Isaiah Thomas recalls Larry Bird’s on a brutal iconic Game 5 steal in the 1987 Playoffs: “I never saw him run that fast by the way”

Isaiah Thomas still vividly remembers Larry Bird stealing his pass to Bill Laimbeer in the closing seconds of Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. With Detroit up by one point 107-106, Bird stole Thomas’ inbounds pass intended for the Pistons center.

Larry Legend tip-toed on the baseline before finding a cutting Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup just as time expired. During the Indiana Glory TV program, which aired on All-Star weekend, Zeke recalled what transpired during those final 5 seconds when the Celtics snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

“And I had just made a shot to put us up one. So the ball goes out of bounds, and I’m thinkin’ ‘Okay, I’m a get it to Laimbeer, he’s one of our best foul shooters, big guy, so I’m gonna put it up in the air. And it was like a slow motion like the ball goes up in the air, I didn’t even see him…I never saw him run that fast by the way,” he said.

Larry was trying to foul Laimbeer
For sure, Larry ran fast in that play. But in another interview, Bird also said that he wasn’t even going for the steal there. Larry Legend said that he was guarding Joe Dumars in that sequence when he saw Laimbeer wide open.

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“After I got knocked down after trying to score on the last play, I get up and I’m guarding Joe Dumars and I seen Laimbeer standing there by himself, and all I did was run over there to try and foul him,” added Larry Legend.

But Larry read the play perfectly, and he got there in time for the steal. When Bird got the ball, he had to tip-toe on the baseline while looking for a teammate to pass to. From the corner of his eye, he saw a white jersey cutting in. He passed the ball to Dennis Johnson. DJ made the game-winning layup and secured a crucial win.

48 minutes
By winning Game 5, the Celtics took a crucial 3-2 series lead and put the Pistons on the verge. Detroit would force a Game 7 by winning the next game at the Pontiac Silverdome. Still, with the decider played at Boston Garden, the Celtics eliminated the Motor City team for the second time in three postseasons.

“That was a great play,” Thomas said about Bird’s steal. “But what we learned from that: Call a timeout and 48 minutes. After that, you start hearing us. 48 minutes, 48 minutes.”

That Game 5 defeat was always a reminder for Zeke and the Pistons that no game is over until the final buzzer sounds. From that point on, the Bad Boys learned to play each second of the 48 game-time minutes in a ball game.

In 1988, the Pistons finally got over the hump as they beat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. However, The Bad Boys would win it all the next year and add a second straight championship in 1990.

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NBALARRY BIRDBOSTON CELTICSDETROIT PISTONSISIAH THOMAS
BY SHANE GARRY ACEDERA
Shane has been writing online sports articles since 2013. If he isn’t telling basketball stories on BN, he’s just chillin’ at home with his wife and three Golden Retrievers named Ranger, Horry, and Fisher.

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