Larry Bird vs Dominique Wilkins: A playoff duel for the ages

Larry Bird vs Dominique Wilkins: A playoff duel for the ages

NBA playoffs are a time of the year when the real NBA stars shine in crucial times for their teams. On 22nd of May back in 1988 in Game 7 of the 1988 ECSF, Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird traded bucket for bucket in the fourth quarter. Wilkins finished the game with 47 points, and Bird had 34 — with 20 of his points tallied in the fourth quarter.

“It was like two gunfighters waiting to blink,” recalled Celtics forward Kevin McHale. “There was one stretch that was as pure a form of basketball as you’re ever going to see.”

The game was tied 86-86 with 10:26 to play when the teams’ respective stars took over. “They each put their team on their back and said, ‘Let’s go,'” said Hawks coach Mike Fratello.

Boston would go on and win this game 118-116, playing in the ECF vs. a very talented Detroit Pistons team. Wilkins ended up with a game-high 47 points, shooting a brilliant 19-for-23 from the floor.

“The basket was like a well,” remembered Wilkins. “I couldn’t miss. He couldn’t miss. That’s the greatest game I’ve ever played in or seen played. It was two guys who just did not want to lose.”

The teams shot a combined .588 percent from the field, the second-highest mark in playoff history. Bird, who finished with 34 points on 15-24 from the field, with 20 of those points came in the fourth quarter.

“He wanted it,” said Don Chaney, an assistant coach with the Hawks at the time but a former teammate of Birds. “He wanted the ball, and he came through. That’s what superstars are made of.”

This game still resonates among many NBA fans as one of the best shooting performances of all-time by two players going against one another. They both brought the best out of each other, and this is why this game will forever be remembered as one of the most exciting playoff games of all-time.