Champions: The NBA’s Greatest Game and the End of a Dynasty

THE NBA’S GREATEST GAME AND THE END OF A DYNASTY

While the first Celtic champion team that I remember was the 1974 team that defeated Kareem Abdul-Jabar  and the Milwaukee Bucks, I am more familiar with the  1976 team that won the franchise’s 13th NBA Title  in a finals that included a triple overtime thriller deemed by many to be the greatest game ever.

It would be the last title for Hall of Famers John Havlicek (his 8th) and Dave Cowens.  In fact, the Celtics would not even make the playoffs during Havlicek’s final year two years later.  It was also the last year before the merger with the ABA and Celtic rival Philadelphia would rise to dominance with the addition of Julius Erving.

The front row of the picture to the left featured the key Celtics – Charlie Scott (G), Paul Silas (F), Dave Cowens (C), John Havlicek (F), Jo Jo White (G) and Don Nelson (F).  The team would finish with a conference best 54 wins – second only to the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

By conference

# Eastern Conference
Team W L PCT GB
1 zBoston Celtics 54 28 .659
2 yCleveland Cavaliers 49 33 .598 5
3 xWashington Bullets 48 34 .585 6
4 xBuffalo Braves 46 36 .561 8
4 xPhiladelphia 76ers 46 36 .561 8
6 Houston Rockets 40 42 .488 14
7 New York Knicks 38 44 .463 16
7 New Orleans Jazz 38 44 .463 16
9 Atlanta Hawks 29 53 .354 25
# Western Conference
Team W L PCT GB
1 zGolden State Warriors 59 23 .720
2 xSeattle SuperSonics 43 39 .524 16
3 xPhoenix Suns 42 40 .512 17
4 yMilwaukee Bucks 38 44 .463 21
5 xDetroit Pistons 36 46 .439 23
6 Los Angeles Lakers 40 42 .488 19
7 Portland Trail Blazers 37 45 .451 22
8 Kansas City Kings 31 51 .378 28
9 Chicago Bulls 24 58 .293 35

 PLAYOFF RUN

To return to the NBA Finals, the Celtics had to get two upstart teams – the Buffalo Braves and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Once they got to the finals, they faced a Phoenix Sun team led by former Celtic Paul Westphal.  The decisive moment in the series was Game 5, which occurred the night of my brother’s high school graduation.  I recall shutting the game off once the Celtics went ahead by 20 plus in the first, only to come back to watch the fourth and all that  followed.  Celtic Coach Heinsohn collapsed in the locker room after the triple-overtime thriller, while those of us watched sat in amazement knowing we had just seen something remarkable.

It is hard to believe now in the post Bird-Magic-Jordan era, but the Finals had three straight off days between Sunday afternoon opener and Thursday night second game due to CBS-TV’s concern with low ratings for professional basketball. The 1975-76 network television season (as well as May sweeps) ended after Wednesday, May 26 (with weekend afternoon games not factored into the prime-time ratings). Accordingly, CBS-TV allowed Game One to be played on Sunday afternoon, since the ratings would not count, but would not permit Game Two to be played live in prime time unless the NBA waited until Thursday evening.

Three Celtics (Don Nelson, Paul Silas and Dave Cowens) and Five Suns (Paul Westphal, Gar Heard, Dick Van Arsdale, John Wetzel and some guy named Pat Riley) went on to become head coaches.

G Date Opponent Tm Opp W L Streak
1 Wed, Apr 21, 1976 Box Score Buffalo Braves W 107 98 1 0 W 1
2 Fri, Apr 23, 1976 Box Score Buffalo Braves W 101 96 2 0 W 2
3 Sun, Apr 25, 1976 Box Score @ Buffalo Braves L 93 98 2 1 L 1
4 Wed, Apr 28, 1976 Box Score @ Buffalo Braves L 122 124 2 2 L 2
5 Fri, Apr 30, 1976 Box Score Buffalo Braves W 99 88 3 2 W 1
6 Sun, May 2, 1976 Box Score @ Buffalo Braves W 104 100 4 2 W 2
G Date Opponent Tm Opp W L Streak
7 Thu, May 6, 1976 Box Score Cleveland Cavaliers W 111 99 5 2 W 3
8 Sun, May 9, 1976 Box Score Cleveland Cavaliers W 94 89 6 2 W 4
9 Tue, May 11, 1976 Box Score @ Cleveland Cavaliers L 78 83 6 3 L 1
10 Fri, May 14, 1976 Box Score @ Cleveland Cavaliers L 87 106 6 4 L 2
11 Sun, May 16, 1976 Box Score Cleveland Cavaliers W 99 94 7 4 W 1
12 Tue, May 18, 1976 Box Score @ Cleveland Cavaliers W 94 87 8 4 W 2
G Date Opponent Tm Opp W L Streak
13 Sun, May 23, 1976 Box Score Phoenix Suns W 98 87 9 4 W 3
14 Thu, May 27, 1976 Box Score Phoenix Suns W 105 90 10 4 W 4
15 Sun, May 30, 1976 Box Score @ Phoenix Suns L 98 105 10 5 L 1
16 Wed, Jun 2, 1976 Box Score @ Phoenix Suns L 107 109 10 6 L 2
17 Fri, Jun 4, 1976 Box Score Phoenix Suns W 128 126 11 6 W 1
18 Sun, Jun 6, 1976 Box Score @ Phoenix Suns W 87 80 12 6 W 2
Rk Player Age G MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK PF PTS
1 Jo Jo White 29 82 3257 670 1492 .449 212 253 .838 61 252 313 445 107 20 183 1552
2 Dave Cowens 27 78 3101 611 1305 .468 257 340 .756 335 911 1246 325 94 71 314 1479
3 Charlie Scott 27 82 2913 588 1309 .449 267 335 .797 106 252 358 341 103 24 356 1443
4 John Havlicek 35 76 2598 504 1121 .450 281 333 .844 116 198 314 278 97 29 204 1289
5 Paul Silas 32 81 2662 315 740 .426 236 333 .709 365 660 1025 203 56 33 227 866
6 Don Nelson 35 75 943 175 379 .462 127 161 .789 56 126 182 77 14 7 115 477
7 Glenn McDonald 23 75 1019 191 456 .419 40 56 .714 56 79 135 68 39 20 123 422
8 Kevin Stacom 24 77 1114 170 387 .439 68 91 .747 62 99 161 128 23 5 117 408
9 Steve Kuberski 28 60 882 128 274 .467 68 76 .895 86 148 234 44 11 11 123 324
10 Jim Ard 27 81 853 107 294 .364 71 100 .710 96 193 289 48 12 36 141 285
11 Tom Boswell 22 35 275 41 93 .441 14 24 .583 26 45 71 16 2 1 70 96
12 Jerome Anderson 22 22 126 25 45 .556 11 16 .688 4 9 13 6 3 3 25 61
13 Ed Searcy 23 4 12 2 6 .333 2 2 1.000 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 6
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2013.
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