Celtics-Pistons rivalry: Top 10 games

Updated: May 30, 2008, 5:38 PM ET
By Andrew Ayres | ESPN.com

Compiled by Peter Newmann

The Celtics and Pistons are rivals ... again. These two storied franchises have quite a history with some great and memorable plays/fights/games/finishes throughout the rivalry. Here are some of the best.

10. December 24, 1960: Regular season

Twas the night before Christmas … and a record-book oddity worthy of Wilt's 100-pointer was stirring.

Boston pulled down 109 rebounds in a game against Detroit to establish an NBA record. The Celtics beat the Pistons 150-106.

9. May 10, 2002: Eastern Conference semifinals, Game 3

The highlights on this list aren't all just Bird-Isiah era. Although, maybe this one doesn't qualify as a highlight. Boston beat Detroit 66-64 in the lowest-scoring NBA playoff game since the 24-second clock was added in 1955.

The teams each shot 35 percent from the floor. And Boston guard Kenny Anderson could have been the anti-Bird after he fouled Detroit's Chucky Atkins on a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left and the Celtics holding a four-point lead. Atkins hit two free throws and missed the third on purpose. Teammate Jerry Stackhouse got his hands on the ball and made a winning shot from beyond the arc … but it was after the horn.

8. May 2, 1989: First round, Game 3

The Pistons were in charge of this rivalry by now, sweeping Boston 3-0 by virtue of a 100-85 decision on the Garden parquet.

7. June 3, 1988: Eastern Conference finals, Game 6

The Microwave strikes again. Vinnie Johnson, the Pistons' sixth man who had been averaging 9.2 points through the first five games of the series, came off the bench in Game 6 to score 24 points -- 14 in the second half -- to lead Detroit to a 95-90 victory and a trip to the NBA Finals.

[+] EnlargeRobert Parish and Bill Laimbeer
Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty ImagesBill Laimbeer and Robert Parish often got tangled up down low.

6. November 11, 1988: Regular season

With the pain of Bird's steal in the 1987 playoffs still lingering, the Pistons took a fight-interrupted 116-107 decision. Detroit's Bill Laimbeer and Boston's Robert Parish were ejected for fighting late in the first period. And the ill will continued in the playoffs that season -- Parish was suspended for Game 6 of the 1988 Eastern Conference finals for punching Laimbeer in Game 5.

5. May 5, 1985: Eastern Conference semifinals, Game 4

Vinnie Johnson earns his nickname The Microwave. Johnson heated up by hitting 11 of 12 field goal attempts for 22 points in the fourth quarter (34 points overall) in a 102-99 comeback win, evening the series with the defending champs at two games apiece. However, Boston took the series 4-2.

4. June 1, 1988: Eastern Conference finals, Game 5

The Pistons' 102-96 overtime win at Boston Garden signaled something of a failed last hurrah for Boston's Bird dynasty as well as the rise of Detroit, which had suffered an ignominious defeat in the Eastern Conference finals the year before.

Isiah Thomas scored 29 of his 35 points in the second half and the Pistons won the series in six games, advancing to the NBA Finals, where they would lose to the Lakers in seven games.

3. January 29, 1985: Regular season

Simply a classic regular-season shootout. Larry Bird scored the game winner on an inbounds pass from Dennis Johnson, making a sprawling layup as time ran out for a 131-130 victory. Boston had built a 124-114 edge with 4:52 left to play, but Detroit went on a late tear only to fall short to the reigning NBA champions.

2. May 23, 1987: Eastern Conference finals, Game 3

A defining moment for Bill Laimbeer, the versatile big man whose game was similar to Rasheed Wallace's, except for a difference in the direction they cast their wrath (opponents versus referees). In this one, Laimbeer sends Larry Bird to the floor with authority in the Pistons' 122-104 victory.

Laimbeer, called "the dirtiest player in the league" by Michael Jordan, gets the heave-ho along with Bird. "It's like Michael said, and I think everybody knows it," Bird said. "I wish they would have parted the sea, cleared the court for about 15 minutes and just let us go at each other. We would have seen who the real man is. He was backing away from me and didn't want any part of me." Think Bill got under Larry's skin much?

1. May 26, 1987: Eastern Conference finals, Game 5

"Now there's a steal by Bird … underneath to DJ, he lays it in!"

The late Johnny Most's memorable call says it all -- almost. Leading by one point, all Detroit had to do was run out the clock's final five ticks. But Larry Bird stole Isiah Thomas' inbounds pass and fed a cutting Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup. It gave the Celtics a 3-2 series lead heading back to Detroit, and Boston would go on to win the series in seven games.

Andrew Ayres is an NBA editor for ESPN.com.