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NBA TV to air memorable Lakers playoff games

July 26, 2011 |  8:24 am

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird With nearly a month gone by since the NBA began its lockout, it appears the general public has nearly completed phase one of its reaction to the work stoppage.

That's the hand-wringing about who's to blame for this situation, the billionaire owners, the millionaire players or both. It's involved discussing whether NBA players will eventually take their talents overseas and if that's a necessary negotiating move or a needlessly risky gamble with their bodies. And it's included, at least in this corner of the blogosphere, going over nearly every story line entering the 2011-2012 season, assuming there is one.

Now we've entered phase two, in which the lack of summer-league play and the possibility of a lost season have spurred many to watch old NBA games.

Many this weekend clamored to find video featuring the likes of Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose balling in an exhibition game. Others are headed to Washington Park each week to check out the Drew League, which sparked a surprise appearance last weekend by LeBron James. Others of us are watching and rewatch classic NBA games, hoping this will somehow make us forget that the current season is on hiatus. 

Tuesday marks one of those days, as NBA TV will air Game 6 of the Lakers-Sixers 1980 NBA Finals series at 9 a.m., Game 4 of the Lakers-Celtics 1987 NBA Finals series at 10:30 a.m. and Game 5 of the Lakers-Warriors Western Conference semifinal series at 12:30 p.m. Below is a look at some of the memorable moments surrounding those games.

Magic Johnson started at center in Lakers' 123-107 Game 6 victory over Philadelphia 76ers to clinch 1980 NBA Finals.

The rookie soon became the captain.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar usually assumed that role and even earned the well-known nickname, but his badly sprained ankle gave Johnson no other choice than to take Abdul-Jabbar's starting spot at center. The timing of the injury couldn't have been worse, with the Lakers entering Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead, but Johnson didn't allow the bad break to extend the series.

Johnson started at center, played all five positions and even proved instrumental in calming his teammates' nerves in the Lakers' 123-107 victory that clinched the championship. He became the youngest player and the first rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP, posting 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists and knocking down all 14 of his free throws. No wonder Johnson once told The Times this performance proved to be his favorite Finals memory. 

Lakers' 107-106 Game 4 victory over Boston Celtics in 1987 NBA Finals featured Magic Johnson's 'junior sky hook.'

All season long, Johnson had promised he'd deliver in the clutch moment. But with the Lakers trailing by 16 points with five minutes to play in the third quarter, it seemed unlikely. It also seemed unlikely when the Lakers quickly fell into an eight-point deficit with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. But Abdul-Jabbar's missed free throw and Mychal Thompson's knocking down the rebound from what legendary broadcaster Chick Hearn called a "crying Kevin McHale" gave the Lakers another chance. So there Johnson stood on the near end of the court, about to make a play that would become part of Lakers' lore -- and one of Hearn's signature calls.

Abdul-Jabbar set a screen for Johnson so he could cut toward the nearside and receive an inbounds pass from Michael Cooper. Johnson immediately saw Celtics forward McHale guard him because of confusion over a defensive switch, but Johnson resisted shooting the ball. 

Instead, he charged toward the paint, as McHale lagged behind. Johnson extended the ball up the air with a hook shot over three defenders. 

"A hook shot at 12," Hearn said in an excited tone. "Good! The Lakers take the lead on Magic Johnson's running sky hook!" 

"I had been waiting for that moment," Johnson later told sportswriter Jackie MacMullan for her book, "When the Game Was Ours." "I was calm, ready. I had been taking the last shot all year, so it was second nature to me."

It was the defining moment of the Lakers' Game 4 victory over Boston, but the game wasn't official yet. The Celtics still had a chance to win with two seconds remaining. That's when Dennis Johnson threw an inbounds pass to Larry Bird in the far corner, nearly the same spot where Bird had drilled a three-pointer seconds earlier. When Bird launched the shot, Johnson initially thought it had gone in, but it hit the back iron and bounced out, giving the Lakers a 3-1 series lead. 

"It was there," Bird told reporters. "I didn't know if I'd made it or not because I was floating to the left. But it was on target. It was either short, long or in the hole."

Lakers' 124-119 overtime Game 5 victory over Golden State in 1991 Western Conference semifinals featured many nail-biting moments. 

Let's count them all.

The Lakers trailed by 12 points at one point in the fourth quarter. They trailed by a basket two separate times in the last two minutes of the game. And on plenty of occasions, Lakers Coach Mike Dunleavy harped on the Golden State Warriors' ability to win three consecutive games.

But the Lakers dug in and denied Golden State a chance to force a Game 6, thanks to an unlikely source: rookie Elden Campbell.

Sam Perkins was the one who drove to the basket and made a lay-up that forced overtime. James Worthy was the one who made an 18-footer with 35 seconds remaining to give the Lakers the go-ahead lead in regulation. But it was the seldom-used Campbell that proved to be the difference. His five points, four rebounds and blocked shot spurred a Lakers rally in the first half. His fourth-quarter effort also proved key in reducing the deficit, posting six points and five rebounds. 

"Hell, yeah, I feel relieved," Dunleavy told reporters, including The Times' Mark Heisler. "A team like this [the Warriors], you can never count out."

But thanks to the Lakers resiliency, they did. 

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Magic Johnson's junior sky hook, one of the epic shots in Lakers history, beat Boston in Game 4 of 1987 Finals. Credit: Los Angeles Times


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