Monday, 22 Jul 2024

Season Review: 1981-82

Season Review

The 1981-82 season was a pivotal one for the Los Angeles Lakers. After their disappointing playoff performance the previous year, the team was determined to make a comeback. However, the season didn’t start off smoothly, as a disagreement between coach Paul Westhead and Magic Johnson led to Westhead’s dismissal just 11 games into the season. This move shocked fans, as Westhead had been successful as the coach, winning 50 games in each of his two seasons at the helm.

Stepping in to fill the void was Pat Riley, a former Laker and member of their 1972 championship team. Riley had previously served as an assistant coach under Westhead and was given the opportunity to take over as head coach. Under Riley’s leadership, the Lakers embraced a freewheeling offense and an aggressive, trapping defense. Their new style of play paid off, and the team won an impressive 57 games.

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals for the third consecutive year. Philadelphia took a 3-1 lead in the series, but Boston mounted a comeback and forced a seventh game in Boston. Ultimately, Philadelphia emerged victorious, winning 120-106 and advancing to The Finals.

Meanwhile, the Lakers had a successful playoff run of their own, sweeping the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs to secure their spot in The Finals. Despite the challenging schedule and intense preparation, the Lakers were able to defeat the 76ers in six games to become the champions.

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One key player for the Lakers during their title run was Bob McAdoo, who had joined the team midseason. McAdoo had previously been a prolific scorer but had struggled to find success in the playoffs. However, his addition to the Lakers proved decisive, as he averaged 16.7 points per game in the playoffs and helped the team secure their victory.

Overall, the 1981-82 season was a memorable one for the Lakers, marked by a coaching change, a new style of play, and a triumphant championship win. It showcased the team’s resilience and determination to overcome obstacles and achieve greatness.


Eastern Conference first round

  • Washington defeated New Jersey (2-0)
  • Philadelphia defeated Atlanta (2-0)

Western Conference first round

  • Seattle defeated Houston (2-1)
  • Phoenix defeated Denver (2-1)

Eastern Conference semifinals

  • Philadelphia defeated Milwaukee (4-2)
  • Boston defeated Washington (4-1)

Western Conference semifinals

  • Los Angeles Lakers defeated Phoenix (4-0)
  • San Antonio defeated Seattle (4-1)

Eastern Conference finals

  • Philadelphia defeated Boston (4-3)

Western Conference finals

  • Los Angeles Lakers defeated San Antonio (4-0)

NBA Finals

  • Los Angeles Lakers defeated Philadelphia (4-2)

Season Leaders

  • Points — George Gervin, San Antonio Spurs (32.3)
  • Assists — Johnny Moore, San Antonio Spurs (9.1)
  • Rebounds — Moses Malone, Houston Rockets (14.7)
  • Steals — Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers (2.67)
  • Blocks — George Johnson, San Antonio (3.12)
  • FG % — Artis Gilmore, Chicago Bulls (65.2)
  • FT % — Kyle Macy, Phoenix Suns (89.9)
  • 3PT % — Campy Russell, New York Knicks (43.9)
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Award Winners

  • Most Valuable Player — Moses Malone, Houston Rockets
  • Rookie of the Year — Buck Williams, New Jersey Nets
  • Coach of the Year — Gene Shue, Washington Bullets
  • All-Star Game MVP — Larry Bird, Boston Celtics
  • Finals MVP — Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers


Q: How did the 1981-82 season start for the Lakers?
A: The Lakers started the season with a coaching change, as Paul Westhead was dismissed after a disagreement with Magic Johnson just 11 games into the season.

Q: Who replaced Paul Westhead as the Lakers’ head coach?
A: Pat Riley, a former Laker and member of the team’s 1972 championship team, stepped in as the head coach.

Q: How did the Lakers perform in the playoffs?
A: The Lakers swept the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs to secure their spot in The Finals, where they ultimately defeated the Philadelphia 76ers.


The 1981-82 season was a memorable one for the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite a challenging start with a coaching change, the team rallied under the leadership of Pat Riley. With a freewheeling offense and aggressive defense, they won 57 games and secured their place in The Finals. The Lakers faced tough competition from the Philadelphia 76ers but emerged as the champions after a hard-fought series. Bob McAdoo’s addition to the team played a crucial role in their success. The season also saw individual excellence, with Moses Malone winning the MVP award and Magic Johnson earning the Finals MVP title. It was a season defined by resilience, determination, and the pursuit of greatness. To learn more about the Lakers’ journey to victory, visit

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