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1950’s NBA Part 1

February 23, 2013


This just signifies George Mikan’s popularity in the early 1950’s *photo courtesy of hoopedia

It was said by Marty Glickman in one of his highlight films that New York was the sports capital of the world.  So it was pretty big to have your name (instead of your team’s name – the Minneapolis Lakers) on the marquee playing against the Knicks that night.  This picture was from a game played between the Lakers and Knicks on December 14, 1949.  I’d say George’s teammates were pretty affected by it because the Knicks won the game 94-84 and Mikan was the only Laker in double-figures.. with 38 points! (a prospective article about this along with the 1952 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Knicks will be linked later in this piece).

Mikan and others were chosen to participate in the first All-Star Game in 1951, the first of many highlight packages narrated by Marty Glickman from the 1950’s that I have collected and will talk about (yes, the linked one is the one I have – and the only one of mine online).  The All-Star Game was conceived by owners to try to capitalize on the NBA’s new popularity after the 1951 college point-shaving scandals.  Boston Celtics owner Walter Brown thought it was a great idea as did NBA President/Commissioner Maurice Podoloff and NBA Publicity Director Haskell Cohen.  Brown wanted to host it at his arena, the Boston Garden, where, indeed, it was played on March 2, 1951 (a little over two weeks before the playoffs were to begin).

March 2, 1951 – NBA All-Star Game at Boston: East 111, West 94

Called the ‘dream game for the pros’ by Marty Glickman, the big strategy for the East would be denying the 6’10” 245 pounded George Mikan the ball inside with the 6’8″ 185 pounded Ed Macauley starting at center for the East.  The East sagged off of the shooters and did an effective job of this, holding Mikan to 12 points on 4-of-17 from the field.  The East used their cohesion on offense, moving the ball and hitting outside shots as well as driving in for layups (or getting layups on cuts), to take an early advantage that they never really lost.  The East had a 31-22 lead after one quarter, 53-42 lead at halftime, and an 83-64 lead after 3 quarters.  The East starting backcourt (rookie Bob Cousy and Andy Phillip) each had 8 assists while playmaker Dick McGuire came off the bench to hand out 10 assists.  This helped the East frontcourt as starters Joe Fulks, Dolph Schayes, Ed Macauley, and, off the bench, rookie Paul Arizin all tallied double figures.

Interestingly, the Indianapolis Olympians representatives Alex Groza and Ralph Beard (both part of the fabulous five that won the 1948 and 1949 NCAA Championships at the University of Kentucky) would be banned for life from the NBA after this season because of their involvement in the point-shaving scandals while in college.  Also, there wasn’t an All-Star MVP named from this game until 1953 (Ed Macauley) the point in time when the owners decided this All-Star Game concept was here to stay.

The Rochester Royals (with Bob Davies as their only All-Star) went on to win the 1951 NBA Championship as they beat the Lakers in the Western Finals (with George Mikan playing with a broken foot) and then the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals in 7 games.

West starters (teams) and point totals:

Jim Pollard (Minneapolis Lakers) 4 – Small Forward

Alex Groza (Indianapolis Olympians) 17 – Power Forward

George Mikan (Minneapolis Lakers) 12 – Center

Bob Davies (Rochester Royals) 13 – Point Guard

Ralph Beard (Indianapolis Olympians) 6 – Shooting Guard

West bench (teams) and point totals:

Dike Eddleman (Tri-Cities Blackhawks) 7

Vern Mikkelsen (Minneapolis Lakers) 11

Larry Foust (Fort Wayne Pistons) 2

Frank Brian (Tri-Cities Blackhawks) 14

Fred Schaus (Fort Wayne Pistons) 8

West Coach: John Kundla (Minneapolis Lakers)

East starters (teams) and point totals:

Joe Fulks (Philadelphia Warriors) 19 – Small Forward

Dolph Schayes (Syracuse Nationals) 15 – Power Forward

Ed Macauley (Boston Celtics) 20 – Center

Bob Cousy (Boston Celtics) 8 – Point Guard

Andy Phillip (Philadelphia Warriors) 6 – Shooting Guard

East bench (teams) and point totals:

Paul Arizin (Philadelphia Warriors) 15

Vince Boryla (New York Knicks) 9

Harry Gallatin (New York Knicks) 5

Red Rocha (Baltimore Bullets) 8

Dick McGuire (New York Knicks) 6

East Coach: Joe Lapchick (New York Knicks)


January 12, 1952: Indianapolis Olympians 77 @New York Knicks 86

Marty Glickman was the play-by-play announcer for the Knicks from 1946-1955 on the radio, and this was one of the highlight film games found by NBA archives that he did.  In the middle of the 1952 Season, Indianapolis (still a good team but reeling from the loss of Groza and Beard) came into Madison Square Garden with an 18-14 record to play the 17-18 New York Knicks.  Both teams were in 3rd place at the time in their respective divisions and both teams would finish the season in 3rd place.  The Knicks were on a 7-game home winning streak (and wouldn’t lose at home again until the NBA Finals).

This game would get off to a bit of a slow start but Indianapolis would take a 21-13 lead after 1 quarter and a 34-28 lead at halftime thanks to outside shooting by Joe Graboski, Leo Barnhorst and Ralph O’Brien.  O’Brien had 8 field goals for the game while Graboski and Barnhorst had 5 each.  The Knicks would get it going in the third quarter as they started using their size and strength advantage inside (especially with Harry Gallatin and his 10 field goals) to get a lot of 2nd and 3rd shots.  They also turned up their defense resulting in more fast breaks.  Point guard Dick McGuire (usually a starter but coming off the bench in this game) started driving the lane, accumulating both points and assists.  The Knicks would score 30 points in the 3rd quarter to take a 58-51 lead and hold on to win.

Indianapolis finished with a 34-32 record for the season and lost to eventual Champion Minneapolis in the West Semifinals.  They would disband after the 1953 Season.  New York finished 37-29 and beat 2 seed Boston and 1 seed Syracuse in the Eastern Playoffs to face Minneapolis in the NBA Finals.

Indianapolis starters (points scored):

Leo Barnhorst (12) – Small Forward

Bob Lavoy (2) – Power Forward

Joe Graboski (16) – Center

Bill Tosheff (8) – Point Guard

Ralph O’Brien (17) – Shooting Guard

Indianapolis bench (points scored):

Wallace ‘Wah Wah’ Jones (10)

Don Lofgran (10)

Joe Holland (2)

Indianapolis Coach: Herm Schaefer

New York starters (points scored)

George Kaftan (0) – Small Forward

Harry Gallatin (23) – Power Forward

Nat ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton (5) – Center

Max Zaslofsky (11) – Point Guard

Ernie Vandeweghe (5) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored):

Connie Simmons (1)

Dick McGuire (8)

Vince Boryla (18)

Ray Lumpp (13)

Al McGuire (2)

New York Coach: Joe Lapchick

gallatin & clifton

Harry Gallatin and Nat ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton (who along with Chuck Cooper and Earl Lloyd were the first blacks to play in the NBA in 1950) *photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

April 20, 1952 – NBA Finals, Game 5: New York Knicks 89 @Minneapolis Lakers 102

With the series tied at 2-2, Minneapolis played New York in Game 5 of the Finals in St. Paul, Minnesota (a scheduling conflict prevented the Lakers from using their normal home venue in Minneapolis, a situation that often happened in the early days of the NBA).  Both teams were missing key players for this game.  For New York, forward Vince Boryla was out for the playoffs and, for the Lakers, forward Jim Pollard was injured in Game 4 (not returning until Game 7).

But even without their second-highest scorer, Minneapolis still looked like a well-oiled machine.  Their excellent ball movement resulted in both layups and crucial outside shots from Pep Saul and Bob Harrison.  The biggest key to the Lakers victory though was the offensive boardwork by their big men George Mikan and Vern Mikkelsen who repeatedly crashed the boards for tip-ins.  With this attack, they put up a lot of points for that era (102) as Harrison, Mikan, Mikkelsen, and Saul scored in double figures.  The big men each tallied 32 points, Mikkelsen on 14-for-21 shooting and Mikan on 11-for-24.  For all of this, the Knicks, who trailed 33-26 at the end of the first quarter, only trailed 49-48 at the half.  In the second half, the Lakers defense and fast break frustrated the Knicks as they trailed 77-65 at the end of 3.  New York made a little run in the 4th but couldn’t get close enough to overtake the Lakers.  The Knicks’ Nat Clifton (who averaged 10.4 ppg for the series) had an effective game offensively against Mikan as he hit several outside shots, leading the team with 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting.  But other than that, the Knicks really couldn’t get anything going in this one.

The Knicks won Game 6 at home, but the Lakers won Game 7 back at their home venue in Minneapolis 82-65.  But several Knicks contend that if-not for a controversial non-call earlier in the series, the result may have been different.

New York starters (points scored):

Al McGuire (8) – Small Forward (future Marquette Coach and College Basketball analyst)

Harry Gallatin (12) – Power Forward

Nat Clifton (17) – Center

Dick McGuire (9) – Point Guard

Max Zaslofsky (12) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored):

Connie Simmons (11)

Ernie Vandeweghe (16)

Ray Lumpp (4)

George Kaftan (0)

New York Coach: Joe Lapchick

Minneapolis starters (points scored):

Bob Harrison (13) – Small Forward

Vern Mikkelsen (32) – Power Forward

George Mikan (32) – Center

Slater Martin (4) – Point Guard

Frank ‘Pep’ Saul (15) – Shooting Guard

Minneapolis bench (points scored):

Howie Schultz (4)

Lew Hitch (2)

Joe Hutton (0)

Minneapolis Coach: John Kundla

big 3 minneapolis

Without Jim Pollard (17), Minneapolis still won Game 5 behind 32 points each from Mikan (99) and Mikkelsen (19) *photo courtesy of Orange County Register

1953 Minneapolis Lakers: Meet the Champs – Minneapolis is the land of 12,462 lakes (or the land of 10,000 lakes if you prefer), so if you were wondering where the Lakers got their nickname, that is why (Los Angeles is the land of ‘fresh water would be nice’).  This film is an end of year season review of the Lakers who won their 5th Championship in 6 years in 1953 (including 1948 in the NBL).  Narrated by the ‘voice of the Lakers,’ Dick Enroth (voice of the Minneapolis Lakers, there’s a more known voice of the Lakers named Chick), this film reviews the season.  It has footage of the Lakers in practice and in the film room (and also includes summaries of two Laker games from that year that we’ll cover later – a regular season game at Fort Wayne and the Championship-clinching game at New York).

Enroth describes the strategy and personnel of the Lakers.  Strategy – try to get the ball inside to George Mikan, get on the boards, and get out and run if you can.  He also describes how the Lakers had to adjust to the other teams’ adjustments during the season.  If the other team would run a bit against the Lakers, the Lakers started running, generally forcing the opponents to change their strategy to a more patient offense.  Basically, Enroth kept preaching how much you need to practice, practice, and practice some more (Allen Iverson has seen this film, right?) even when “you’ve had enough basketball for a lifetime, but that’s the price you pay for being a champion.”

Personnel – Enroth describes how the Lakers surround Mikan with the shooting of Bob Harrison and Pep Saul, the driving and jumping ability of Jim Pollard, the grace and power of Vern Mikkelsen, along with the tenaciousness and defense of Slater Martin.  They also see the Lakers in practice running plays that you don’t see today.  For instance, the California play where Jim Pollard comes from the baseline to the middle off a double screen (Pollard is from California) and the Texas play, where the guard opposite Slater Martin (Bob Harrison or Pep Saul) would give the ball to Mikan at the free throw line and then cut to the basket on Mikan’s right while Mikan fakes to him.  Meanwhile, Martin would cut to Mikan’s left and get the ball for a layup (Martin is from Texas – I wonder where they came up with the names of these plays).

Enroth, as I said, highlights key Laker games during that season that we’ll look at with boxscores.  The first was on November 20, 1952 at Fort Wayne and was featured as one of those ‘sometimes you have to win the tough road game.’  The Lakers trailed by as much as 15 points (39-30 at the half, 60-53 at the end of 3), but stormed back to a 67-66 lead.  The Lakers ran their offense which resulted in good shots as well as fast breaks in that last quarter and then shut down Fort Wayne on defense to pull away and win 89-81 (per Enroth’s narration the Lakers had 59 second half points, 36 of them in the fourth quarter).  Below is the boxscore.

Minneapolis starters (points scored):

Jim Pollard (13) – Small Forward

Vern Mikkelsen (31) – Power Forward

George Mikan (32) – Center

Slater Martin (7) – Point Guard

Bob Harrison (5) – Shooting Guard

Minneapolis bench (points scored):

Frank Saul (1)

Jim Holstein (0)

Lew Hitch (0)

Whitey Skoog (0)

Howie Schultz (0)

Minneapolis Coach: John Kundla

Fort Wayne starters (points scored):

Fred Schaus (24) – Small Forward

Jack Kerris (5) – Power Forward

Larry Foust (13) – Center

Dike Eddleman (11) – Point Guard

Frank Brian (16) – Shooting Guard

Fort Wayne bench (points scored):

Don Meineke (4)

Charlie Share (8)

Jake Fendley (0)

Fort Wayne Coach: Paul Birch

The other game highlighted (twice – at the beginning and at the end of the film) was Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Knicks.  The Knicks had shockingly won Game 1 in Minneapolis but lost the next 3 games and were facing elimination at the Garden in Game 5.  In the game, the Lakers had hot outside shooting to grab control in the second quarter and take a 44-35 halftime lead (the Lakers led 19-18 after one).  The Knicks, however, fought back after trailing 69-60 at the end of the 3rd quarter and cut it to 85-80 with a few minutes left in the game.  Their super-subs continued the rally.  Big Connie Simmons hit a hook shot to cut it to three and then Ernie Vandeweghe got a steal and fast break layup to cut it to 85-84 in the last minute (Simmons and Vandeweghe combined for 30 points in this one).  However, the Lakers put it away as Mikan controlled a jump ball from in front of his basket, scored and was fouled.  The Lakers won 91-84 and celebrated in Manhattan.  Below is the boxscore.

Minneapolis starters (points scored):

Jim Pollard (17) – Small Forward

Vern Mikkelsen (11) – Power Forward

George Mikan (14) – Center

Slater Martin (13) – Point Guard

Pep Saul (13) – Shooting Guard

Minneapolis bench (points scored):

Bob Harrison (4)

Jim Holstein (10)

Lew Hitch (3)

Whitey Skoog (5)

Howie Schultz (1)

Minneapolis Coach: John Kundla

New York starters (points scored):

Vince Boryla (10) – Small Forward

Harry Gallatin (6) – Power Forward

Nat Clifton (7) – Center

Dick McGuire (3) – Point Guard

Carl Braun (19) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored):

Connie Simmons (16)

Ernie Vandeweghe (14)

Jerry Fleishman (9)

Dick Surhoff (0)

New York Coach: Joe Lapchick


1953 Minneapolis Lakers: from left – Head Coach John Kundla, Slater Martin, Frank Saul, Jim Holstein, Vern Mikkelsen, Lew Hitch, George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Bob Harrison, Whitey Skoog, Assistant Coach Dave McMillan *photo courtesy of  Sports Encyclopedia

January 21, 1954 – NBA All-Star Game at New York: East 98, West 93 (OT)

This highlight from Madison Square Garden was picked up at the exciting part – with 30 seconds left in regulation and the East with the ball up 82-80.  Bob Davies came over to double-team Bob Cousy and was able to pick-pocket him and take the ball down for a layup to tie the game.  The East gave the ball to Bill Sharman who missed a tough baseline shot.  Harry Gallatin got the offensive rebound and before going out of bounds tossed the ball back to Cousy who hit a long jumper off a Sharman screen with 3 seconds left to put East up 84-82 (that shot had the distance of a three-pointer nowadays).  After getting the ball at midcourt (the rules at the time said that you had to inbound the ball and immediately call a timeout to get the ball at half-court), Jim Pollard inbounded to Bob Davies who threw a quick pass inside to Mikan.  Mikan missed but was fouled by opposing center Ray Felix as time expired.  Mikan made both under-handed free throws to tie the game and send it to overtime.  The overtime however was dominated by Bob Cousy as he scored 10 of his 20 points to lead the East to a 98-93 victory and take the MVP.


West starters (teams) and point totals:


Jim Pollard (Minneapolis Lakers) 23 – Small Forward


Mel Hutchins (Fort Wayne Pistons) 3 – Power Forward


George Mikan (Minneapolis Lakers) 18 – Center


Slater Martin (Minneapolis Lakers) 2 – Point Guard


Bobby Wanzer (Rochester Royals) 12 – Shooting Guard


West bench (teams) and point totals:


Arnie Risen (Rochester Royals) 8


Bob Davies (Rochester Royals) 18


Don Sunderlage (Milwaukee Hawks) 4  (the Milwaukee Hawks were formerly the Tri-Cities Blackhawks – they became the St. Louis Hawks for the 1955-56 Season)


Larry Foust (Fort Wayne Pistons) 3


Andy Phillip (Fort Wayne Pistons) 2


West Coach: John Kundla (Minneapolis Lakers)



East starters (teams) and point totals:


Dolph Schayes (Syracuse Nationals) 6 – Small Forward


Ed Macauley (Boston Celtics) 13 – Power Forward


Ray Felix (Baltimore Bullets) 13 – Center


Dick McGuire (New York Knicks) 4 – Point Guard


Bob Cousy (Boston Celtics) 20 – Shooting Guard


East bench (teams) and point totals:


Bill Sharman (Boston Celtics) 14


Carl Braun (New York Knicks) 9


Neil Johnston (Philadelphia Warriors) 6


Harry Gallatin (New York Knicks) 5


Paul Seymour (Syracuse Nationals) 8


East Coach: Joe Lapchick (New York Knicks)


The East All-Stars celebrate their victory *photo courtesy of Hoops Habit

March 31, 1954 – NBA Finals, Game 1: Syracuse Nationals 68 @Minneapolis Lakers 79

Interestingly, the NBA Finals at the time were called ‘the World Series of Basketball’ and the winners got $2,000 per man.  The Lakers were supposed to be a cinch to win this series.  Syracuse’s top big men Dolph Schayes and Earl Lloyd were playing with broken hands in this series resulting in an altered starting lineup for the Nats.  Paul Seymour (usually a guard) started at forward and a rookie named Jim Neal started at center against Mikan.  Neal got 6 quick points against Mikan (his other great moment in the NBA will be covered later) as the Nats surprisingly stayed with the Lakers for a time.  They even had a 13-10 lead after 1 quarter – 13-10? – yep, 13-10 (this is the last year the NBA didn’t have the shot clock).  Lakers’ guard Whitey Skoog seemed to be the only player to have it going early for the champs, hitting several outside shots.  Then in the second quarter scoring picked up a bit when both teams got sparks off the bench from their big men, Bob Lavoy for Syracuse and Clyde Lovellette for Minneapolis (the 1952 Final Four Most Outstanding Player for Kansas).  The Lakers led 34-31 at the half and 56-50 after three.  The Nats were staying alive despite getting no production from Lloyd and Schayes (the Lakers though got a combined 13 points from their great forwards, Jim Pollard and Vern Mikkelsen).  Syracuse cut it to 56-54 before Mikan hit a turn-around jumper from the post.  That shot started a 15-4 run that put the game away.  Syracuse, however, would make it a series which we’ll get to next.

Syracuse starters (points scored):

Paul Seymour (13) – Small Forward

Wally Osterkorn (11) – Power Forward

Jim Neal (6) – Center

George King (6) – Point Guard

Billy Kenville (10) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored):

Dolph Schayes (0)

Earl Lloyd (3)

Billy Gabor (4)

Bob Lavoy (15)

Al Masino (0)

Syracuse Coach: Al Cervi

Minneapolis starters (points scored):

Jim Pollard (4) – Small Forward

Vern Mikkelsen (9) – Power Forward

George Mikan (15) – Center

Slater Martin (13) – Point Guard

Whitey Skoog (11) – Shooting Guard

Minneapolis bench (points scored):

Clyde Lovellette (16)

Pep Saul (3)

Dick Schnittker (4)

Jim Holstein (4)

Minneapolis Coach: John Kundla

April 11, 1954 – NBA Finals, Game 6: Syracuse Nationals 65 @Minneapolis Lakers 63

If you like scoring, this is not the game for you (as you can see from the final score).  If you like excitement and surprises, the last 30 seconds are for you.  Syracuse had surprisingly won Game 2 in Minneapolis.  Schayes and Lloyd had returned to the starting lineup and their production started going up as the series went along.  But the Nats lost 2-of-3 at home and were trailing 3-2 in the series coming back to Minneapolis for Game 6.  Surely they couldn’t win again in Minneapolis, could they?

The Lakers grabbed an early lead and led 27-19 at the end of 1 and 43-38 at halftime.  Syracuse caught up as the Lakers had 6 points in the third quarter (yep, that’s correct.. 6 points in one quarter).  The Nats outscored them 16-6 to take a 54-49 lead into the 4th quarter, but then it was Syracuse who couldn’t score as Minneapolis caught up.  But the Nats had the ball with 30 seconds left and the game tied at 63.  They decided to run out the game clock and get the last shot (and here comes Jim Neal’s greatest moment in the NBA – even greater than getting 6 early points against Mikan in Game 1).  A pass went into Neal in the post but Lovellette deflected it away, Seymour (who passed it in to Neal) got the ball back and was double-teamed by his man and Lovellette (who was going after his deflection).  Neal was now open from 27 feet outside.  He received the pass from Seymour and nailed a jumper over a lunging Lovellette with 4 seconds left.  Minneapolis’ last effort was a half-court attempt by Whitey Skoog which went over the backboard.  Now if you’re wondering what the rookie Neal is doing in the game in the last 30 seconds, the stat sheet says that Schayes fouled out.

The Lakers won Game 7, 87-80, as they gained the lead early and never relinquished it.  This would be Minneapolis’ third straight championship.  George Mikan retired and the Lakers were never the same until they moved to Los Angeles.  Jim Neal played 13 more games in the NBA (for the Baltimore Bullets in 1955 – a franchise that failed 14 games into the season).

Syracuse starters (points scored):

Earl Lloyd (9) – Small Forward

Wally Osterkorn (5) – Power Forward

Dolph Schayes (15) – Center

George King (1) – Point Guard

Paul Seymour (16) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored):

Billy Kenville (10)

Bob Lavoy (6)

Jim Neal (3)

Al Masino (0)

Syracuse Coach: Al Cervi

Minneapolis starters (points scored):

Jim Pollard (7) – Small Forward

Vern Mikkelsen (7) – Power Forward

George Mikan (30) – Center

Slater Martin (7) – Point Guard

Whitey Skoog (7) – Shooting Guard

Minneapolis bench (points scored):

Clyde Lovellette (2)

Pep Saul (0)

Dick Schnittker (0)

Jim Holstein (3)

Minneapolis Coach: John Kundla


Jim Neal was the hero of Game 6 – but wouldn’t be signed by anyone after Baltimore disbanded in 1954 *photo courtesy of fanbase

March 27, 1955 – Eastern Finals, Game 4: Syracuse Nationals 110 @Boston Celtics 94

This was highlighted as the game that got Syracuse to the Finals in the year that they won the championship and it was a relatively short film.  Syracuse came into Boston with a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Eastern Division Finals.  Boston had won Game 3 at home to stay alive.  Speaking of home, the famed Boston Garden wasn’t hosting this game.  It was played in the Boston Arena.

The film was picked up in the 4th quarter with Syracuse up 97-88.  After being tied at 18 at the end of the first, Syracuse had increased its lead steadily to 49-42 at halftime and 75-63 after 3.  Up nine, the Nats put it away as Johnny ‘Red’ Kerr (future Chicago Bulls broadcaster) hit a jumper in the middle of the lane.  Then with Syracuse up 104-92, George King hit a long jumper, Earl Lloyd got a layup on the fast break, and King stole the inbound pass and laid it in for a 110-92 Syracuse advantage.  The Celtics got a final basket at the buzzer and in two years would have Bill Russell.

Syracuse starters (points scored):

Dolph Schayes (28) – Small Forward

Jim Tucker (3) – Power Forward

Red Rocha (15) – Center

George King (11) – Point Guard

Dick Farley (10) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored):

Johnny ‘Red’ Kerr (8)

Earl Lloyd (22)

Paul Seymour (13)

Billy Kenville (0)

Wally Osterkorn (0)

Syracuse Coach: Al Cervi

Boston starters (points scored):

Bob Brannum (9) – Small Forward

Don Barksdale (4) – Power Forward

Ed Macauley (8) – Center

Bill Sharman (29) – Point Guard

Frank Ramsay (7) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored):

Bob Cousy (19)

Jack Nichols (2)

Dwight Morrison (4)

Togo Palazzi (10)

Freddie Scolari (2)

Boston Coach: Red Auerbach

April 7, 1955 – NBA Finals, Game 5: Syracuse Nationals 71 @Fort Wayne Pistons 74

If there ever was a series dominated by the home court, this was it, although Fort Wayne’s games were played in Indianapolis because the Arena in Fort Wayne wasn’t available.  You will never see or hear that sentence again I’m pretty sure.  Syracuse won the first two at home and Fort Wayne won the next two on their ‘home’ court.  Even with the new shot clock invention for that season (by Syracuse owner Danny Biasone) some scores still were low like this game (Game 4’s final was 109-102 and Game 6’s final was 109-104).  This game was marred by a lot of fouls. By the end, Syracuse was 21-for-30 from the line and Fort Wayne was 28-for-33.

The Nats took the early lead in this one but George Yardley provided a scoring spark that put Fort Wayne ahead 22-18 after one quarter and 38-31 at halftime.  The Pistons increased their lead to as much as 57-42 in the third quarter which ended at 58-45.  Syracuse made a run in the 4th sparked by their bench tandem of Earl Lloyd and Billy Kenville to cut it to 72-71.  But Frank Brian (who was 9-for-10 from the line for the game) made the clinching free throws to put Fort Wayne up 3-2 in the series.

Syracuse won the final two games at home (home court series), including a Game 7 where they were down 41-24 in the second quarter. But they came back to tie it up at 91 and had the ball with 12 seconds left.  George King was guarded closely a few steps in front of half court and was fouled on a reach-in (I couldn’t make out the player who fouled him but not surprisingly he was arguing vehemently).  King made 1-of-2 on the line to put the Nats up 92-91.  Fort Wayne’s Andy Phillip drove the ball down court but had it knocked away and stolen by King to clinch the championship for Syracuse.  Phillip was accused by teammate George Yardley of ‘throwing the game.’

There were two interesting incidents from Game 5 of the 1955 Finals in Indianapolis.  One occurred during the middle of the action when a fan threw a chair out onto the floor that delayed the game for a minute (not sure if the man is related to Bobby Knight).  Then, after the Pistons victory, the fans tried to block Syracuse’s access to the locker room.  Syracuse coach Al Cervi had to pick a guy up by his shirt and throw him out of the way.

Read about these as well as why Biasone came up with 24 seconds for his shot clock invention here.  This was back when there was real home-court advantage (read a story about life in Syracuse at the time).

Syracuse starters (points scored):

Dolph Schayes (9) – Small Forward

Red Rocha (13) – Power Forward

Red Kerr (5) – Center

George King (7) – Point Guard

Paul Seymour (2) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored):

Earl Lloyd (12)

Billy Kenville (15)

Dick Farley (7)

Wally Osterkorn (1)

Jim Tucker (0)

Syracuse Coach: Al Cervi

Fort Wayne starters (points scored):

George Yardley (16) – Small Forward

Mel Hutchins (11) – Power Forward

Larry Foust (14) – Center

Andy Phillip (7) – Point Guard

Frank Brian (13) – Shooting Guard

Fort Wayne bench (points scored):

Max Zaslofsky (2)

Bob Houbregs (6)

Don Meineke (5)

Dick Rosenthal (0)

Paul Walther (0)

Fort Wayne Coach: Charley Eckman

colored nats

a colored photo of the 1955 NBA Champion Syracuse Nationals: Front Row – Dick Farley, Billy Kenville: Center Row – Earl Lloyd, Paul Seymour, Head Coach Al Cervi, George King, Jim Tucker: Back Row – President Danny Biasone, Wally Osterkorn, Business Manager Bob Sexton, Dolph Schayes, Red Kerr, Billy Gabor, Red Rocha, Trainer Art Van Auken *photo courtesy of


From → NBA

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