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The first of three NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s was heated — literally.

While the games were intense, featuring hard fouls and fights between star players, the temperature was the story at Boston Garden for Game 5. While Larry Bird and the Celtics cruised to victory to take a 3-2 series lead, the Lakers moaned and groaned about the sauna-like conditions.

Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics finally broke out in Game 5 against the Lakers

The Boston Celtics were lucky to head home for Game 5 with the series tied at two games apiece. Up to that point, the Lakers dominated much of the play but had little to show for it.

LA came to Boston and won Game 1, stealing homecourt advantage from the Celtics with a 115-109 victory. The Lakers found themselves in prime position to make it two straight, but Gerald Henderson spoiled that plan. With the Lakers having possession of the ball and a two-point lead with 18 seconds left, James Worthy lofted a cross-court pass intended for Byron Scott. Henderson jumped in front, stole the ball, and put in a game-tying layup. Boston won in overtime.

The Lakers blew out the Celtics in Game 3, prompting Larry Bird to blast his teammates for their soft play. In Game 4, the Celtics trailed 76-70 before Kevin McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis. The hard foul shifted momentum, and Boston went on to eke out another overtime win, evening the series at two games apiece.

In Game 5, Boston finally put together its best effort of the series. Led by Bird, the Celtics turned it on in the second half, outscoring the Lakers by 16 points en route to a 121-103 victory. Bird made 15 of 20 shots from the floor, finishing with 34 points. He added 17 rebounds.

While Bird dominated, the Lakers complained. Boston was in the middle of a heat wave, and the game-time temperature was 97 degrees, according to CBS. The old Boston Garden didn’t have air conditioning, and the Lakers weren’t prepared. Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar described what it was like playing out there.

“I suggest you go to the local steam bath with all your clothes on,” he said after the game, according to The Boston Globe. “First, try to do 100 push-ups. Then run back and forth for 48 minutes.”

Bird knew the Lakers would be affected by the heat


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Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t the only Lakers complainer. Head coach Pat Riley also whined.

“In 1984, it was so hot we could barely breathe in our locker room, while they had these big machines that blew cool air,” Riley said, per Sports Illustrated in 2015. “It got to the point that we brought our own beverages to the Garden because we couldn’t trust their water.”

Bird knew the heat would be a problem for LA. He took full advantage.

“When we got back to Boston for Game 5, it was hot,” Bird wrote in his book, Drive: The Story of My Life. “It can get hot in June when you live in Boston, but this was really hot. The Garden is not air-conditioned, so we all knew the fifth game was going to be played in serious heat.

“We were prepared, and we knew we had to run. We wanted to get out running, get them sweaty, and get the crowd into it early in the ballgame.

“It was hot, but we didn’t care because we were already so fired up. We knew the Lakers had to be miserable. They were used to playing in the air-conditioned comfort of the Forum. This just wasn’t their idea of basketball.”

The Celtics pulled out the 18-point win but then lost Game 6 in LA. Boston clinched the series with a 111-102 home victory in Game 7.