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Remembering the 1985 Memorial Day Massacre (Celtics vs. Lakers)

How a forgotten All-Star reserve's perfect shooting led Boston to a thrashing of the Lakers in Game 1 of the 1985 Finals between the NBA's superpowers


The Celtics and Lakers, the NBA's most fabled franchises, have combined to win 33 of the league's 68 total championships since 1947, nearly half. Boston has captured 17 titles and the Lakers 16, the first five of which came from 1949-54 when the franchise was situated in Minneapolis.

The two fan-favorite teams tower over the rest of the league in titles, tradition, great players, legendary coaches, memorable moments and pure lore. Consider that the clubs closest to them in NBA crowns are far in arrears - Chicago with six and San Antonio with five - all of which have been won in the last 25 years.

In the long and storied NBA Finals tapestry between Boston and the Lakers stretching from 1959-2010, Gang Green has carefully woven a 43-31 edge in games played, behind Cousy and Russell and on to Havlicek and Bird. More importantly, the Celtics lead the championship series ledger decisively, 9-3.

Only one series (1959) was a sweep, one was a five-gamer (1966), five were finished in six games and five went the distance, all in thrilling seventh games. The Celtics are 4-1 in seventh games vs. LA, and hold a 3-2 edge in six-game Finals. All-time in head to head competition, including playoffs, Boston holds a 197-157 edge over the rival Lakers.

Boston won their first eight championship series showdowns before LA finally broke through in 1985. Many of their 74 Finals meetings were barnburners, but a few have been laughers. The Lakers bombed Boston in game three in 1984 and 1985, and again during game six in 2010.

But of course the Celtics also have inflicted several blowouts over the hated Lakers. One was the game 6 clincher in the 2008 Finals, which the Celts won 131-92. Another was a 129-96 game five crusher over LA in 1966, a victory that gave them title number seven in a row.

Yet perhaps the most memorable Celtic blowout was the Memorial Day Massacre of 1985, a 34-point whipping led by a former All-Star relegated to bench duty in his 10th season.

Seemingly destined to toil at a high level in obscurity from the outset, Scott Wedman was born in Kansas but played in college for Big 8 also-ran Colorado, not the tradition-rich Jayhawks. Wedman led the Buffaloes in scoring and rebounding as a junior and senior, but Colorado was just 29-49 in his career.

Chosen sixth overall by the Kansas City Kings in a loaded draft that featured 12 future All-Stars (led by top pick and future Celtic Green Team mate Bill Walton), Scott made the all-rookie first team. In just his second season, he was named a Western Conference All-Star reserve. In the 1976 mid-season classic at Philadelphia, Scott scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting with six rebounds during 20 minutes.

A promising career was in the offing for this unusual and unheralded, throwback-type player. Was he a young John Havlicek? Well, even though both were physical fitness buffs and each played forward and some big guard, no. All-time great Hondo ran, defended, drove and passed better, but was not as good a perimeter shooter as Scott, and was two inches shorter and less muscular.

Was he a new version of Dave DeBusschere? Not really. The Hall of Fame Knick/Piston forward was more physical, a better rebounder and a more rugged defender, yet not as consistent an outside shooter.

Rick Barry? No, Barry was a better passer and similarly excellent shooter, but Scott was far more modest and a better one on one defender.

Wedman was simply an original. A fine defender in his own right, he was arguably the best baseline shooter in NBA history. He rarely missed from either sideline, and possessed textbook form.

Perhaps the league's first weightlifting vegetarian, he was known as the "Incredible Hulk" while a Celtic for great upper body strength that allowed him to flick long rainbows effortlessly from a release point well over his head, launches that usually nestled softly into the hoop.

Especially from the corners. Often the deep corner, before the three-pointer came into the NBA in Bird's rookie season of 1979-80.

A one-car accident on a ran-slicked road March 4, 1979 sent his Porsche into some trees, and Wedman was thrown from the car. He sustained a concussion along with chest, leg and shoulder injuries, but only missed nine games. Doctors attributed his amazing recovery largely to being in such incredible shape.

The Kings were 40-26 before his injury and in first place in the Midwest Division, and went 3-6 without him. Upon his return to the court just 20 days later, he scored a game-high 25 points at Portland. KC went 5-2 the rest of the way with Wedman back.

On the last day of the season, the Kings won at Indiana as Scott scored 25 points. Thus KC was able to edge past Denver (who lost at Philly 112-111 that day) and earn the division title by one game. Unfortunately, Phoenix eliminated the Kings 4-1 in the western semifinals as Scott averaged 19.2 ppg.

Wedman remained underrated because he played for mostly so-so Kings teams in a small market, and was a fundamentally-skilled player, not the least bit flashy or concerned with attention-getting antics.

He was unselfish, and averaged just 14.9 field goal attempts per 36 minutes over his career despite being a superb shooter. Scott could have shot and scored much more had he been consumed by his stats. A 49 percent career shooter on two-point tries and 79.4 percent foul shooter, he took just 11.8 shots per game over 13 seasons.

Thus despite making two All-Star teams (1976 and 1980) and being selected all-defense (1980) when the honor was voted on by the league coaches, Wedman never received much national acclaim. No major endorsement deals came the way of the handsome marksman, as they would have had he starred in LA, Chicago or for the Knicks, who coveted him out of college but had no first round selection in 1974.

Knowledge of his consistently excellent play was mostly limited to basketball aficionados and Kings fans. Kansas City, which was a total of 14 games under .500 in his seven seasons there, was also rarely on national TV during his time in the heartland.

When Scott switched from small forward to big guard in the 1981 playoffs to replace the injured Otis Birdsong, he stepped in seamlessly to score 20.5 ppg and lead the upstart 40-42 Kings to the Western Conference finals for the only time in their KC tenure.

On the precipice of their only NBA Finals during the franchise's 14-year stay in Kansas City and a matchup with Boston - and a marquee small forward showdown with Larry Bird - KC lost to another 40-42 Cinderella in Houston, spoiling Scott's chance at the big time.

He then signed as a free agent with Cleveland, which had become a disaster during the Ted Stepien regime as the clueless owner's terrible moves turned the Cavaliers into the laughingstock of the league.

Not coincidentally, the year after Wedman left town, the Kings plummeted to 30-52. Four years after the loss of their popular homegrown hoop hero, the Kings moved to Sacramento.

Wedman had the good fortune to be traded from the NBA Siberia of Cleveland to the French Riviera of Boston in 1983 at age 30. Yet he also suffered the misfortune of playing the same position as the best player on the planet in Mr. Bird. It was sort of like having a great beach at your doorstep, but being susceptible to sunburn easily, forcing you to be content largely with a great view.

Thus except for when injuries struck, Scott stayed in top shape and prepared feverishly to play. Meanwhile his beautiful, high-arching shot sat parked on the pines as what remained of his best days dwindled away.

Even the biggest shot of his career has been overshadowed historically by the timely steal and layup Gerald Henderson converted to force overtime late in game two of the epic 1984 Finals vs. the Lakers.

Yet in the waning moments of that OT it was Wedman, not Bird, who calmly drained the game-winning shot. With Boston trailing 121-120 in the final seconds, they patiently swung the ball against the thinly-veiled LA zone defense to an open Scott positioned on the left baseline. Wedman coolly swished the winner from 18 feet over a flailing Earvin Johnson with 14 seconds left to even the series.

Had he missed his pet shot, three Lakers were perfectly positioned to rebound the ball, with no Celtic near the glass. Boston probably would have lost the game and the series, as they would have been down 0-2 heading to LA for three of the next four (potential) games.

But of course he did not miss, and the Celtics went on to capture a memorable championship banner, number 15 in their glorious history.

Yet after canning the clutch shot, it was mostly back to the bench and waiting again for Scott. It wasn't the first time it happened to him with Boston in the playoffs.

With Bird sidelined for game three of the 1985 first round series vs. Cleveland, Wedman stepped in and torched his former team for 30 points on red-hot 13-for-20 shooting in 41 minutes. However, the Cavs won 105-98 to obscure the sharpshooting forward's big night.

Highly-motivated by the Cleveland crowd that foolishly chanted "we want Bird" after game three, Larry Legend returned with a vengeance in game four with 34 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Celtics to a 3-1 series victory, 117-115. And it was back to the bench again for Scott, who scored three points in just 17 minutes.

In his first seven seasons with the Kings, Wedman averaged just under 35 minutes per game and was remarkably consistent. His ppg averages were 11.1, 15.5, 15.4, 17.7, 18.3, 19 and 19. With Boston, he averaged just 14.9 minutes per game over five years. But his points per-36 minute numbers remained solid at 15, 12.9, 15.9, 16.3 and 9.2.

Now, because of Bird's greatness and coach K.C. Jones's unwillingness to use Scott at big guard much or in relief of iron-man Larry, Wedman was reduced to being an underused role player when he could have been starting and excelling for many teams.

Boston whipped arch-rival Philadelphia 4-1 in the 1985 Eastern finals to advance to a championship series rematch with Los Angeles. Wedman played just 12 minutes per game in the 76er series, scoring 5.2 per contest.

In the prior series, a run-and-gun Eastern semifinal 4-2 win over Detroit, he scored an impressive 9 ppg in just 16 minutes per outing.

But even the most enthusiastic of Celtic fans would not have expected what happened in game 1 of the 1985 Finals. Boston was riding its highest wave of the Bird vs. Johnson championship trilogy years. The C's had won three of the last four Finals games between the two in 1984, and the lone loss came at LA in a game six Boston led by double figures in the second half.

In addition, the Celts beat the Lakers 104-102 in Boston during the 1985 regular season, and lost a close game at LA a month later with Parish barely able to play due to injury.

Yet even though their confidence level was at its peak vs. LA, no one was prepared for the game one outburst on May 27, 1985.

Boston shot a sizzling 61 percent from the field (62-for-102), including seven of nine from beyond the arc (78%) in a historic 148-114 bombing of the stunned Lakers.

A whopping 48 of Boston's 62 baskets were assisted, and the Celts rebounded 13 of their mere 40 misses en route to a 43-35 edge on the backboards.

Ten of the 12 Celtics made half or more of their field goal tries in the blowout, and the two who did not went 6-14 (Dennis Johnson) and 1-3 (M.L. Carr). McHale canned 10 of 16 shots, Ainge hit on nine of 15, Bird sank eight out of 14, and Parish drained six of 11.

Even the shooting-challenged, defensive-oriented Quinn Buckner came off the bench and hit three out of five shots and doled out six assists in 16 minutes.

On the other side, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stumbled through 22 minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing only three rebounds. He looked every bit of his 38 years and was out-run badly by Parish. The major media, spurned by the standoffish Jabbar throughout his career, were quick to bury the proud Laker center, and unwittingly helped motivate him to bounce back strongly.

Jabbar came back to lead the Lakers to a stunning turnaround, and his play earned him series MVP honors as LA clinched its only title ever in the Boston Garden on another milestone holiday 13 days later on Father's Day. It was a belated gift for LA GM Jerry West after Mr. Laker's four agonizing losses to Boston as a player, and the 1984 loss in seven the previous year.

But on that Memorial Day nearly two weeks earlier, the Celtics flexed their muscles and completely crushed Los Angeles with an incredible display of pinpoint shooting and passing. For that day, any thought of Laker revenge through supposedly superior athleticism was squashed under an avalanche of clinical execution by the more-skilled Celtics.

And it was Wedman's perfect shooting that led the onslaught and buried the Lakers, handing them the second-worst Finals loss in their storied franchise history to that point.

In game one, Wedman scored 26 points in just 23 minutes, and he made all 11 shots he took from the field, including four three-pointers. No player in the 68 years of championship series play has ever made that many shots in a game without missing. Plus, none of the shots were easy or close to the basket.

It seemed the Celts had LA's number, and the lopsided victory underlined that. Yet Boston became overconfident and paid for it later, although elbow and finger injuries to Bird's shooting arm, and a knee injury to the valuable Maxwell also contributed greatly to the 4-2 series defeat.

Danny Ainge fired Boston to a quick start in game one of the rematch as he made seven of nine shots in the opening period, capped by a running 21-footer from the right corner at the buzzer as the C's ran out to a 38-24 advantage.

Ironically, Wedman had yet to take a shot. Wedman rattled in his first try from 17 feet out on the left wing off a DJ pass to give Boston a 25-point margin. Next, he calmly drained a left side trifecta that put the Celtics comfortably ahead, 59-32. Two for two.

Moments later, Boston swung the ball to number eight for another left wing triple that gave the hosts a 66-36 bulge. On the very next possession, the game's consummate baseline marksman drained yet another trey from the right corner. He had totaled 11 points in the first half in limited time, highlighted by three straight triples.

Yet Scott did not get back in the game until 2:59 remained in the third period, where he picked up right where he left off. He only took one shot in the quarter and drained it. Wedman trailed a fast break, and feeling it, called for the ball from Ainge. The 6-7 muscleman swished a jump shot from the top of the key for a 104-73 lead. Five for five.

In the fourth stanza, Wedman continued his incredible accuracy, the equivalent of pinch-hitting safely every time at bat. First he curled off a double screen, took a pass from Buckner and nailed a right side 15-footer. On the next play he popped out and drained an open 18-footer from just left of the circle. Seven for seven.

In the zone completely, a hungry but patient Scott continued to prove he was still more than a bench player, even on a championship team. He buried a jumper from just beyond the left elbow to make it eight in a row. Shortly after that, he splashed his patented left baseline jumper from 16 feet out to make it 21 points on perfect nine for nine accuracy.

On the next Celtic possession, Wedman continued his historic roll. He didn't hesitate after taking a pass in the right corner, let fly for three and swished it for his 24th point.

Ten for ten.

Wedman's last shot might have been his toughest. He leaped high to catch a pass along the right baseline, then turned to his left shoulder in midair before releasing a 12-foot turnaround that went straight in for a 37-point lead.

Eleven in a row. Four of four from downtown. Twenty-six points in just 23 minutes.

The Lakers were prepared for such a barrage from Bird or perhaps McHale or Parish, but not Wedman, and he made them pay.

"Scott Wedman, who the blank is he," Laker coach Pat Riley railed later to motivate his team, although he should have been wella ware of Wedman's ability.

Ironically, Bird would make 11 shots in a row midway through another game one vs. LA in the 1987 Finals, but Boston lost that one.

Still on fire, Scott subbed out with 3:50 left to play and received a high five from DJ, as well as a stirring ovation from the fans who showed their appreciation for his record-setting accuracy. It was a rare break in the clouds to shine behind the incomparable Bird for the former All-Star.

But after that it was mostly back to the bench, as Scott took just 25 shots over the final five games of the series in just 82 minutes and made 11, as many as he did in game one. Not coincidentally, Boston lost four of those five and the title.

In the decisive sixth game, when DJ and Ainge combined to miss 25 of their 31 shots and Parish hit on just five of 14, Wedman still only played 15 minutes. He canned two of three shots, including one of two from three-point land and a pair of free throws, to score seven points. Boston lost the game 111-100 and the championship belt for the first time to the Lakers in nine Finals.

A cracked rib suffered in game three at Milwaukee limited Wedman to just 11 playoff games in 1986, and so once again what should have been a celebratory time for the swingman in a glorious title run was muted. His only 1986 Finals appearance was a two-minute cameo at the end of the series finale in game six.

With newly-acquired Bill Walton winning sixth man of the year honors, Wedman was the league's best seventh man in 1985-86, but there was no such award or notoriety for that.

The next season, Boston was decimated by injuries and the death of Len Bias, and Wedman's heel injury was a major loss. With McHale, Ainge, Parish and Bird hobbled while playing huge minutes in a grueling 23-game playoff run, Scott's big chance to show off his skills was ruined by a bad heel that limited him to just five games all year, none in the post-season.

Before the 1987-88 campaign, Boston traded Wedman to Seattle, but he was unable to play and the relative unknown from Colorado retired with two rings on his resume. Almost 20 years later, he served as a head coach in the minor league ABA and in the CBA.

The steady, unsung Wedman was one of the best small forwards of the late 1970s and early '80s. When forced into the backcourt, he was a very capable big guard who could defend tenaciously and feed the post well, nearly a lost art today). He could shoot from deep range with the best of them, and was a better athlete than commonly thought.

A throwback, Scott was a poker-faced competitor who did nothing selfish to attract attention to himself. He simply played hard at a high level of quality in understated fashion, with little or no wasted motion.

He had the misfortune of playing the last five years of his career behind the best ever in Larry Bird, or his skills would be much better-recognized by the average fan.

But true basketball fans know how good Wedman was, and he was quite possibly the best corner shooter in the history of the NBA. Something Riley and the Lakers learned the hard way in the 1984 and 1985 Finals.

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