One of the best NBA playoff games of all-time. In a simple one on one matchup between Larry Bird and Bernard King, it would be a classic shootout, because Legend was too big for Bernard. And Bernard was too quick for Legend. Larry Bird was basically a power forward playing small forward. And he only played small forward officially. Kevin McHale, generally covered the other team’s really quick scoring small forward, if that team didn’t have great power forward who was an offensive force inside. With Bird in many games would cover the other team’s power forward. Legend covered Kurt Rambis in the first two NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, to use as one example.
Bird was a huge small forward, who was better at playing passing lanes and picking off passes and even defending the post, than covering a swingman on the baseline and backcourt and preventing that player from driving to the lane. Bernard King physically was a classic small forward. 6-7, maybe 210 pounds or so and solidly built, but might have been giving up twenty-pound of muscle and 2-3 inches to Larry Bird. King wasn’t accustomed to covering big man like Larry Bird or anyone else. So physically they weren’t matched up to defend each other. So you put them one on one and leave their teammates out of the picture and you get great shootouts like this.
But even if you beat Larry Bird in a shootout, means nothing if you lose to the Celtics. The Celtics, were clearly a better team than the Knicks. Who were a great home team at Madison Square Garden and had enough talent to play with the Celtics at home with their crowd. Bernard King, was the Superman of New York, at in the NBA. You could argue that Lawrence Taylor with the Giants, was the real Superman of New York in this era. He was a guy who could average in the high twenties and low thirties in points every night. Because he was such a versatile scorer. Who was too quick to be covered by big men and too strong to be covered by smaller swingmen. And could take players like that in the post. Who was also a good ball handler and could shoot outside. But the Knicks needed him to be Superman for them, because they didn’t have any other big scorer. Unlike the Celtics with Legend, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.
NBA-TV: NBA 1984- ECSF G6- Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks: Larry Bird vs Bernard King