Winning Time Season 2 Finale Recap and Ending, Explained

Image Credit: Warrick Page/HBO

HBO’s ‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty‘ season 2 follows the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team working hard to capitalize on their 1980 NBA Championship win. The second season slowly builds up to a long-awaited confrontation with bitter rivals Boston Celtics, and the season finale delivers on the promised clash of the titans as the two teams face off in the 1984 NBA Finals. All the pain, sweat, blood, and tears are put to the test as the age-old rivalry is reignited on the biggest stage of basketball. The ending of ‘Winning Time’ season 2, episode 7 settles the long-gestating title clash between the Lakers and Celtics. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Winning Time Season 2 Finale Recap

The season 2 finale, titled ‘What Is and What Should Never Be,’ opens after the Lakers’ victory in the 1984 NBA Finals Series’ first game against bitter rivals Boston Celtics. After winning in Boston’s home yard, the Lakers are forced to escape from the stadium. A group of hostile Celtics supporters chases after them in a scene that continues the flash-forward moment from the season 2 premiere. On the bus, the Lakers celebrate their victory, but head coach Pat Riley encourages the team not to lose focus. Magic Johnson is flying high after the win, but Riley takes the time to humble his star player. Magic reassures his coach that his head is in the game.

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In game 2, the Lakers have a slender lead but lose it in its final moments. However, with possession still with them, the Lakers are poised to win the game and lead the Finals Series 2-0, a lead that has never been overturned in the Finals. However, with seconds to play, Magic freezes, forcing the game into overtime, where the Celtics mount a comeback and level with the Lakers after winning the game. Meanwhile, Jerry Buss struggles with a lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, Honey Kaplan. On the other hand, Red Auerbach gloats about his team’s victory and explains the key to success is building a machine greater than any single player, coach, or executive.

Later, Magic speaks with Jerry West about his freezing moment in the second game. However, West advises Magic to ignore the noise and clear his head. Like Riley, West reminds Magic that it takes more than one player to win and uses his personal poor record against the Celtics as an example. The Lakers return to the Finals Series more determined and secure a win in the third game. The loss rattles Larry Bird, who publically points out his teammates’ lack of dedication as the reason for Celtics’ poor performances. Elsewhere, Buss meets Honey and tries to apologize, but Honey sues Buss for almost every penny he has.

Claire Rothman tells Buss about the groundbreaking new television rights deal that would net the Lakers a lot more money each season. However, Buss explains the legal situation that could lead to him losing the rights to the Forum and the Lakers. In game 4, it is business as usual for the Lakers as they are leading the scoring. However, Kurt Rambis collides with Celtics’ Kevin McHale, sparking a brawl between the two teams that disbalances the Lakers, and they lose focus, leading to a loss.

After the game, Riley raises the Lakers’ spirit, reminding them that the Celtics are out of tricks to beat them. Eventually, the Celtics win the fifth game and take a lead in the Finals Series, with Buss becoming depressed with the outcome and the lawsuit against him. However, after Jeanie Buss learns about the lawsuit, she confronts her father and encourages him to attend game six as a sign of refusing to give up on his dream. The Lakers won the sixth game on the backs of a strong performance by Captain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with support from Magic. As a result, the Finals Series will be decided on the seventh and last game, taking the Championship down to the wire.

Winning Time Season 2 Finale Ending: Do the Lakers Win the Finals?

The second season covers the period between 1980 and 1984, building up to the fated encounter between the Lakers and Celtics in an NBA Final. Moreover, Magic and Larry Bird are facing each other in a Final for the first time since the 1979 NCAA Division I Finals, where Magic’s team had outshined Bird’s team. With payback on his find, Bird’s focus is undeterred in the Finals series despite the Celtics starting out on a backfoot. On the other hand, the Lakers are under pressure as the reigning NBA Champions and their record of never winning a Finals against the Celtics.

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During the seventh and final game of the 1984 NBA Finals series, Pat Riley psychs up his players and reminds them of the bitter rivalry between the two teams. Moreover, Riley insists the players give their best on the court so they cannot have any regrets later on. Ultimately, the deciding game of the 1984 NBA Finals is enthralling as both sides give it their all. However, the game gets away from the Lakers in the final quarter, and they lose with a final scoreline of 102-111. The Celtics are crowned the 1984 NBA Champions at their home stadium in Boston, Massachusetts, while the Lakers are left devastated by squandering another opportunity to beat their rivals in a Finals Series.

How Did the Celtics Win? Who Is the Finals MVP?

The season 2 finale builds up an intense climatic showdown between the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics, with Magic and Larry Bird having personal stakes in the game, given their tense rivalry since their college days. In his rookie season, Magic won the 1980 NBA Championship with the Lakers and was named the Finals MVP award. However, Bird could not replicate his rival when the Celtics clinched the 1981 NBA Championship. In the 1984 NBA Final, Bird’s efforts finally pay off as he wins the Finals MVP award along with the title. As the show portrays, Bird put in several stellar performances that sparked a Celtic comeback despite the Boston side being on the back foot for most of the Finals Series.

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The episode also showcases the Lakers’ challenges, including overheating at the Boston Garden, lack of oxygen, poor refereeing, rough tactics, and other uncontrollable factors that keep them from sealing the title before the seventh and final game. However, while all these obstacles are drawn from reality, the Lakers ultimately fell short due to their poor defensive rebounding. Furthermore, Bird delivered one of the most stellar all-round performances in a Finals Series. He led the Finals in scoring, averaging 27.4 points per game. In comparison, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 26.6 points per game were complimented well by Magic’s13.6 assists per game. However, Abdul-Jabbar’s 8.1 and Magic’s 7.7 rebounds per game were abysmal compared to Bird’s 14.0 and Robert Parish’s 11.4 rebounds per game. Hence, it is safe to say that the Lakers were stretched far too thin, especially in their defensive output, which resulted in their loss to the Celtics.

Does Jerry Buss Lose the Lawsuit?

The season 2 finale deals Jerry Buss a major blow in his desire to turn the Lakers into an unbeatable machine. Buss is hit with a lawsuit by his now ex-wife, Honey Kaplan, but the finale ends without addressing the outcome. Nontheless, the episode makes it evident that losing the lawsuit would result in Buss losing nearly everything he has built so far with the Lakers. Buss’ situation is ironic since he bought the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke since the former owner was forced to sell the team due to his divorce settlement.

In reality, Buss likely settled the lawsuit outside the court. However, the series choosing to leave the plot thread unresolved puts an interesting spin on the overall situation of the Lakers, as their dream of a dynasty is on the verge of collapsing entirely. Thus, the ending of season 2 sets up one of the most exciting and thrilling comeback stories in sporting history that will change the face of basketball for decades to come. However, since the series was abruptly canceled, the finale features an extended closing sequence with title cards revealing the fates of some of the main characters.

The Lakers went on to defeat the Celtics in the 1985 NBA Finals, followed by another victory over their bitter rivals in the 1987 NBA Finals. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson eventually became friends despite their fierce rivalry and are credited with saving the NBA. Jeanie Buss took over charge from her father after Jerry Buss died in 2013. She is the first female team owner to win an NBA Championship, having accomplished the feat in 2020. The Lakers remain a dominant force in the NBA, winning seventeen NBA Championships, joint highest and tied with the Celtics.

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