35 years ago, the Celtics destroyed the Lakers in the ‘Memorial Day Massacre’

Facing the Lakers in the finals for the second straight season, the Celtics rolled to a 148-114 win in Game 1 on May 27, 1985.

Kurt Rambis was no match for Kevin McHale in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals. Wendy Maeda/Boston Globe

On this day 35 years ago, the Celtics looked poised to become the first team to repeat as NBA champions since the 1968-69 Bill Russell-led teams pulled off the trick.

Facing the Lakers in the finals for the second straight season, the Celtics rolled to a 148-114 win in Game 1 on May 27, 1985 – Memorial Day. The game, which became known as the “Memorial Day Massacre,” was never close, with the Celtics using an 18-3 spurt to take a 38-24 lead after the first quarter. The advantage swelled as they entered halftime with a 79-49 cushion.

Yet the Lakers thought they could get back in the game in the second half.


“We figured if we could get it down around 18 near the end of the third quarter, we would have a chance,” Magic Johnson said after the game. “When did I think it was over? Well, when they get up by 30 or something at the end of the third, that’s pretty tough.”

To Johnson’s point, the Lakers failed to put a dent in the lead and trailed, 108-79, after three quarters.

The 34-point margin of victory was the second largest in the history of the NBA Finals. The Celtics set other series records: most points, most points in the first half (79), largest halftime lead (30), highest field-goal percentage (.608), and most field goals (62). The assist total of 43 was one short of the record.

Kevin McHale went 10-for-16 from the floor and 6-for-9 at the free throw line to finish with 26 points. He was joined by Scott Wedman, who came off the bench and delivered a perfect 11-for-11 performance, including four 3-pointers to also rack up 26 points.

Larry Bird and Danny Ainge each had 19 points, while Robert Parish added 18 and Dennis Johnson 13 to round out a balanced attack for Boston.

The Lakers were seeking to avenge losing in seven games to the Celtics the previous year. Despite the lopsided loss, they were not demoralized.


“I guarantee you, if we get a split Thursday [in Game 2], everybody will forget about this game,” Lakers coach Pat Riley said after the game.

The Lakers did just that, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar going 15-for-26 to score 30 points to pace Los Angeles in 109-102 win as the two teams headed west. The Lakers took two out of three at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The lone Celtics victory on the road came in Game 4, when Johnson buried a jumper at the buzzer for a 105-103 win.

After taking Game 4, the Lakers returned to Boston Garden and closed out the series, defeating the Celtics 111-100. Abdul-Jabbar went 13-for-21 and finished with 29 points, while James Worthy added 28. Johnson posted a triple double with 14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

Abdul-Jabbar, who was 38, was named the MVP after averaging 25.7 points, 9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.5 blocks in six games as the Lakers defeated the Celtics in the finals for the first time in eight tries.


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