Retro Rewind: Larry Bird steals the Detroit Pistons finals hopes

Bill Laimbeer. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Bill Laimbeer. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images /
2 of 3
Isiah Thomas #11 of the Detroit Pistons looks on with head coach Chuck Daly (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Isiah Thomas #11 of the Detroit Pistons looks on with head coach Chuck Daly (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Game summary

The Celtics opened the game running and controlled the pace of the game from the start. Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson both got hot early and put the home team up 11-4.

Isiah Thomas scored right after a Pistons timeout, but the young and inexperienced Pistons struggled to make anything happen on the offensive side of the court as the Celtics built their lead up to nine, leading 16-7 halfway through the first quarter.

The Pistons started to chip away, cutting Boston’s lead to as small as three points. However, poor decision making by the young Pistons led to more free throws for the Celtics as they built their lead up to nine at the end of the first quarter, leading 38-29.

At the beginning of the second quarter, the Celtics reserves alongside Bird kept the Pistons in check and built their lead back up to nine. Early into the second quarter, McHale picked up an early third foul.

Related Story. 15 players who defined the Bad Boys era in Detroit. light

At the time, McHale was one of the best post players in the NBA, so losing him for a good amount of time would pose issues for the Celtics both on offense and defense. Once the Pistons starters returned to the game they were able to cut that lead from 12 to two.

This was primarily because of head coach Chuck Daly utilizing Adrian Dantley’s ability to score at will while in isolation. This opened up many options for the Pistons on offense.

After Bird and Bill Laimbeer got into an altercation in game three, Celtics center Robert Parish got his revenge throwing Laimbeer to the ground with an elbow to the face. After an aggressive and intense first half, the Celtics led 58-56. At halftime, Dantley led the way for the Pistons with 17 points, while Larry Bird led Boston with 13 points.

To open up the second half, Bird, McHale, and Johnson all scored quickly to strengthen the Boston lead to eleven.

More from PistonPowered

However, McHale picked up his fourth and fifth fouls early in the second half, which essentially removed him from the game for at least the rest of the third quarter. The Pistons took full advantage of this and cut the lead to two.

After that, Bird reminded everyone of his greatness and scored two straight and-ones which would improve the Celtics lead to 79-73. Thomas and Johnson led the way for the remainder of the third quarter and took their first lead with around 30 seconds to go.

However, Bird and Dennis Johnson both got trips to the free-throw line and put the Celtics up by one entering the final quarter of the game.

In the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, rookie Dennis Rodman made an athletic lay-up which put the Pistons back up by one.

While McHale got into foul trouble in the third quarter, Rick Mahorn and John Salley both picked up their fifth fouls which made things tricky for the Pistons. As both teams had to deal with their foul issues, neither team was able to pull away.

After a Rodman dunk that put Detroit up five, the rookie ended up picking up his fifth foul on a Bird and-one, which ended up bringing the Celtics within two. As the end of the game nears, neither team is able to pull away; every shot is becoming more and more valuable as time goes on.

With 1:15 remaining in the game, Bird puts the Celtics up 104-101.

Trending. The Pistons need to target Harry Giles in free agency. light

Two Thomas free throws and a Danny Ainge mid-ranger keeps the Celtics up by three. With 30 seconds to go, right after Laimbeer hit a mid-range shot to shrink the lead to one, Mahorn grabs a missed Bird jumper and gives the Pistons one more chance to take the lead.

Out of the time out, the captain of the team, Isiah Thomas takes the ball in and pulls up from near the free-throw line to put the Pistons up one with 17 seconds left.

Well, and the rest of history. The Celtics missed their shot and the ball bounced out of bounds. Isiah rushes the inbound and Bird steals it, passes it to Dennis Johnson who puts the Celtics up with a single second to go.

With one bad pass, the Pistons missed their chance and set up a date in between the Celtics and the Lakers in the NBA Finals.