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YouTube Gold: The Legendary 1988 Dominique Wilkins-Larry Bird Shootout

This was a duel between assassins.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics
 BOSTON - 1983: Dominique Wilkins #21 of the Atlanta Hawks and Larry Bird #33 of the Boston Celtics stand on the court during a game played in 1983 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets met in the playoffs Saturday night in what could have been a shootout between stars. Boston’s Jayson Tatum had 39 points but Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving managed just 16 each.

So it wasn’t quite a shootout, certainly not like what the NBA saw in 1988 between Boston’s Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins.

Wilkins, who grew up in Washington, NC, is one of the more underrated stars in NBA history. He was brilliant. His problem was he played in the shadows of Bird, Magic Johnson and, most critically, Michael Jordan.

But he was special too. Known as the Human Highlight Film, Wilkins was a spectacular talent. But as his career went on, he developed more aspects of his game and became an excellent shooter and passer.

In 1988, Boston and Atlanta went back to Boston after the Celtics tied the series 3-3 in Atlanta. Bird was quite bold, saying publicly that the Hawks blew it and they’d never win in Boston and they knew it.

Still, the game was close and Bird, while good, wasn’t dominant.

Until Atlanta’s Kevin Willard made a huge mistake.

According to Wilkins, in what have must been either late in the third quarter or quite early in the fourth, Willard, running downcourt, reached over Wilkins, put a finger in Bird’s chest and told Wilkins, essentially, to shut him down.

Wilkins, who was having a career game, knew Willard had made a serious mistake. Bird, who had 14 points to that point, had 20 in the fourth. He was so hot that one point, he hit a three pointer near the Hawks bench - left handed.

The two of them went back and forth in one of the great duels in NBA history. Boston won but Wilkins had the ball with time winding down and a chance to win it with a three.

Danny Ainge fouled him to prevent the three and Boston won 118-116. Wilkins finished with 47.