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“Now, There's A Steal By Bird”: When Larry Bird Famously Stole The Game From The Detroit Pistons

“Now, There's A Steal By Bird”: When Larry Bird Famously Stole The Game From The Detroit Pistons

The 1980s saved the NBA from terrible attendance and ratings. This popularity was started by the rivalry of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Magic and Bird dominated the 1980s. The two stars combined to win eight titles in the decade.

Only the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983 and the Detroit Pistons in 1989 won the title from the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.


The Rise Of The “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons

The Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, and Dennis Rodman, took over as the dominant team in the East during the late 80s.

The Pistons were known as “The Bad Boys” because of their physical play. This physical play would help mold Chicago Bulls guard, Michael Jordan, into the greatest player to ever play.

But before the Pistons took over the East and eventually the league, they struggled with one thing… The Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics.


Larry Bird's Celtics vs. The Detroit Pistons

The Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird, played the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons five times in the NBA playoffs.

Bird's Celtics won the first two meetings, while the “Bad Boys” took the last three.

The most notable moment in any game of the series happened in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.

The series was tied at 2-2, and the young Pistons were pushing the aging Celtics to the limit in Game 5.

This game was important because if the Pistons would win, they'd have a chance to clinch the series at home in the next game. This is not what the Celtics and their fans wanted.

Down the stretch of the game, the score was close. It looked like whichever team had the ball last would have the chance to score and win the game.

Then, with 17 seconds remaining, Pistons' legend, Isiah Thomas, hit a huge jumper to put the Pistons up by one with a score of 107-106.

Even with the Celtics now down, their fans weren't too nervous. They had the ball with the potential final shot, and they had Larry Bird on their team.

Bird inbounded the ball and quickly received it back. He quickly drove to the hoop, looking to either get fouled or hit the shot.

Instead, Bird had the ball blocked, and the unfortunate thing happened to the Celtics next… one of their players, Jerry Sichting, knocked the ball out of bounds.

The ball was back in the Pistons' possession with only five seconds remaining and a one-point lead. The game appeared to be theirs.


“Now, There's A Steal By Bird”

What happened next in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons would go down in history as one of the greatest moments in NBA history.

The Pistons decided not to call a timeout and just throw the ball in quickly to get fouled and hopefully hit two free throws to take a three-point lead.

The referee handed Isiah Thomas the ball, and he looked to make a quick pass… this would be his mistake.

Larry Bird had a history of hitting the big shot and making the right play. They may have called Earvin Johnson, “Magic”, but there was certainly some “Magic” in Larry Bird as well.

Thomas threw the ball into Pistons' center, Bill Laimbeer, but just as the ball reached Laimbeer's hands, Bird snuck in and stole the pass.

Bird's intelligence and greatness continued as he made a quick pass to a cutting teammate, Dennis Johnson, who hit a layup with only one second remaining.

The Pistons finally used their timeout as the Boston Garden roared in excitement.

The Pistons had one last chance at the win, now trailing 108-107. The problem with the Pistons' chance at the win was, Larry Bird didn't play for their team.

The ball was inbounded to Bill Laimbeer, and he quickly lost the ball out of bounds as time expired.

The player who guarded Laimbeer on the last procession and his pressure helped force Laimbeer to lose the ball was none other than Larry Bird.

This steal was only one of many incredible plays Bird made in his career, but it was the defining play that made him a legend in NBA history. The Celtics would win that series 4-3, reaching the NBA Finals once again. Unfortunately, they lost against archrivals Los Angeles Lakers 4-2, but Larry made sure to fight until the end, making memorable plays during that playoffs run. 

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