Eastern Conference Finals Preview
Fresno Stars
72-15 (5-3)

St. Louis Hawks
62-26 (3-5)

Score (click for boxscore) Game MVP Hi Points Hi Rebounds Hi Assists
1. Hawks 106, Stars 105 Moses Malone 24 Magic Johnson 12 Moses Malone 10 Paul Pressey
2. Stars 126, Hawks 119 Magic Johnson 35 Moses Malone 19 Moses Malone 14 Magic Johnson
3. Stars 120, Hawks 115 Magic Johnson 32 Magic Johnson 10 Artis Gilmore 8 M.Johnson/J.Stockton
4. Hawks 136, Stars 119 Paul Pressey 30 Lewis Lloyd 18 Moses Malone 12 Magic Johnson
5. Stars 127, Hawks 121 OT Magic Johnson 30 Gminski/Malone/Magic 11 Moses Malone 18 Magic Johnson
6. Hawks 123, Stars 117 Paul Pressey 28 Moses Malone 18 Patrick Ewing 15 Magic Johnson
7. Stars 119, Hawks 110 Artis Gilmore 36 Moses Malone 16 Alvin Robertson 15 Magic Johnson
Fresno wins series 4-3

Game 1 – With 8 lead changes and 12 ties, this game was intense from start to finish. The largest St. Louis lead was 2 points on multiple occasions, while Fresno stretched the lead to 9 midway through the 2nd quarter. Here’s the last 2 minutes of regulation: 2:04 – Olberding hits Magic flying down the court to convert a fastbreak. FR 103 SL 99. 2:00 – Pressey feeds Malone for assist #10. FR 103 SL 101. 1:34 – Malone stuffs Olberding. Pressey scores on a fast break and Olberding hacks him in frustration for a 3-point play! SL 104 FR 103. 1:08 – Malone with a steal from Gilmore, but then travels on his end of the court to give it back. 0:52 – Magic feeds Thompson who lays it in for the lead! FR 105 SL 104. 0:35 – Thompson steals a pass to Pressey and hits Rivers on the break… Rivers can’t hold on to the ball and it bounces out of bounds! 0:23 – Chris Mullin dribbles on the perimeter, then hits an outside jumper! SL 106 FR 105. 0:19 – Magic inbounds to Rivers on the perimeter, but Mullins is applying pressure and picks Rivers pocket. Game over!

Game 2 – Fresno builds a 15 point lead after 3 periods, but…. St. Louis goes on a 36-24 run with a minute still left on the clock! Magic Johnson then comes up big hitting a jumper and then 2 Patrick Ewing free throws seal the 126-119 win for Fresno. Moses Malone did all he could for St. Louis with 35 points and 19 boards. Fresno was led by Ewing with 26 and Orlando Woolridge with 22. Magic’s 14 assists were a big reason the team hit 55% from the floor.

Game 3 – The Stars headed to St. Louis for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  Patrick Ewing was on the bench in street clothes.  In the first period, Magic Johnson scored the first 7 points for Fresno, but then he had to go to the bench at the 8:26 mark with his second foul.  The Hawks’ Paul Pressey also had to go to the bench early with an injury.  Despite Magic being on the bench the rest of the quarter, Fresno got to the free throw line 20 times, hitting 15, allowing them to end the first with a 35-28 lead.  To start the second quarter, Magic was left on the bench to protect from him picking up a quick third foul.  In the first 2 minutes of the second quarter, Fresno extended its lead to 41-31.  Doc Rivers filled in for Magic admirably, scoring 11.  However, Rivers needed rest and Magic was put back into the game at the 10:17 mark of the 2nd.  At that point for the Hawks, Moses Malone led a balanced attack, but he had 2 fouls .  Through the rest of the second quarter, the Hawks trimmed the Stars’ lead, and at the half, Fresno led 67-60.  Malone, Gminski, and Lloyd each had 3 fouls for the Hawks.  Both teams played evenly to start the third, and Fresno maintained a 7 point lead with 3:01 left in the quarter, when Malone picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench.  With Moses on the bench, Fresno extended its lead to 94-83 heading into the fourth quarter.  Fresno held off the Hawks’ comeback efforts, holding a 102-93 edge with 6:53 left to play.  But that is when St. Louis got hot, going on a 10-2 run, cutting Fresno’s lead to 1 point with 4:13 left to play.  However, from there, Fresno stiffened its resolve, not allowing the Hawks to take the lead.  With 36 seconds left to play and Fresno holding a 115-110 lead, the Hawks had to start fouling, and Magic and Alvin Robertson hit their free throws, giving Fresno the 120-115 win.  Magic led Fresno with 32 points on 12-14 shooting and 8 assists.  Malone led the Hawks with 20 points, supported by Lloyd (19 points and 9 rebounds) and Pressey (17 points).

Game 4 – In Game 4, Patrick Ewing was back in uniform. In the first, the Hawks raced out to a 42-28 lead on 69% shooting. Lewis Lloyd and Paul Pressey led St. Louis with 11 points apiece. In the 2nd quarter, the Stars battled foul trouble, with Ewing and Alvin Robertson spending significant time on the bench with 3 fouls. Artis Gilmore picked up his 3rd foul with 1:44 in the quarter. However, Fresno was able to slightly trim the lead to 68-57. With 10:12 in the 3rd, Ewing again had to sit after picking up his fourth foul. Gilmore soon joined Ewing on the bench, picking up his 4th foul at the 9:59 mark. Heading into the fourth, St. Louis led 103-90. Gilmore fouled out with 8:02 left. From there, the Hawks ran away with it, 136-119. Lloyd led the Hawks with 30 points, Moses Malone scored 28 points and had 18 rebounds. Pressey scored 22, dished out 11 assists and had 5 steals to earn game MVP. Orlando Woolridge led Fresno with 24 points, and Magic scored 18 with 12 assists. The series heads back to Fresno 2-2.

Game 5 – Moses Malone and Mike Gminski combined for 18 first period points, giving St. Louis a 28-21 advantage. Alvin Robertson’s 8 points led 8 Fresno Stars who scored in a 27-26 second period that made it a 54-48 lead for the Hawks at the half. Magic Johnson took control of the 3rd period, scoring 15 points and pushing the Stars to a 43-29 frame. The Stars were up 91-83 heading into the 4th. St. Louis opened the 4th on a 15-5 run, taking a 98-96 edge with 7:00 to go. The teams stayed within 4 points for the rest of regulation. Gminski hit a pair of FT with 17.5 seconds left that knotted the score. Artis Gilmore got the ball down low for Fresno, but missed and Louis Orr grabbed the rebound. The Hawks got the timeout and with 2 seconds left, inbounded the ball to Paul Pressey for the game-winner, but it bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded. The Stars scored the first 5 points of OT on fast break baskets by Magic and Robertson, with Robertson making the added on FT. The Hawks couldn’t overcome that deficit and fell 127-121. Magic, Moses and Gminski all finished with 30 points. Magic also had 18 dimes, 6 rebounds and 3 steals to earn MVP. The visitors only shot .448 from the field, but made 43-47 FTA (.915).  Gminski was 14-15 from the stripe and Moses was 12-14.

Game 6 – St. Louis came out strong in the first quarter, taking the quarter 30-24. Foul trouble continued to plague Fresno, with Alvin Robertson sitting significant time on the bench. However, Doc Rivers filled in well with 13 points off the bench, helping Fresno’s fast break get going and taking the second quarter 37-31, to go to halftime with a 63-61 lead. The third quarter was very close the whole way, with both teams making runs but neither team able to take control of the game. St. Louis took the quarter 28-25, leaving the game at 89-88 Hawks heading into the fourth, with Fresno hoping to reach its first ever VBA Finals and St. Louis looking to force Game 7. The score was tied with about 7 minutes left. That’s when Malone, Pressey, and Gminski all had to go to the bench from fatigue and Stockton was fatigued though still on the court. Fresno thought this could be their chance, but they couldn’t capitalize. At the 3:20 mark, with St. Louis holding a 108-107 lead, Malone came back fully rested and Pressey at 80% rest replaced Stockton at PG. Fresno, who often had Ewing and Gilmore play Safe to avoid foul trouble abandoned the strategy, and decided to Deny and double Moses. A number of missed shots by both teams left the score 110-109 Hawks with 1:52 remaining. At the 1:38 mark, Gminksi tired and Ruland replaced him. Pressey was at 63% rest at PG. With the Hawks leading 112-109 and 1:24 remaining, former Fresno Star Louis Orr ties up Orlando Woolridge for a jump ball. Orr controlled the crucial tip. Pressey, at 58% rest, dished to Mullin, who calmly drilled the jumper, giving the Hawks a 5-point lead with 1:10 remaining. On Fresno’s next possession, Orr blocks an Orlando Woolridge drive and Mullin scores on a fast break and is fouled, hitting the free throw. That was the ball game, as St. Louis wrapped it up 123-117. Malone led the Hawks with 28 points, supported by Paul Pressey with 22. Fresno was led by Ewing (24 points, 18 boards) and Magic (22 points and 15 assists). The series heads back to Fresno’s Selland Arena for a deciding Game 7!

Game 7 – Artis Gilmore scored the game’s first 4 points and Fresno could do no wrong, jumping out to a 20-7 lead. St. Louis was able to cut it to 9, but it  was 34-23 in favor of the Stars after one. The St. Louis Hawks were stunned at how easy it was for the home team to score. Moses had had enough and put the Hawks on his back to open the 2nd period. He scored 11 points of a 19-8 run that knotted the score at 42. Fresno responded by pounding the ball down low to Gilmore, resulting in 6 dunks and some free throws, closing out the quarter with a 23-11 spree that put them up 65-53 at the half. Moses tallied 12 and Gilmore 10 in the 2nd. St. Louis cut the lead to 8 with 5:29 left in the 3rd. Fresno started going to the foul line A LOT and made their freebies and went up 95-80 before the final 12 minutes. The home crowd was anxious, there was the feeling in the air that Moses and the Hawks would make one more big run, like the early part of period 2. They did put together a 13-2 streak that cut the lead to 9 with 6:51 remaining. The home crowd was excited to see their team build it to 119-100 before giving the starters a big break. The Hawks scored the game’s last 10 points, but it was too late. The Fresno Stars franchise advanced to their first-ever VBA Finals. Moses led all scorers with 36 points, making 14-18 FTA and pulling down a dozen boards. John Stockton and Lewis Lloyd each added 16 for the Hawks. Gilmore was named game MVP with 28 points on 9-12 FGA and 10-11 FTA. He also had 6 boards and 2 blocked shots. Orlando Woolridge was good for 16 points. Alvin Robertson (16) and Magic Johnson (15) had game-highs in rebounds and assists respectively. Fresno had a 60-44 advantage “in-the-paint” and an 18-6 advantage on the break. Fresno shot 59% and STL shot 46%. Magic Johnson was named Eastern Conference Finals MVP.

Magic Johnson, MVP

Series MVP – Magic Johnson
21.8 pts, 12.7 ast, 5.4 reb, 2.1 stl