The 1988 Los Angeles Lakers were on a mission. After head coach Pat Riley guaranteed that they would repeat as NBA champions, it was up to Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the rest of the squad to make sure it came true.
As defending champions, the Lakers were sure to get the best shot from every team and that was the case on Feb. 19, 1988. The Lakers found themselves on the road against perennial playoff team, the Atlanta Hawks and despite the best efforts from Dominique Wilkins, Magic and Worthy would not allow their team to fall.
Magic fnished with a triple-double of 29 points, 19 assists and 11 rebounds, while Worthy led the Lakers with 38 points in a 126-119 overtime win over the Hawks. The win was the Lakers’ sixth straight.
All five starters scored in double-figures as A.C. Green also added a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, Byron Scott scored 18 points, and Kareem finished with 12.
Wilkins paced the Hawks with 38 points, Cliff Levingston had 29 points and 16 rebounds, and Doc Rivers chipped in with 15 points and 15 assists. But despite a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter, they just couldn’t hold off a determined Lakers team.
L.A. would go on to stretch this winning streak to an impressive 10 games before finally falling. They would also fulfill Riley’s guarantee with a hard-fought, seven-game NBA Finals victory over the Detroit Pistons, marking a fifth NBA Championship for the Lakers in the decade.
As was the case on this day in Lakers history, the Finals victory took a team effort with everyone contributing in their respective roles. That is what made this era of Lakers basketball so special, and it was on full display 30 years ago today.
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