Thirty years ago, Larry Bird racked up some super serious numbers in an NBA playoff game at Boston Garden.The former Celtics star and Indiana State University great scored 36 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and passed for 8 assists while playing 56-minutes of a double-overtime contest.
But Bird wasn’t the leading scorer in that first-round game. His total came up short — by 27 points.
If there were any doubts about Michael Jordan’s ability to be a big-time scorer in the NBA, he forever dismissed and totally obliterated them on April 20, 1986, when he scored 63 points for the Chicago Bulls in the second game of a 3-game series.
Despite the record-setting total, the Bulls lost to Boston, 135-131, falling behind 2-0 in the series eventually won by the Celtics in a 3-zip sweep.
Jordan’s performance is even more remarkable considering he broke a bone in his left foot in the third game of the regular season and missed 64 games.
During the postgame press conference, Bird made several comments about His Airness, one that will forever live in NBA lore.
“I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan,” Bird said. “He is the most awesome player in the NBA. Today in Boston Garden, on national TV, in the playoffs, he put on one of the greatest shows of all time.”
Jordan broke the previous record for points in a playoff game held by Elgin Baylor, who tallied 61 for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the 1962 Finals against Boston.
Jordan still holds the record, with Charles Barkley and — who else? … Jordan — trailing Baylor with 56-point games. Jordan also had three 55-point outings and finished with eight playoff games scoring 50 or more points.
“We had about everyone on the team guarding him. He obviously was in a zone,” Bird said afterward. “We couldn’t stop him. You are talking about a different type of talent.”
There were several Indiana connections involved in the game besides Bird. His Celtics teammates included former Purdue University standout Jerry Sichting and Rick Carlisle, who was head coach of the Pacers from 2003 through 2007.
Sichting — who scored 8 points for the Celtics and made what turned out to be the game-winning basket in the second overtime — was a star for Martinsville High School who played against Connersville in Spartan Bowl twice.
Macy, Indiana’s 1975 Mr. Basketball from Peru, played on the University of Kentucky’s 1978 national championship team after transferring from Purdue where he spent one year.
Woolridge was a 4-year star at Notre Dame before embarking on a 14-year NBA career. Woolridge died on May 31, 2012, from heart failure. He was 52.
Ironically, George Gervin, one of pro basketball’s all-time leading scorers (25.1 ppg), played 5 minutes for the Bulls and did not score. The Iceman, an All-Star the season before, had 1 assist in what was the last game of his NBA career.
Check out three excellent columns about Jordan’s performance, by:
Here are two good highlight videos of Jordan’s performance from You Tube:
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