OH, THOSE MEMORABLE FINAL GAMES
Some of the best of the 1,658 other NBA playoff gamesr, according to an informal survey.
* Game 7, 1970 NBA finals, New York 113, Lakers 99--In a series that included Jerry West’s 63-foot shot (in a game the Lakers ultimately lost in overtime) L.A was denied its first championship at home, while the Knicks captured their first. This game will be remembered for Willis Reed’s inspirational return from a painful hip injury.
“I was watching Willis practice two hours before the game and get the O.K. from the doctors to play,” recalled Chick Hearn, who has announced Lakers games since their first L.A. season, 1960-61.
“I thought there was no way he could play. Just before the tip-off he came hobbling onto the court, literally, dragging a leg behind him.
“The Knicks got the tip, controlled the ball and got the ball down to him down the middle. He took off and made a basket around the free throw line. The (Madison Square) Garden exploded. It was like lighting a cannon, because the Lakers were never able to get into the game after that.”
* Game 6, 1980 NBA finals, Lakers 123, Philadelphia 107--With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sidelined with a sprained ankle, rookie Magic Johnson started at center, scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and hanand off seven assists.
“I didn’t think they had a chance to win without Kareem, and neither did anybody else,” Hearn said. “Kareem was in his prime, and his presence would be badly missed. I think only the team thought it had a chance to win.”
“We had a team meeting that night,” Johnson said recently, Rand we said let’s go out and win this, because nobody thinks we can. Let’s go out and go for it. We did that. We started the game up-tempo because they were so much bigger than we were.”
Hearn’s call at the conclusion of the game: “There can never be a more incredible championship game for the Lakers than this one.”
“Perhaps that was the cement foundation that the Lakers built to becoming the team of the decade,” Hearn said. “After that, success just seemed to roll on. I’ve never thought of it before, but that just might have been the stepping stone that started all of it.”
* Game 5, 1976 NBA finals, Boston 128, Phoenix 126 (triple overtime)--The Celtics had and blew a 22-point second quarter lead, but the Suns took the lead with five seconds left.
After a time out, the Celtics got the ball to John Havlicek, who hit a bank shot with one second left. The buzzer went off, the crowd surged onto the floor and the Celtics went into the locker room.
But the game wasn’t really over. Under NBA rules, the clock stops after every basket in the last two minutes, so there was really one second left.
Even though he had no time outs left, Phoenix Coach John MacLeod called time out, so his team could in-bound the ball at midcourt. After White hit the technical foul free throw, Garfield Heard, with Don Nelson’s hand in his face, hit a high-arching jump shot from beyond the top of the key as the buzzer sounded.
The Celtics held leads in the first two overtimes, but Phoenix mounted comebacks on both occasions.
With 33 seconds left in the third overtime, the Suns trailed by six when Paul Westphal scored twice. With Boston coming down court in the final seconds, Westphal almost stole a long pass, but the ball wound up in White’s hands as time expired.
Postscript: Among the players on Phoenix’s bench that evening was Pat Riley. He did not play.