One of the most famous stories in basketball is that Dennis Johnson had a special plan for how to beat Boston Celtic superstar Larry Bird. This story never panned out and there was no game-changing strategy.
Larry Bird always joked that Dennis Johnson had a special plan for the playoffs. The two were teammates on the Boston Celtics, and they won three NBA titles together in the 1980s. Read more in detail here: larry bird dennis johnson.
Dennis Johnson, according to Larry Bird, was the finest player he ever played with. In Boston, the two were members of perhaps the best starting five in NBA history, winning two championships together. Johnson had a tendency for coming up huge in the playoffs, which Bird joked wasn’t on purpose.
In 1984 and 1986, Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson won championships with the Boston Celtics.
Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Larry Bird, and Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics watch helplessly as the Los Angeles Lakers take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. | Photo credit: Getty Images
After the 1982-83 season, the Celtics acquired Johnson from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Rick Roby and draft selections. Johnson scored 17.5 points per game in three seasons with the Suns, but it was his defense that drew the Celtics’ attention. The Celtics already had scoring options in Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. Johnson had shown he could score when required, but Boston wanted him to be a defensive lockdown specialist.
Johnson helped the Celtics win their second NBA championship in a decade in his first season with the team. Johnson truly came into his own during the 1984 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. In Game 4, Celtics coach K.C. Jones made a defensive move by having D.J. defend Magic Johnson, who had struggled early in the series.
He was able to quit hitting the offensive button as a result of that swap. Johnson scored four points in a Game 3 blowout in Los Angeles, which gave the Lakers a 2-1 series lead. Beginning with Game 4, D..J watched his own offense take off as he focused on preventing Magic.
He had 22 points in the fourth game, which was highlighted by McHale’s clotheslining of Kurt Rambis, which shifted the momentum. The Celtics went on to win the game, and the Lakers were defeated in seven games. Johnson scored 22, 20, and 22 points in the last three games.
In 1985, Johnson and Bird made it back to the NBA Finals, but were defeated by the same Lakers. In 1986, the Celtics defeated the Houston Rockets to capture their second title.
Dennis Johnson, Larry Bird joked, had a playoff strategy.
Johnson was irritated with his performance in Game 3 of the 1984 NBA Finals. In 14 minutes, he scored four points on two of eight attempts from the field. The Lakers humiliated the Celtics, defeating them 137-104.
According to Sports Illustrated in 1984, D.J. commented, “I thought I was into the game, but the first game in L.A. (Game 3) told me that I wasn’t.” “Even K.C. had to come over to see if there was something wrong. Whatever it was, I promised him, it wouldn’t be there again. I’d been missing jump shots since January and understood why, but I’d never taken the time to make the necessary adjustments. It was just a matter of being more aggressive emotionally and physically.”
D.J.’s playoff scoring explosion, paired with his defense on Magic, helped the Celtics win the title in 1984.
Johnson stepped up his offensive game in the playoffs for a different purpose, according to Bird. He said D.J. had a unique idea.
“D.J. misses jumpers all season long so they don’t defend him in the playoffs,” Bird stated during the 1987 NBA Finals, according to United Press International.
Bird and Johnson collaborated on one of the NBA’s most famous plays.
The Boston Celtics were hosting the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. The series was knotted at 2-2, and the Pistons seemed to be on their way to a 3-2 lead with a 107-106 lead and the ball with five seconds remaining.
On the sideline near the Celtics’ hoop, Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas was poised to inbound the ball. Bird intercepted the pass as he tossed the ball into play in front of Pistons center Bill Laimbeer. Bird’s momentum almost took him out of bounds, but he swiftly handed the ball to Johnson, who drove in for the game-winning basket.
The Celtics won 108-107, completing an incredible comeback. Boston lost Game 6 in Detroit, but won Game 7 at home against the Pistons to go to the 1987 NBA Finals.
D.J. spoke about the relationship he and Bird had after their Game 5 triumph against the Pistons.
After the game, Johnson stated, “Larry would tell you, I’ve worked very, very well with Larry.” “Lary is a fantastic collaborator with me.” In every setting, he can locate me, and I can find him. This was definitely one of the finest opportunities for us to meet.”
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Larry Bird was a legendary player in the NBA and is considered one of the best players to ever play. He had a height of 6’9″ which made him taller than most other players. Dennis Johnson, his teammate, always joked that he had a special plan for the playoffs. Reference: larry bird height.
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