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 /
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Isiah Thomas listens (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Isiah Thomas listens (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images) /

Initial Reaction

Oh man, that hurt watching the end. Even though I knew the outcome and have seen that Larry Bird steal countless times, each time it hurts a little more.

The Pistons were still young and it clearly showed at the end of the game. 1987 turned out to be Bird’s last Finals appearance and the Celtics showed the Pistons the importance of Playoff experience.

What Aged The Best?

  • In my opinion,the pace of the game was very similar to today’s game. Minus the shot selection, since three-pointers were still not a regular yet at that point. There was always something happening in the game, as opposed to the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals game I watched between the Celtics and the 76ers (Thank you Bill Simmons for that recommendation)
  • Laimbeer’s ability to hit long-range and mid-range shots.
  • Only a rookie in this game, Rodman foreshadowed his defensive and overall athletic ability and played fantastically, scoring 14 points.

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What Aged The Worst?

  • I just can’t believe that was how basketball players used to dress for games. Those short shorts and the knee-high socks were just awful to look at.
  • Obviously, the Isiah Thomas pass still does not make sense to me. The Pistons had a timeout, why not call that timeout and take your time with securing the win?
  • There was one point in the first quarter where I heard the announcer refer to an and-one as a “three-pointer”. I’m going to assume that that was the last time they used that saying to refer to an and-one.
  • Additionally, at one point in the game, Dennis Johnson was dribbling just outside the free-throw line and saw that Bird was open near the basket, but he did not have a clear lane to pass it. So what does he do? He purposely throws the ball at the basket so Bird can get an easy lay-up. Will you ever see a play like that in a game today? No

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Who/What Stuck Out?

  • As mentioned earlier, Rodman was fantastic. When he was in the game he made his presence be felt in every aspect of the game.
  • Bird was unstoppable. He ended this game with 36 points and he got to the basket in every way, whether it was through his shooting ability or post moves.

Should I Watch This Game?

Yes. Even if you are a Pistons fan and don’t want to experience the heartbreak in the final seconds, the game was very entertaining.

The flow was great, the players were very competitive, and how often do you get to watch prime Bird. The Pistons were on the verge of greatness and watching this team in their infancy  is a very fun experience.

The Celtics’ championship window was about to close as the Pistons window began to creep open, and that’s part of the beauty of this game. Bird and the Celtics look beat up and on the brink of losing while Thomas and the Pistons were an emerging team.

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In some way, I view this game and the game that really put the Pistons on the map in the 1980s.