Celtics-Lakers 1

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers faced off in the NBA Finals in 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1984, 1985 and 1987. That's nine times, which is the same number of Friday the 13th movies that were made before the one where Jason Voorhees was frozen, launched into outer space, and transformed from a zombie serial killer into a zombie-android serial killer. Coincidence? I think not.

The Celtics were 7-2 in those championship series, although the Lakers won the last two. Those showdowns were filled with many classic moments, as well as some not-so-classic moments. I think you know which ones I'm going to talk about.

The 1962 NBA Finals

Wishful thinking: Even though they were four-time champions, Fred Shaus -- whose Lakers had already qualified for the final round -- had been rooting for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Why? Said Shaus: "In all honesty, we had no post game." In other words, Shaus and the Lakers felt more confident in facing Bill Russell in the pivot than Wilt Chamberlain...even though The Stilt had never, you know, won a championship. Guess that goes to show, once again, that you should be very, very careful what you wish for.

The Boston fans: By the time they made it to the 1962 Finals, the Celtics had already won three straight titles and four out of five. Not too shabby, eh? That '62 team averaged 121.1 PPG, compiled the best record in the league (60-20), and had just finished an exciting seven-game series against the monstrous Wilt Chamberlain and his Philadelphia Warriors in the Eastern Conference Finals. But not even all that couldn't draw the Beantowners to the Boston Garden for the championship round. Only 7,617 fans showed up for Game 1. For a little perspective, that was barely more than half of the Garden's 14,890 capacity. And there were plenty of empty seats available throughout the series.

Homecourt disadvantage: In retrospect, maybe the Boston fans knew what they were doing. Boston lost Games 2 and 5 at home, and the Lakers lost Games 4 and 6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. BASIC MATH ALERT!! That means the home teams were 3-4 in this series.

Fun fact: Game 6 of the '62 Finals was one of the Lakers most heartbreaking playoff losses ever. With a chance to win it all at home, the Lakers built a 10-point halftime lead before getting overwhelmed in the second half and losing 119-105. Game 7 in Boston? Yeah, that didn't go their way either...

Jim Krebs: Krebs was a 6'8" bruiser who was known for, well, bruising people. And then some. In his autobiography Go Up For Glory, Bill Russell said: "Jim Krebs was known in the league as man who was willing to go beyond the rules in getting his man." Krebs lived down to to his reputation in the Finals, breaking K.C. Jones' nose with an "errant" elbow.

Sam Jones: Sam had a Game 3 he'd probably rather forget. (And I'm sure all those championships worked better than a labotomy.) Not only did he get abused by Jerry West, who scored four points in the final minute to tie the game at 115-all, Sam threw a bad pass -- intended for Bob Cousy -- with four seconds left that was stolen by West. Mr. Clutch laid it in at the buzzer, giving the Lakers a 117-115 win and a 2-1 series lead. There was only one problem...

Clock mismanagement, Part I: Red Auerbach freaked out after Game 3 and insisted afterward that it was impossible for West to dribble 30 feet and score with only three seconds left. The Lakers' bench had thought it was impossible too; L.A.'s reserves were screaming their heads off for West to pull up and shoot. But West knew what he was doing. Just ask him. "I had deflected the ball on the run. I knew I would have enough time, because I knew what the shot clock was. Quite often I'm surprised today that more young players don't pay attention to the shot clock." Uh huh.

Boston's Game 5 defense: In 1962, the Celtics had the best defense in the league (111.9 PPG), but that didn't keep them from getting shelled in Game 5 at home. Not only did the Lakers put up 126 points, Elgin Baylor took a 61-point dump in the Celtics' championship stew. That, by the way, is an NBA Finals record that still stands. Now watch Elg make those leprechauns look silly.

Satch Sanders, quote machine: He was Boston's "defensive specialist," and he had been responsible for guarding Baylor in Game 5 and throughout the series. Word has it, he's never been able to grow any more facial hair after Baylor singed it off on that warm summer night in '62. Said Saunders: "Elgin was just a machine."

Sam Jones: He was The 17-foot Assassin before David West was even a twinkle in his mother's eye. Bill Russell often referred to Jones as "the best shooter in the world." This was not the case in Game 7, when Sam went 1-for-10 from the floor.

Satch Sanders, Tommy Heinsohn, and Jungle Jim Loscutoff: All three of these guys got fouled out by Elgin Baylor in Game 7 (Elg finished with 39 points). That, obviously, left Boston a little short-handed when the game went to overtime. Which, as it ended up, didn't matter. But still.

The "Almost" Shot: The Lakers had possession of the ball with five seconds left in regulation. The game was tied. Fred Shaus designed a play with Baylor as the first option, West as the second option, and "whoever else was open" as the third option. Since Baylor and West were both covered tightly, Rod Hundley passed the ball to Frank Selvy, who was open on the baseline about eight feet from the basket. His defender, Bob Cousy, had gambled for a quick double-team on West. Selvy took a shot that he supposedly hit "eight out of 10 times"...and missed.

Said Selvy: "I had to get it off fast. I sort of hurried it, but I thought it was going in. I get the blame for missing that shot, but I don't think that was the ballgame."

Clock mismanagement, Part II: Years later, Red Auerbach was still righteously pissed off because of what he saw as a clock error that gave the Lakers an unfair chance at winning the game in regulation. "We were cheated. The timer froze. There were three seconds left to go. They took it out at midcourt and threw it to a guy a midcourt. He took a bounce, then he threw it all the way into the corner. Now that goddamn thing is three seconds there. Selvy takes the ball and goes up for as hot and misses it. The rebound goes in the air and the clock still hadn't gone off. Baylor got the rebound and put it up and missed it. It was more than Selvy's shot."

Sour grapes: The Lakers literally missed their chance to dethrone the Celtics and win their first championship since moving to L.A. And afterward, Baylor lamented some Derek Fisher-esque no-calls. "Selvy thought Bob Cousy fouled him. I thought Cousy fouled him. He took the shot from a spot where he was very proficient. Cousy said he never fouled him. I was in a position to get the offensive rebound. But somebody behind me shoved me out of bounds right into the referee. There was no foul call there, either. I looked around and saw Russell and Sam Jones behind me."

Fun fact: Apparently, Baylor eventually obtained a copy of the game's film and confirmed that Jones had indeed shoved him out of bounds, away from the rebound. Jones later admitted pushing him.

Sources: NBA.com, Wikipedia, Basketball-reference.com, Ever Green by Dan Shaughnessy, and The Rivalry by John Taylor.

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Blogger Juan Estevez said...
Great Work, Congratulations.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Good read Matt.

Fifteen of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1996 were players from the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics.

Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, John Havlicek, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, James Worthy, and Magic Johnson.

That’s 30%.

Blogger anne said...
Great article - I hope this cured the runs that the commenter in Evil Ted's post had.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I was under the impression from many blogs/news sites that bad calls were a post 2000 thing. People need to get over it and all the conspiracy stuff too.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Just wanted to point out that Wilt wasn't MVP in 1962 (Its hard to believe that 50ppg isn't enough, though). Russell was in year 2 of his MVP 3-peat. Chamberlain won it in '60, and '66-'68.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
iron fist -- Thanks, dude. Hey, how's Power Man these days?

brandon hoffman -- Well hey, those two teams have, what, 29 of the league's 50-some odd championships. Soon to be 30, either way...

However, you missed a few. Sam Jones was in teh 50 Greatest. Tiny Archibald was the starting point guard for Boston's '81 title team (and believe me, that helped him get in). You also unbelievably left off Kevin McHale!

So the total was 18. Which is even more impressive, obviously.

anonymous #1 -- Yeah. Bad calls and flubs have been happening since the dawn of the league.

jwoey -- Dude, you're right. My complete and total bad. I fixed it.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, first off, this is a real serious undertaking here, so I applaud what you're doing. It can't be easy to go through all these old games to find this stuff, so truly nice work there. Second, the Lakers and Celtics have 30 of the 61 titles handed out in NBA history, which is a really incredible stat. So is the fact that this is the Celtics' 20th trip to the Finals and the Lakers' 29th trip there.