Just over two weeks after their first head-to-head matchup – the one The Boston Globe described as “the single most awaited game in Laker history” – Larry Bird and Magic Johnson faced each other again, in their first duel at Boston Garden.
Playing in front of a home crowd, Larry Bird sought revenge for getting outplayed two weeks earlier at the Forum. The Lakers came out victorious in that one, beating the Celtics 123-105, and Magic was declared a unanimous winner of their first NBA matchup. This time, Larry wanted the outcome to be different.
CBS televised the game, with a broadcast crew of Brent Musberger and Hot Rod Hundley giving it a full budding-rivalry treatment. “Nice to watch two highly touted rookies come into the league who feature passing,” Musberger said early in the telecast. “Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, unselfish athletes.” Here’s the full game footage:
“Larry Bird with something to prove,” said Musberger of the Celtics’ rookie. “He felt he was put down a little bit after that earlier loss this season to the Lakers in Los Angeles.” Unfortunately for Bird, this game changed nothing. The Celtics fell to the Lakers 100-98 thanks to Norm Nixon hitting a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left on the clock. Dave Cowens’ shot at the buzzer from the left-wing missed, and Johnson’s team again had beaten Bird’s, despite Magic dealing with a groin injury which capped his playing time at 21 minutes.
Obviously, he is slowed. He was very badly bruised. Extremely painful. He was not at full strength at Detroit [Friday], and he’s not at full strength again today. But he’s extremely intelligent for a 20-year-old.Brent Musberger
Johnson finished the game with 1 point, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar put up a game-high 33 points, and Jim Chones added 15 off the bench. Norm Nixon dished 9 assists while handling much of the playmaking for the Lakers.
Cowens led the Celtics balanced scoring display with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Tiny Archibald and Cedric Maxwell had 13, and Chris Ford added 11. Bird finished the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but once again fell short to Magic and the Lakers. Nevertheless, the heated rivalry started, and the NBA changed — forever.