Here Are Some Final Facts on NBA Playoffs
The NBA, while growing in popularity in the 1980s, struggled to find an identity for its ultimate best-of-7 race for a championship.
While the World Series, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup are hallowed sports institutions, the NBA changed the name of its championship series three times in this decade.
Until 1982, the official name was the NBA World Championship Series.
Then the league, armed with a new television contract that finally put all championship series games in prime time or Sunday afternoon, made a failed attempt at a glitzy tag.
The next two years, the NBA tried Showdown ’83 and Showdown ’84 on for size and it didn’t fit.
In 1985, the NBA introduced a new playoff logo and went back to NBA World Championship Series before settling on simplicity -- The NBA Finals -- in 1986.
No team from 1980-88 made the NBA Finals without at least one 20-point scorer.
The last team to do so was Seattle in 1979. The Sonics won the NBA championship that year with Gus Williams their leading regular-season scorer at 19.2 points per game.
In seven of the first nine years of the decade, the team with the best regular-season record won the championship.
The only exceptions so far came in 1985, when Boston had the best record of 63-19 and the Lakers, at 62-20, were the winners, and in 1982, when Boston also was 63-19 and the Lakers, at 57-25, defeated Philadelphia, 58-24, for the title.
The 76ers in 1982-83 had the best regular-season record of the decade, 65-17, and Moses Malone predicted a “Fo, Fo, Fo” sweep of the 1983 playoffs.
They almost made it, losing only one game to Milwaukee in the semifinals.’
Despite sweeping the Lakers in the Finals, Philadelphia trailed at halftime of all four games.
Malone, Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks were the unquestioned stars of the team, but the 76ers got help from unexpected sources in that series.
In Game 1, reserve guard Clint Richardson scored 15 points in 31 minutes as the 76ers won 113-107.
Reserve center Earl Cureton played 5 1/2 minutes down the stretch in the second game when Malone got in foul trouble. He hit a sky hook over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to seal a 103-93 victory.
Six players have won playoff Most Valuable Player awards in the 1980s.
Five of them are legitimate NBA superstars -- Magic Johnson in 1980, 1982 and 1987, Larry Bird in 1984 and 1986, Malone in 1982, Abdul-Jabbar in 1985 and James Worthy in 1987.
The sixth name is not so memorable. It was Cedric Maxwell for the 1981 Celtics.
After scoring only 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds as Boston split the first two games of the series at home against Houston, Maxwell carried the Celtics the rest of the way.
He averaged 24.5 points and 11 rebounds in the last four games, including 28 points and 15 rebounds in the pivotal Game 5 that gave the Celtics a 3-2 lead.
He finished with 27 points and five rebounds in the 102-91 finale at Boston Garden.
Maxwell didn’t fare nearly as well in his other two championship series appearances with the Celtics, averaging 8.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 1984 and 1985 and was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers before the next season.
Two of the last five NBA champions won just 30 percent of their road playoff games.
The 1988 Lakers and 1984 Celtics each were 3-7 in the playoffs away from home.