Thirty-one years ago today, the old Boston Garden was the site of one of the great superstar duels the NBA has ever seen.
Larry Bird vs. Dominque Wilkins. Celtics vs. Hawks. Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 7.
On a Sunday afternoon, in the first of a Garden playoff doubleheader (the Bruins and Edmonton Oilers would play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final later that night), the two Hall of Famers staged a one-on-one battle to remember.
Bird and the Celtics came out on top, 118-116. Wilkins finished with 47 points - 12 in the fourth quarter - on 19-for-33 shooting. Bird had 20 of his 34 points in the fourth and was 15-for-24 for the game. And, in an ode to how different a game the NBA was then - each player only hit one 3-pointer.
Tommy Heinsohn was the CBS analyst for the game with Brent Musburger doing the play-by-play. Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers was in Atlanta's backcourt. Heinsohn and Rivers looked back at the game with the voice of the Celtics.
Heinsohn: "Once it started to happen, you just saw the desire of both these players."
Rivers: "The crowd here was amazing. I gotta tell you, I fell in love with the Celtic crowd in this game."
The Celtics would go on to lose to the Detroit Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but this game provided a lasting memory from that postseason.
Perhaps Musburger put it best after another late Bird drive and finish: "You are watching what greatness is all about."
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