the game essentially won, the Lakers inbounded the ball with the shot clock turned off and Worthy lofted a pass that was intercepted by Gerald Henderson that led to a score that sent the game to overtime where the Lakers lost — while Magic Johnson would be named Tragic due to his inability to deliver late in ball games and the Lakers would be seen as a team lacking mental toughness.

Consequently, when training camp opened the following season, the Lakers knew they needed to play better and get tougher; but they also needed for their big guns to rise to the occasion and lead the way.

And yet, the start of the season wasn’t necessarily impressive by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, the road back to redemption would start with back-to-back losses to open up the season and a 13-7 record. In the first 20 games of the season, the Lakers had eclipsed 130 points four times, but the defense had yet to catch up with the offense.

That theme would hold true until mid-January, when the Lakers lost a tight contest in Boston, which dropped Pat Riley’s record to 26-14 for the 1984-85 season. Not a bad record at all, mind you the Celtics were now 33-6 and seemed poised to continue to take over the regular season as well as possibly the postseason that was still a little over two months away.

The Lakers’ defense wasn’t bad, but given the pace at which they played, they gave up a lot of points but didn’t necessarily always put enough on the board. But with the loss to Boston, the Lakers seemingly opened things up even more and allowed themselves to truly unleash Showtime on the rest of the NBA.

After faltering against the Celtics on the road, Magic Johnson and his teammates went on a 36-6 run to close out the regular season with a 62-20 record.

The Los Angeles Lakers finished the regular season with the best offensive efficiency in the league and the seventh best defensive efficiency in the NBA. In addition, they had three winning streaks of nine games or more during the regular season, which helped them sport a plus-7.4 average scoring margin.

The regular season mind you would hardly matter. It would come down to the playoffs and vanquishing the Celtics in the title round should they be there waiting for them.

The Lakers would obliterate the Phoenix Suns (36-46) in the first round, sweeping them out of the playoffs and winning each game by an average of 20.3 points.

The second round would pit them against the Portland Trail Blazers (42-40), who would hardly prove to be a match. The Lakers would dispatch them in five games, and sport an average scoring margin of plus-11 in the series.

The Western Conference Finals would prove to be the same type of yawner as the Lakers would also take out the Denver Nuggets (52-30) in five games and even put up a whopping 153 points in the clincher. L.A. defeated another western opponent by an average of double-digit points to set up a rematch against the Boston Celtics (63-19) with all the chips on the line.

The NBA Finals would open up with the famed Memorial Day Massacre as Boston would spank the Lakers in a 148-114 victory in which Kareem Abdul-Jabbar looked every bit of his 38-year old age on his way to 12 points and three rebounds.

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer would rededicate himself and get into better shape with a few days off between games and lead the Lakers to a Game 2 victory at the Garden thanks to his 30 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists. Read that stat line again, he was 38 years old.

With the games now shifting to the Forum, the trio of Magic, Worthy and Abdul-Jabbar led their unit to a Game 3 blowout victory over the Boston Celtics and a 2-1 series lead. The Celtics would bounce back in Game 4 and steal one on the road to even up the series, thus setting up a monumental Game 5 at the Forum.

Magic would orchestrate things masterfully, scoring 26 points and dishing out 17 assists, but James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would combine for 69 points on 29-for-45 shooting from the field to win the contest and give themselves an opportunity to close out Boston in the Garden.

Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens and John Havlicek to name a few had given the Celtics an aura of invincibility in the title round. Consequently, to say that the team and its fans were confident at home would be putting it mildly. No road team had ever celebrated the title at the Boston Garden and their ghosts and leprechauns would make sure of that in Game 6 and Game 7.

Mind you, the Lakers never got that memo.

The Lakers would prevail in Game 6 on the road and finally avenge their 1984 NBA Finals defeat. The center labeled as too old would win the Finals MVP with averages of 25.7 points per game, 9 rebounds per game and 5.2 assists per game on 60.4 percent field goal shooting.

James Worthy who had been called by many a choker kept showing up with big performances in the finals while the player dubbed Tragic led many to wonder if he was perhaps the best maestro the league had ever seen given his ability to score, rebound, pass, run the offense and lead.

The ’85 Lakers would not only win the title, but do so in convincing fashion. They would end their title run with a 15-4 postseason record as well as an impressive plus-10.7 playoff average scoring margin despite the huge score differential in their Game 1 loss to the Celtics.

Between the good regular season and the terrific postseason showing, the ’85 Lakers were a no-brainer for many of the FB&G staff at the fourth spot, and it says something about the three teams left in the countdown for this squad to finish this “low”.

Three teams to go…

J.M. Poulard


to Lakers Countdown: At #4…

  1. Another awesome year. First victory over the C’s, avenged the prior year debacle, and came back from the Memorial Day loss.

    Kevin (from prior): You left the worst year off your list. It is 84 and not even close. 89 and 2004 have injuries to blame. In 84 we lost in 7 to a team we should have swept. The only excuses were a busted air conditioner in Boston Garden, James Worthy’s temporary insanity in Game 2, and the myth of the lepricans that was alive and well until we killed that in 85 + 87.

    Which of course makes 85 an incredible year, because it made up for the bad defeat the year prior.


  2. Am I the only one noticing the frequent use of ‘mind you?’ Not that I mind (err..?) and not that it detracts from the writing, but for some reason I notice it.

    Anyway, this team at #4, eh? Can’t wait to look at the comments once we get to #2…


  3. teams left are ’72, ’01, and ’87.


  4. Guessing 72 willl be #3. Always interested in getting perspective from people who lived during that era.


  5. I definitely noticed the excessive use of “mind you” .. To me, it did seem to be a bit much, but the rest of the piece was well written and informative.


  6. I thought that the 84-85 team would be #3 being the first Lakers team to beat the Boston Celtics and winning it in the Boston Garden. Just shows how tough it is to rank these Lakers championship teams.
    Really enjoying this Lakers Championship countdown.


  7. Wow, I can’t believe I just watched the Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless debate on the video links on the right panel. Talk about über Homers. How can I get those 6 minutes of my life back?


  8. The only distracting writing I find in fbg posts is the reliance on “would”. As in “he would score 32 pts and the Lakers would win. ” (Why not just “he scored 32 and the Lakers won”?). Just being picky. I’m a very satisfied fb’n’g-er.


  9. @ Raymeister–Congratulations for getting me to join you on that island of the lost six minutes — your post triggered my morbid curiosity, and for some reason I couldn’t help myself. Skip Bayless is a gift that just keeps on giving in terms of ridiculous comments and comparisons. After watching him compare Tebow to Kobe/LeBron, I think we can safely say he will have to work overtime to top that doozie….


  10. Lakers 72 will get #1, I presume…


  11. Laker-Soldier

    I must confess that I don’t get your logic here. How does having a different opinion, about a franchise that we all love, make any of us less of a Lakers fan?


  12. “real” laker fans. Ha.


  13. “You young bucks don’t know a thing about basketball! In my day we played with peach baskets nailed to the wall…”


    To the topic, I thought this team would have been at least number two. Being the first Lakers team to defeat the hated Celtics after so many tries makes them stand out. I still remember Kareem running down the floor with both fists in the air. But there is no shame losing out to (presumably) 2001. The remaining years 1985, 1972, and 2001 were all great years for their own reasons.


  14. I remember crying myself to sleep after the memorial day massacre, and couldn’t believe the celts came back in game 4 to even things at 2-2 (dj hitting a buzzerbeater… I hated that guy so much since heinsohn always went out of the way to talk him up)… the last remnants of the leprechaun hex in this series.

    hoping ’87 gets #1. ’72 is close but the ’87 boys beat the celts.


  15. 11 – This is a place for nuanced basketball discussion. You’re embarrassing yourself.


  16. Anybody else excited to see a PnP with Nash/Jamison?

    How about Nash coming off a pin down from Dwight at the top of the key? Dwight then rolls Nash gets the pass from Kobe he attacks the basket with option A) drive and shoot B) kick it to Jamison or Meeks in either corner C) throw a lob to Dwight?

    What about a Kobe Pau PnR with Nash, Meeks, Jamison spotting up on the perimeter?

    OR finally when Kobe half a**es on defense and Dwight cleans up with a block.

    So many options this year. By the way, I’ve put the roster together on 2K and stimulated out of pure curiosity and we’ve done well every time. 😉


  17. The 71-72 Lakers won 70 game, being 33 in a row.

    That’s #1 right there.


  18. #17. I’ll simply address a couple of the points you made about the author of the post and some of the presumptions you’ve made…

    Just because JM writes for Warriors World he shouldn’t be considered a good source of information? That guy watches more games — Lakers and non-Lakers — than most people on this board, but he doesn’t know basketball? He’s written countless historical posts on this site, several of which I’ve received comments on from Lakers’ historians telling me how well informed they are. Yet, you want to discredit him.

    Second, someone’s age has little to do with their ability to speak about the past objectively. You’re basically implying that if a person is too young to have seen some of these teams first hand, they can’t speak about them with any insight. However, if you wrote a term paper on revolutionary war battles I’d think we could all acknowledge that you didn’t live through that era but that you probably did your research in order to present your point.

    Lastly, as I said before, these rankings are open to opinion. The results you see in these rankings are based off voting that several members of the site participated in. People who a lot of folks respect for the knowledge they bring to the site consistently.

    Now, if you don’t respect them, that’s fine. But then, I’m not sure why you’d continue to come back to the site, comment, and try to make them sound foolish when I’m pretty sure you’re having the opposite effect.


  19. Anybody have a site where you can check FG% for a player all over the floor? Like a shot chart marking their percentages.

    Or do any of the mods know where our new and last year’s players best 3 point shooting best percentages were?


  20. Kevin,
    Send me an email with the guys you’re looking for and I can send you the information.


  21. @22, Kevin_:

    You mean something like this?


  22. Everyone has their biases and opinions, their favorites and some ‘moments’ that are difficult to share with others.

    Laker fans should all know this watching Kobe for the past 15 years – what he brings, what he shows, the moments are not quite as easily communicable as LeBron’s stats.

    Maybe it’s because I’m not fan enough, but I could seriously care less about what others think about ranking these teams – my favorite will not change, and I don’t need others to agree with me. Part of it is of course that they are all Laker teams – I could and would get worked up if we are to include the other franchises. I simply want to know more about the teams I didn’t follow or find out things I forgot about teams that I did.

    I also enjoy reading the comments from people who defend or attack the said rankings as long as they add to the discussion. But really, ‘how old were you’ doesn’t really add much (I’m 35, and have started following the Lakers at the tail end of Kareem’s career).


  23. What’s fun about this series(and the site, really) is exactly that knowledgeable people can have differing though equally well informed opinions.

    I’m wondering, though, why no one is expecting a George Mikan led team in the top 4. I’m pretty ignorant about that whole era, but it seems those Lakers team dominated the league as much or more than the Shaq/Kobe or showtime teams. I’m sort of joking, but then again…


  24. Lakers Soldier – The basic reason you’re coming off as immature is that as soon as someone disagrees with you, you search for a way to discredit them – either by questioning their fandom (he writes for a Warriors blog! he can’t be a real “Lakers fan!”) or their age/experience. I’m sure in your 80-90-100-plus years, you’ve realized the fact that people can have disagreements and different opinions without one person having to be “right” all the time. I’d hope so, anyway.

    Most people have probably seen this already, but Pau Gasol continues to be brilliant off the court. Help him with his efforts, if you can.–nba.html


  25. any_one_mouse: thanks good get had to bookmark that. Was looking for numbers to go along with the hot spots and just a singular year not a 5 year span.


  26. As has been pointed out previously, the comparison of these teams is a subjective exercise. It involves different eras, different situations, and circumstances. They all won titles, so that means they were the best they could be in that given year. As Laker fans we should not battle over which one is best, we should just enjoy the discussion and realize that we are spoiled by all of our titles. Yes – if you are reading this – you are spoiled. Now, if you feel that you deserve this because you are a Laker fan and because that is how it is meant to be – then – you are also “entitled” – like me : )


  27. V.I.Guy: You missed the beginning of the countdown. I protested the fact that the Mikan teams are not included. They should be. We have 16 titles and as Darius points out – you did not have to live through it to comment intelligently about the teams. If the Celtics didn’t talk about the titles from the stone ages , they would hardly have anything to talk about : )


  28. Laker-Soldier, Why should the teams be compared by taking away the top 2 players?? Kobe and Shaq are the most devastating 1-2 punch in NBA history never to be duplicated. The rest of the cast simply complimented them beautifully. Ranking these teams is simply subjective. Arguing about it is as futile as arguing that the Dream team could be beaten by the 2012 Olympic team. Different eras are tough to compare.


  29. “Kobe and Shaq are the most devastating 1-2 punch in NBA history never to be duplicated.”

    Never to be duplicated, yes.

    The most devastating? Debateable.


  30. #32. You didn’t actually discredit anyone, though you attempted to. But that’s not really the point. The point is that rather than understand that there are different perspectives here that are valid, you sought to discredit someone simply because they see something different than you do. (As an aside, I think this is funny simply because JM is only doing the write ups for the teams. These aren’t *his* rankings anymore than they’re mine. They’re the results of a scored vote from a group of writers from the site. But I digress.)

    Ultimately, and getting back to my point, none of the other things you mention really matter — not my (or anyone else’s) age (though I’m surely older than you think, as are the other contriubtors) or who writes where/for what team — as those are simply ways you’re trying to make someone sound lesser for not agreeing with your opinion.


  31. Another great writeup J.M. Poulard, reading ‘the curse’ was fun again, and I keep getting more excited as the countdown continues to see who came out #1. It is like waiting for Christmas morning to arrive, so that I can open the presents.

    And, I can not wait for this season to begin.


  32. Santa Barbara Laker Fan August 28, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Uh oh. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I was not the least but concerned about Howard’s maturity issues, at least we know he won’t be jacking up 3s & sitting out the huddle, but this is still somewhat worrisome..

    “Dwight Howard is embarrassing Patrick (Ewing) if you ask me,” Oakley said in the interview. “He doesn’t have a ball player’s mind. And they tell me he is one of the best centers in the game. He wouldn’t have even made the league 10 years ago. He would be on the bench. They say he won’t listen. Dwight won’t listen. How can you not listen to Patrick Ewing?”


  33. Santa Barbara Laker Fan,
    Are you seriously commenting on a Charles Barkley comment?

    The guy is an entertainer. He gets ratings. He is a personality. I would listen to his comments, but, as for serious discussion, I am not going to repeat his stuff.


  34. Craig W.,
    That’s actually a Charles *Oakley* quote. However, I typically take comments like these with a grain of salt. Howard is this era’s best Center. Claiming he wouldn’t play 10 years ago is silly. Beyond that, if he’s a guy that has had issues with coaching I’d love to see what he could be if he actually starts responding to his coaches. Because, you know, if he’s being named All-NBA and winning DPOY’s without listening to his coaches, he’s even better than I thought.

    All of that was a just a long way of saying, comments like these seem a bit exaggerated even if rooted in some truth.


  35. FYI… Dwight Howard also skipped out on huddles with the Magic… Big whoop. Those things are not important. All that is important is if he can recover from his back surgery.


  36. This one’s better, a little more in-depth than the link I posted yesterday, with video:,0,4727848.story


  37. There is one thing that irks me about the NBA more so than other leagues. Their older players spend too much time casting their shadow on the current players.

    Someone should tell Charles Oakley that he wouldn’t last in today’s game either. First off the bigs are more mobile and would pull him out of the paint. Second (and most important) he wouldn’t be able to employ his “special” brand of defense. He would spend more time in a suit serving suspensions than he would in uniform.

    It is a different game now. Just like the 80’s were different from the 60’s. And the 60’s were different from the 40’s. People like Oakley need to accept it and move on.


  38. This is my #1 team based on the significance of beating the Celts for the first time. Especially in light of “choking” the year before and exacting revenge. Revenge for all those 60s Lakers teams and players that couldn’t do it.

    An all-time record for regular season such as the 72 team is great, but it is still that. The regular season. This was the Finals and on the parquet. You never beat the Cs for the first time again.