For a short period in the 1970s, the Boston Celtics played a few games at the new Providence Civic Center (although they later chose the newer Hartford Civic Center for their satellite home court).
I am embarrassed to say that I have never seen the Celtics play at Boston Garden, but instead my first NBA game came when the Celtics “hosted” the Milwaukee Bucks in February 1974.
The Celtics (39-15) were on track to finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row. In the two prior seasons, however, the Celtics were eliminated by the New York Knicks in the conference finals. The Bucks (43-14) were on track to finish with the best record in the West for the third time in four years.
The Bucks featured Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who would win his third MVP award that year and Oscar Robertson in his final season. Because of Jabbar’s popularity, many in the crowd were openly rooting for him and the Bucks. Jabbar gave them every reason to, as he led all scorers with 28 points in jumping to a 15 point lead by the end of the third quarter. I recall cheering for both teams.
The Celtics had balanced scoring with five players in double figures led by Dave Cowens, but were unable to close the Bucks early lead. The game brought to close a brutal week in which the Celtics had
- narrowly lost to the Bulls (2d best record in NBA),
- beat the Bucks at Milwaukee and trounced the Knicks (2d best record in NBA)
- and was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
To put this current content, two-time MVP and Phoenix sensation Steve Nash was born during this “brutal week”.
The Rest of the Story:
The Celtics finished the season with the best record in the East, but were three games behind Milwaukee for best overall. As a result, when the met weeks later for their memorable 7-game series, the Bucks had the home court advantage.
Jabbar forced a decisive game seven game in Milwaukee after beating the Celtics with his sky hook in a classic double-overtime win in Game 6. The Celtics, however shut down the Milwaukee offense and cruised to a 102-87 win in Game 7 in Milwaukee, winning their first championship in the post-Bill Russell era. The same core team would win again two years later over Phoenix.
An injury-plagued Bucks failed to make the playoffs the next season, with Jabbar announcing at season end he wanted to leave Milwaukee resulting in a mega-trade with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The final installment of my sport firsts in tribute To Fenway Park’s 100th birthday is for college basketball – namely Providence College basketball.
My father was a Providence College alum and as a kid basketball primarily meant Providence College basketball – far more so than that other basketball team with parquet floors 50 miles north. In the 1972-1973 season, Providence College moved from Alumni Hall to the new Providence Civic Center (now infamously called the Dunkin Donut Center aka “the Dunk”).
This was the greatest Providence team of all-time. Providence was led by its backcourt with First-Team All-American Ernie Diegregorio (“Ernie D”) (24.6 ppg) and Kevin Stacom (17.8 ppg) and Third-Team All American Center Marvin “Bad News” Barnes (18.3 ppg) who anchored the running offense with 19 rebounds per game. They were Showtime a decade before Magic and the Lakers, as this short clip of Ernie and Marvin against the…
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