Glenn Rivers of the Atlanta Hawks tries to drive past Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics in the second quarter of Game 1 in the second round of the NBA playoffs Wednesday night in the Boston Garden. AJC file/William Berry

More than 30 years later, Doc Rivers can’t get over loss

It still bothers Doc Rivers.

Ask the Clippers coach and former Hawks point guard, his best and worst memories of his time in Atlanta, he points to the say day.

May 20, 1988.

To borrow a phrase: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

The Hawks lost Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Celtics on their home court that day with a 102-100 defeat. Two days later, the Hawks would lose the series. But it was the game with a chance to eliminate the mighty Celtics – they of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parrish.

“It’s the truth,” Rivers said Monday before the Hawks hosted the Clippers. “Game 6 against the Celtics is the memory I will always have. I remember the day before, you couldn’t go anywhere in Atlanta. The city was on fire.

“I remember walking into the arena that day vividly and seeing the signs: Casey Jones’ retirement party because he was retiring after that year. The game went great until the last 4-5 minutes and I blocked the rest of that out. Up until there, it was a great memory. … The ending was awful. I can tell you that.”

Dominique Wilkins scored 35 points and Rivers scored 32 points, making up nearly three quarters of the Hawks’ offense.

Is this raw after all these years, Rivers was asked.

“It actually is raw,” he said. “I don’t think that stuff goes away. … It’s amazing how the wins go away but the losses stay with you.”

Rivers spent the first eight of his 13-year NBA career with the Hawks. He is still the franchise’s all-time leader in assists.

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