The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics just may have the greatest sports rivalry of all-time. The two teams have battled each other for decades, with each coming out on top multiple times, producing unforgettable moments with legendary talents.
Yet, on this day in Lakers history, it wasn’t a superstar who shined the brightest. Instead, it was a role player long-known for his defensive skills that managed to go on a scoring spree that ultimately defeated the Celtics.
It was June 4, 1987, the date of Game 2 of the NBA Finals. With all eyes fixed on legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kevin McHale, it was something of a shock when lockdown defender Michael Cooper went on a tear.
The Celtics went into game two hoping to slow down Johnson, who had erupted in Game 1 for 29 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists to go with zero turnovers. Boston assigned Danny Ainge with the task of guarding Johnson, though it was futile.
The Lakers held just a four-point lead coming out of the first quarter, but they then went on a 20-10 run in the second that blew the game open.
Amazingly, on a floor that featured some of the greatest talents to ever lace up their high tops on an NBA floor, it was Cooper who either scored or assisted on all 20 points during that critical run. Cooper would eventually finish the game with 21 points including 6-of-7 from three, nine assists, and three steals in just 26 minutes.
Coopers six 3-pointers set what was then an NBA Finals record. That spark, combined with another stellar performance from Johnson who dropped 22 points and 20 assists, allowed the Lakers to cruise to a 141-122 victory.
Johnson’s 20 assists were one shy of tying his own NBA Finals record, while the Lakers shot 61.5 percent from the field which at the time set a record for highest in the Finals.
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