Larry Bird Admits to Career Low After Knicks Defeat

Celtics falter despite strong start, lose to Knicks 121-114.

by Nouman Rasool
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Larry Bird Admits to Career Low After Knicks Defeat
© Brian Ach/Getty Images for Converse

As the 1990s dawned, the Boston Celtics, a team once synonymous with NBA dominance, found themselves grappling with a series of debilitating injuries that hinted at a decline in their storied legacy. The realization of their faded glory became starkly apparent during the NBA playoffs of 1990 when they faced an ignominious first-round elimination at the hands of the New York Knicks.

This defeat marked a significant low point for Celtics legend Larry Bird, who openly confessed it was the lowest he had felt during his tenure with the team. The backdrop of this decline was set against previous playoff disappointments, notably a sweeping defeat by the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the 1989 playoffs.

Determined to reverse their fortunes, the Celtics initially showed promise against the Knicks by securing victories in the first two games of the series. However, Knicks' center Patrick Ewing rose to the occasion, delivering commanding performances in Games 3 and 4 with 33 points and 19 rebounds, followed by a staggering 44 points and 13 rebounds, respectively, to level the series.

Game 5 Heartbreak

The scene was set for a decisive Game 5 in Boston, where the Celtics, buoyed by a home crowd, led by six points at halftime. Despite a balanced scoring effort from the starters, each netting at least 17 points, the Celtics were outplayed in the second half, ultimately falling 121-114.

Bird, despite tying for a game-high 31 points with Ewing, faltered in the crucial moments, notably missing a pivotal reverse dunk late in the game. Reflecting on the loss, Bird did not shy away from shouldering responsibility, acknowledging his critical mistakes in the game's dying moments.

"I made some real bonehead plays down the stretch," Bird admitted, expressing his disbelief and profound disappointment. This candid reflection highlighted not just a personal low but also underscored the team's struggles. Despite the swirling media speculation regarding Celtics' coach Jimmy Rodgers' future, Bird refrained from casting blame.

Instead, he chose to underscore his respect and generally positive relationship with Rodgers, pushing back against the narrative of discord. "Some press started it all. I respect the man. I respect all the coaches I ever had," Bird stated, adding a note of support amidst the team's tumultuous phase.

This period not only reflected Bird's leadership in confronting adversity but also signaled a pivotal moment for the Celtics, as they navigated the challenges of an aging roster and the urgent need for team rejuvenation.

The saga of the Celtics during this era not only encapsulates the cyclical nature of sports dynasties but also serves as a poignant chapter in the career of one of basketball's greatest players.

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