The building blocks to the greatest rivalry in American sports was set during the 1980s when the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers met in three NBA Finals over a four-year span. Their first matchup came in 1984, which ultimately went in the Celtics’ favor in a seven-game series.
But before the Lakers suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of their rivals, Magic Johnson made history. In Game 3, played June 3, 1984, Johnson dished out 21 assists to set an NBA Finals record.
It came in a 137-104 rout of the Celtics at the Great Western Forum, giving the Lakers a 2-1 series lead. L.A. held a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter, were ahead by 11 at halftime, then blew the game open in the third quarter.
Although the Lakers allowed 33 points coming out of the half, they scored 47 themselves. Larry Bird had a game-high 30 points and was one of four Celtics to reach double figures.
Johnson notched a triple-double by adding 14 points and 11 rebounds to go along with his record-setting number of assists, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers with 24 points.
Michael Cooper and Kurt Rambis each scored 17, and James Worthy added 13 points, meaning all Lakers starters reached double digits. So too did Bob McAdoo (21 points) and Mike McGee (15) off the bench.
Johnson’s record still stands for an NBA Finals game, though he also had 21 assists against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the 1991 Western Conference Finals.
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