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1971 NBA Season – Big O and Big Lew

April 5, 2013

alcindoroscar

Oscar Robertson joined Lew Alcindor and the Milwaukee Bucks for the 1971 Season *photo courtesy of nba.com

For the 1971 Season, the NBA added three new expansion teams, the Buffalo Braves, Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trailblazers.  With this, the NBA went to the 4 Division format.  The Atlantic Division and Central Division were in the Eastern Conference.  While the Midwest Division and Pacific Division were in the Western Conference.  The standings looked like this for the 1971 Season, take a guess on who made the playoffs and who would have home court advantage in the Semifinal series (it was still the 4-team per conference format).

  • Atlantic Division
  • New York Knicks               (52-30)
  • Philadelphia 76ers              (47-35)
  • Boston Celtics                   (44-38)
  • Buffalo Braves                    (22-60)
  • Central Division
  • Baltimore Bullets               (42-40)
  • Atlanta Hawks                   (36-46)
  • Cincinnati Royals               (33-49)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers             (15-67)
  • Midwest Division
  • Milwaukee Bucks                (66-16)
  • Chicago Bulls                     (51-31)
  • Phoenix Suns                     (48-34)
  • Detroit Pistons                    (45-37)
  • Pacific Division
  • Los Angeles Lakers            (48-34)
  • San Francisco Warriors      (41-41)
  • San Diego Rockets            (40-42)
  • Seattle Supersonics           (38-44)
  • Portland Trailblazers           (29-53)

Now if we’re judging by today’s format (or more accurately while the NBA was still in 4 divisions), the division winners would be the top 2 seeds.  So, Baltimore would play 3-seed Philadelphia but Philadelphia would have the home court advantage because they had the better record.  While New York would be playing Boston (with the 4th best record in the East) in the Semifinals.  On the other side, Los Angeles would be playing Chicago but Chicago would have the home-court advantage while Milwaukee would be playing Phoenix (4th best record in the West).

Well, the only thing from the first paragraph that materialized in the first year of the 4 division format was that the division winners were the top 2 seeds.  As was structured for the 1971 and 1972 playoffs before it was changed in 1973, the top two teams in each division made the playoffs and the division winner would play the second place team in the other division in the same conference (so the Atlantic Division winner played the 2nd place team in the Central.. and on and on).  Also, the division winner would have home court advantage against the 2nd place team in the other division.

So as it worked out Atlanta with its stalwart 36-46 record made the playoffs while Boston and its 44-38 record didn’t.  On the other side, the San Francisco Warriors finishing 41-41 beat out the 48-34 Phoenix Suns for a playoff spot.  And while Philadelphia and Baltimore as well as Chicago and Los Angeles did meet in the Semifinals, Baltimore and Los Angeles despite worse records than their counterparts had home court advantage.  This would turn out to be huge as both series went to 7 games.  Baltimore would win Game 7 against Philadelphia, 128-120, to move into the Eastern Conference Finals against New York, who easily defeated Atlanta.  We’ll cover that series as well as Los Angeles/Chicago later.

But first, it was a early regular season matchup between what would turn out to be the two best teams in the NBA.

November 27, 1970 – New York Knicks 103 @Milwaukee Bucks 94

A big early season matchup between the World Champions and the up-and-coming team that had the most dominant young player in the game and had traded for a veteran superstar in the off-season that was billed to turn them from good to great.

The champion Knicks returned everybody important from their championship team except backup center Nate Bowman who was traded to Buffalo.  But the zen master himself was back after missing the entire 1970 season to be the backup center, that would be none other than Phil Jackson.  The starters of Walt Frazier and Dick Barnett at guard, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere at forward and Willis Reed in the middle returned intact along with Cazzie Russell, Mike Riordan and Dave Stallworth off the bench.  Russell was out for this game with a broken wrist (he would be traded to Golden State after the season for Jerry Lucas).  But Riordan and Stallworth (both of whom would be traded to Baltimore early in the 1972 season for Earl Monroe) would contribute in this game.

With the addition of two Eastern Conference expansion teams, the Milwaukee Bucks moved to the Western Conference for the 1971 season.  They had 1970 Rookie of the Year award winner Lew Alcindor as well as a young nucleus from the 1970 team that lost to New York in the Eastern Finals.  That nucleus would be forwards Greg Smith and Bob Dandridge and sharpshooter Jon McGlocklin.  But an off-season trade for Oscar Robertson was predicted to make the Bucks a contender.

Milwaukee got off to a strong start, to say the least, with a 17-1 record and a 16-game winning streak coming into their first matchup of the season versus the Knicks.  New York came in with an 18-7 record and had the previous consecutive games won record with 18 (set the season before).  ABC’s Keith Jackson and Jack Twyman called this one at the Milwaukee Arena, where there was a sellout of 10,746 fans.  The Knicks led by Reed got off to an early 12-7 lead but Milwaukee sparked by Alcindor and Dandridge grabbed a 32-20 lead late in the 1st quarter on an Alcindor jumper from the middle of the lane.  But New York made a run as Frazier got a fast break layup then Barnett stole an inbounds pass and got it to Frazier for another layup.  Then Stallworth completed an 8-0 run with a jumper.  With the score 33-28, Frazier came off a Reed screen for a jumper and it was 33-30 Milwaukee after the first quarter.

It was 9:36 in the 2nd quarter when the Bucks made their first substitutions as veteran forward Bob Boozer and young quick guard Lucius Allen (who played with Alcindor at UCLA) came into the game.  Boozer and Allen would contribute for the Bucks during the season but gave them nothing in this game, literally.  The 2nd quarter was back-and-forth.  Reed made three consecutive shots to tie the game at 42.  The Knicks, as noticed by Twyman, seemed to be depending on Reed a little too much for offense and Jack wondered how this would affect them in the second half.  McGlocklin nailed several outside shots for Milwaukee as there was 9 first half ties.  But the Knicks would take the halftime advantage at 56-55.  Reed finished with 22 points, while Frazier and Stallworth off the bench followed with 11 and 10, respectively.  Milwaukee’s Alcindor had 14 points while Dandridge and McGlocklin contributed 12.

Reed had been using his strength to force Alcindor into tough shots and had been drawing Alcindor outside.  But Alcindor had a strong third quarter with 12 points as Reed looked more tired as the game went along (as predicted by Twyman) but the Knicks still held a 70-69 lead with 5 minutes left.  Then after a Frazier missed free throw, McGlocklin took the ball coast-to-coast for a layup to give the Bucks the lead and ‘wake up’ the crowd.  Oscar then made a jumper from the elbow for his 8th point of the third and 16th of the game.  Then Robertson contributed an assist to Dandridge.  After another Frazier missed free throw (he missed 3 late in the 3rd), Alcindor got a quick fast break dunk for a 77-70 Bucks lead that completed a Milwaukee 10-0 run.  After four quick Knicks points, the Bucks brought in Allen for Robertson and pressed the Knicks (even though Robertson ‘was playing defense for the first time in his career’ as said by former teammate Twyman, the Bucks put on the press with him resting as to not tire him out.. Oscar had turned 32 three days earlier).  The press and swarming defense contributed a 6-0 run to end the third for Milwaukee, as they led 83-74.

However, Allen’s youth showed early in the fourth as he couldn’t get the Bucks into their offense.  After two DeBusschere jumpers and a Reed jumper over Alcindor, as well as a Reed basket on a goaltending, the Bucks called timeout up one and Oscar came back in.  Oscar settled them down for a few minutes as the Bucks went up 89-85 with 7:08 left.  It was at this point where fouls became a factor.  Alcindor, Dandridge, and Robertson had 4 for the Bucks.  Reed, DeBusschere, and Barnett had 4 for the Knicks.  The Knicks bench then came to the rescue.  Stallworth made two straight shots to tie the game.  Then Reed got his 5th foul on an Alcindor post-up move (Lew missed the two free throws).  Phil Jackson came into the game for him and made two straight buckets of his own (his second shot was a corner jumper over Alcindor, who committed his 5th foul on the play, Jackson missed the free throw but the Knicks were on a 10-2 run and all 10 of those points were by the bench).  After a Frazier right wing jumper it was 95-89 New York.  Alcindor and McGlocklin made jumpers to break a Milwaukee cold streak in which they barely went to Alcindor against Jackson.  But then with 2 minutes left, Frazier made a tough shot over Greg Smith after a pump fake for his 20th point.  The Knicks called a timeout after an Alcindor free throw and Reed came back in.  After Stallworth made a jumper for his 18th point to make it 99-94 Knicks, Reed closed the game with a fadeaway over Alcindor and an offensive rebound bucket.  The top defensive team in the NBA that early season, the Knicks, had outscored the top scoring team in the 4th quarter 29-11.

New York starters (points scored)

Bill Bradley (6) – Small Forward

Dave DeBusschere (14) – Power Forward

Willis Reed (34) – Center

Walt Frazier (20) – Point Guard

Dick Barnett (5) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

Dave Stallworth (18)

Mike Riordan (2)

Phil Jackson (4)

New York Coach: Red Holzman

Milwaukee starters (points scored)

Bob Dandridge (14) – Small Forward

Greg Smith (11) – Power Forward

Lew Alcindor (33) – Center

Oscar Robertson (18) – Point Guard

Jon McGlocklin (18) – Shooting Guard

Milwaukee bench (points scored)

Bob Boozer (0)

Lucius Allen (0)

Dick Cunningham (0)

Bill Zopf (0)

Milwaukee Coach: Larry Costello

The Knicks beat Milwaukee at Madison Square Garden the next night 100-99 without Frazier.  Milwaukee would end up breaking the consecutive games won streak by winning 20 in a row later in the season (it would be annihilated the next season by the Lakers 33-game streak).  New York would beat the Bucks 4-1 in the season series (this was the Knicks only win of in Milwaukee).  In a great what-if, this would have been a excellent NBA Finals matchup in 1971.  But the Knicks would lose the 7th game to an injured Baltimore Bullets team, 93-91, at the Garden.  The Knicks had won the first three games of the series at Madison Square Garden (although two were close) but had been killed three times in Baltimore.  New York would never quite be the same as Reed only played 11 games in the 1972 season, but they would make two straight Finals appearances with Frazier taking the scoring load from Reed.  Milwaukee easily made it through the first two rounds of the playoffs, beating San Francisco and Los Angeles in 4-1 series, and they wouldn’t have much problem with the Bullets.

reed vs alcindor

Alcindor and Reed would have great battles in 1971, including this game where Willis outscored Lew 34 to 33 *photo courtesy of ebay

December 25, 1970 – Atlanta Hawks 115 @Phoenix Suns 127

ABC’s annual Christmas tradition for the NBA since the Phoenix Suns came into the league in 1968-69 was to broadcast a game from Phoenix.  So Keith Jackson and Jack Twyman were back as the young talented Suns took on the Atlanta Hawks, who were in their first season in the Eastern Division.  The Hawks came into the game with a 12-23 record while the Suns were 20-17.  Guess which team made the playoffs? as we covered up top, it was the team that didn’t deserve to (Atlanta on Christmas were 3 games behind Cincinnati for 2nd in the Central while Phoenix was 4 games behind Detroit and Chicago for 3rd place in the Midwest).

Atlanta did have one of the most exciting rookies to come into the league at that point.  Still the top scorer in the history of College Basketball, ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich was just starting to get adjusted to the pro game after a slow start.  Atlanta also had superstar Lou Hudson.  Hudson wasn’t flashy but got his shots moving without the ball as one could see watching this game – really none of the Hawks were flashy, so Maravich and his style was a bit of a clash covered a bit in this SI article:

“Maravich was the third pick in the 1970 draft and signed a $1.5 million, five-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks. Then things began to go sour. The Hawks pressured Maravich to play a team game, while the seats were packed with fans screaming for showtime, Maravich-style.”

Phoenix had made the playoffs the season before and had young stars like Dick Van Arsdale, Connie Hawkins and Paul Silas (as well as the consolation prize for losing the coin flip for the 1st pick in the 1969 draft, 6’10” slow and clumsy Neal Walk.. the first pick was Alcindor).

This game started off well for the Hawks, Maravich got a break-away layup and Hawkins committed three fouls in the first 2:15 of the game.  Hawkins stayed in the game for the first quarter and wouldn’t commit his fourth until the third quarter but he also wouldn’t score until the third.  Hudson and Maravich had the Hawks first 10 points (each with 5) before a Walt Bellamy three-point play put Atlanta up 13-11.  But with the Hawks up 17-13, Walk and Clem Haskins scored the next 10 points for the Suns.  After an Atlanta 6-0 run to tie the game, Phoenix finished the first quarter on a 7-2 run to go up 30-25.  The Suns then scored the first 8 points of the 2nd quarter as Haskins got assists on layups by Mel Counts and Lamar Green off the bench.  Then Counts scored on an offensive rebound and Van Arsdale got a basket off an inbounds pass.  Van Arsdale in particular was taking of Maravich’s defense (I guess about as bad as his offense was good) by moving without the ball and back-cutting for easy baskets.  A Van Arsdale steal and layup gave the Suns their biggest lead at 45-28.  The Phoenix bench was key in the second quarter as well as Van Arsdale.  Counts, Green and Fred Taylor scored 19 points in the quarter.  It all added to a 63-51 lead for the Suns at halftime.  Van Arsdale led the Suns with 18 points while Haskins and Counts followed with 11 and 10, respectively.  Hudson and Maravich were the only Hawks in double figures with 15 and 12, respectively.

Atlanta got going in the third quarter as Bellamy started being a presence on defense as well as grabbing defensive boards along with Bill Bridges.  Walt Hazzard also started scoring (2 points at halftime, 12 at the end of the third).  Hudson also added 14 points on 6-for-6 from the field in the quarter.  It all added to Atlanta outscoring Phoenix 40-30 to cut it to 93-91 going into the fourth.  It was Hawkins who got the Suns going in the fourth.  On the first possession, he drove to the lane from the right corner past reserve Jim Davis and finished with his left hand on a little scoop as he was being fouled by Bellamy.  Connie made the free throw for his 11th point.  Van Arsdale hit a jumper, Hawkins got another drive by Davis and Haskins hit 2 free throws before Atlanta scored again.  Phoenix continued this execution in front of about 10,000 excited fans to pull away and beat the Hawks.

Atlanta starters (points scored)

Lou Hudson (33) – Small Forward

Bill Bridges (9) – Power Forward

Walt Bellamy (16) – Center

Walt Hazzard (14) – Point Guard

Pete Maravich (28) – Shooting Guard

Atlanta bench (points scored)

Jim Davis (7)

Bob Christian (8)

Atlanta Coach: Richie Guerin

Phoenix starters (points scored)

Connie Hawkins (20) – Small Forward

Paul Silas (16) – Power Forward

Neal Walk (15) – Center

Clem Haskins (17) – Point Guard

Dick Van Arsdale (32) – Shooting Guard

Phoenix bench (points scored)

Mel Counts (12)

Lamar Green (4)

Fred Taylor (11)

Phoenix Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons

Hawkins_350_111004 US Presswire Sports Archive

Two under-rated stars, Hawkins (left) had big hands and Maravich (right) was a dribbling wizard *photos courtesy of NBA.com and Peach Tree Hoops

April 4, 1971 – West Semifinals, Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers 99 @Chicago Bulls 113

There are some times in sports where home court advantage is over-rated.  This series was not an example of that.  It went the full 7 games with every home team winning.  In all other sports nowadays, the division winner has home court advantage automatically (even if the team they’re playing has a better record).  But this is not the case in basketball.  But, as we covered earlier, it was in 1971 when the NBA first went to four divisions.  So in this series the 48-34 Pacific Division-winning Lakers had home court advantage over the 51-31 Bulls, who finished behind Milwaukee in the Midwest.

Despite the home court disadvantage, the Bulls did have a 15-point lead at halftime of Game 1.  But the Lakers came back to win 100-99.  The Lakers did not have Elgin Baylor or Jerry West for the entire playoffs (Baylor only played 2 games that season).  West in fact, interestingly, was a commentator with Keith Jackson for this game on ABC.  Talk about your awkward situations.  West, however, I feel did a great job of being as objective as possible.  He did refer to the Lakers as ‘we’ a lot.  There were also 2 other playoff games being broadcast on this day (Sunday, April 4), so I guess ABC was short of NBA analysts.  But I don’t think West would get away with broadcasting his team’s playoff game for a national network instead of sitting in street clothes on the bench today (Rick Barry throughout the 70’s routinely would broadcast for the national network when the Warriors season was over – it was just a different time period).

The Lakers had re-acquired guard Gail Goodrich in the off-season, and he took up for West’s absence against the Bulls by averaging 31.4 points per game in the first 5 games.  Meanwhile, Jackson and West highlighted the struggles of Bulls star forward Chet Walker so far in the series (only averaging 15 ppg after 22 during the season).  Walker hit the first shot of Game 6 in front of over 16,000 at Chicago Stadium (the Bulls, in fact, hit their first three shots to take an early lead).  Chicago came out with forward Bob Love guarding Goodrich to put some height on him.  It didn’t work as Goodrich scored 8 early points and the Lakers other guard Keith Erickson hit his first 3 shots being guarded by the shorter Chicago point guard Bob Weiss (the Bulls would acquire Norm Van Lier the next season).  The first quarter went back and forth, but with 2:30 to go Walker hit a short wing jumper and was fouled.  ‘Chet the Jet’ hit the free throw and the Bulls were up 25-21.  The Lakers then got 6 straight points as Goodrich hit a fade-away, Wilt Chamberlain got a dunk on a pass from forward Happy Hairston, then the other forward rookie Jim McMillian hit a jumper.  The Lakers would end the first quarter up 30-29 as Goodrich scored 14 points.

Early in 2nd quarter, Laker reserve Willie McCarter hit back-to-back jumpers to put the Lakers up 36-31.  The Lakers offense continued in sync despite Chamberlain committing 3 fouls.  On one possession, Erickson hit a jumper in which three players would have gotten an assist if this was hockey and on another Goodrich got a layup after a give-and-go with Wilt.  After Erickson hit another jumper on a Wilt feed, the Lakers had their biggest lead at 52-41.  on a critical Bulls possession, Chicago center Tom Boerwinkle had the ball at the elbow.  Weiss cut around him and got the ball as big Tom set a screen.  Weiss then nailed a jumper and then after a Laker miss, Weiss took it himself and hit a pull-up at the free throw line.  After an Erickson jumper, Walker got a three-point play and Weiss hit another jumper and the Bulls cut it to 54-50.  The Lakers ended the half up 57-52.  Goodrich had 19 points and Chamberlain had 19 rebounds.  Erickson had finished with 13.  The Bulls were led by Walker and Weiss with 11 each.

Early in the 3rd quarter, Wilt Chamberlain connected with a behind-the-back pass from the post to Erickson for a layup and a foul.  The Lakers were up 62-53 after that three-point play.  After Walker hit another jumper in the lane, the teams traded a free throw.  Then the Bulls got going.  Boerwinkle hit from the elbow, Love hit a pull-up on the break, and then Sloan got a layup on another break and it was timeout LA.  The Bulls took the lead, 64-63, on their first possession after the timeout when Weiss drove and fed to Boerwinkle for a baseline jumper.  Wilt then committed his 4th foul on an offensive foul but he stayed in the game (he had never fouled out of a game at that point – he never would foul out of one).  Even with Wilt still in the game, the Bulls gained confidence.  Walker hit a jumper in the lane that gave the Bulls the lead for good at 68-66 (it was Chet’s 16th and last point).  Love then followed with a baseline jumper, Weiss hit from the top of the circle and Sloan completed the run with another jumper.  After Weiss took the ball coast-to-coast for a layup, the Bulls had their biggest lead at 78-68.  Chicago was up 80-72 after the quarter.

For the fourth quarter, reserve guard Jim King (a former Laker) made such a great impact for the Bulls that Walker didn’t play in the quarter.  King started with a jumper from Boerwinkle to put the Bulls up 10.  The Bulls kept that lead helped by a key possession in which Sloan hit a jumper after Chicago got 5 offensive rebounds (3 by King).  After the future longtime Utah Jazz coach hit another jumper off great ball movement, the Bulls were up 97-83.  The Lakers cut it to 101-93 after Happy Hairston’s jumper completed a 6-0 run.  The Bulls turned the ball over when King lost it out of bounds.  As ABC was showing the replay of the turnover, King stole an inbounds pass and then tipped in a Weiss miss (after the action got back live).  Hairston then fouled out but a Chamberlain fade-away made the game 104-95 with 2:30 left.  The Bulls put it away at that point.  Sloan hit another short jumper, then King got a steal from Wilt in the post as Chamberlain was double-teamed.  Jimmy got it ahead to Weiss for a layup.  Then the Lakers got the ball inbounds and called a timeout as McCarter was dribbling up.. or they thought they did.  McCarter dropped the ball on the floor as he and other Lakers headed to the bench.  Weiss then picked up the loose ball and laid it in and referee Manny Sokol counted it for a 110-95 Bulls lead.  The Lakers argued vehemently but got nowhere (except for a technical).

Los Angeles won Game 7 109-98 at the Forum but would lose to Milwaukee 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals.

Los Angeles starters (points scored)

Jim McMillian (16) – Small Forward

Happy Hairston (11) – Power Forward

Wilt Chamberlain (13) – Center

Gail Goodrich (25) – Point Guard

Keith Erickson (13) – Shooting Guard

Los Angeles bench (points scored)

Willie McCarter (12)

Pat Riley (0)

Fred Hetzel (2)

Los Angeles Coach: Joe Mullaney

Chicago starters (points scored)

Bob Love (21) – Small Forward

Chet Walker (16) – Power Forward

Tom Boerwinkle (12) – Center

Bob Weiss (25) – Point Guard

Jerry Sloan (23) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

Jim Fox (6)

Matt Guokas (2)

Jim King (8)

Chicago Coach: Dick Motta

walker_display_image boblove_display_image sloan

three key contributors to the early 70’s Bulls – from left to right: Chet Walker, Bob Love, and Jerry Sloan *photos courtesy of bleacher report (x2), and Chicago Sun Times 

April 30, 1971 – NBA Finals, Game 4: Milwaukee Bucks 118 @Baltimore Bullets 106

The 1971 NBA Finals turned out to be a huge mis-match.  The injured Baltimore Bullets had managed to survive the Champion Knicks in the 7th game at Madison Square Garden and would go on to be swept by the Bucks and deny the NBA a possible great Finals matchup.  Isn’t it sad that Stern wasn’t around to rig the 1971 Eastern Conference Finals so that the Knicks would win (Wait! I didn’t say that!).

To be frank, this could have been a great Finals matchup had Baltimore had a healthy Gus Johnson (who missed 7 playoff games in 1971, including 2 in the Finals.. he played in Game 4 though) and/or a healthy Earl Monroe (who was slowed by a pulled groin muscle and averaged only 13 ppg in the Finals minus a 26-point Game 1).  But Milwaukee had a really dominant team that season that I think only New York would have had a chance against.  Oscar Robertson was too powerful physically for Baltimore point guard Fred Carter and Lew Alcindor was 6 inches taller than his counterpart Wes Unseld.  Baltimore also had to survive 7 game wars with Philadelphia and New York while Milwaukee had ho-hum 5-game series’ versus San Francisco and Los Angeles (of Milwaukee’s 10 playoff games in those two series, 3 were decided by less than 12 points and the Bucks were 1-2 in those games).  So all those factors combined for a Milwaukee sweep with their closest victory being 8 points in Game 3.

For this game, there was only a broadcast of most of the second half.  Milwaukee had a 60-47 halftime lead at the Baltimore Civic Center (after leading 31-22 after the 1st quarter).  But in the first minute of the 2nd half, Baltimore scored 6 unanswered points.  However, when action resumed Bob Dandridge nailed a jumper in the lane after an offensive rebound then Monroe got re-injured and had to go get re-taped in the locker room (he would return but didn’t score for the rest of the game).  Oscar Robertson then took over as he dished to McGlocklin for two jumpers and to Greg Smith for a layup on the fast break.  Oscar completed his rally with a scoop in the lane on an Alcindor assist.  This shot completed a 10-0 Bucks run and it was 70-53.

Fred Carter hit 3 consecutive jumpers and a Jack Marin jumper completed a 10-4 Bullets run to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 74-63.  It was the closest Baltimore got for the rest of the game.  Alcindor got two dunks (one after great ball movement and the other over Unseld) and Greg Smith got a fast break layup and the lead was 82-64.  Baltimore in a desperate attempt to come back put Gus Johsnon at center to try and draw Alcindor outside.  But Gus’ knees just weren’t themselves as highlighted on a big play at the end of the 3rd quarter.  After Baltimore cut the lead to 89-77 there was a fast break with Monroe going one-on-one and Johnson trailing.  Monroe got his man in the air and threw a slick behind-the-back pass to Gus, but Johnson’s dunk attempt hit the front rim and caromed into the air after hitting the back rim.

In the fourth quarter, the lead ranged from 12-17 but Baltimore never made a serious threat.  Oscar won his first championship finishing with 30 points in Game 4 on 11-for-15 shooting from the field and 8-for-9 from the line.  Robertson and Alcindor were subdued in the post-game, thinking the best was ahead of them (or because their personalities were naturally subdued).  But in an era where there turned out to be 4 great teams that won championships, a long-frustrated franchise would get theirs the next season.

Lew Alcindor would officially change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that summer.  For the Baltimore Bullets, the team broke up in the next few seasons.  Fred Carter would be traded to Philadelphia along with Kevin Loughery for Archie Clark early in the 1972 season.  A month later, Monroe was shipped to New York for Dave Stallworth and Mike Riordan.  Before the end of the season, Gus Johnson was traded to Phoenix for a 2nd round pick.  Then in the summer of ’72, Marin was traded to the Houston Rockets for Elvin Hayes.  Hayes, Unseld, Riordan, Clark and 1971 draftee Phil Chenier formed the nucleus of the Bullets as they moved to Landover, Maryland.

Milwaukee starters (points scored)

Bob Dandridge (21) – Small Forward

Greg Smith (14) – Power Forward

Lew Alcindor (27) – Center

Oscar Robertson (30) – Point Guard

Jon McGlocklin (12) – Shooting Guard

Milwaukee bench (points scored)

Bob Boozer (5)

Lucius Allen (4)

McCoy McLemore (5)

Marv Winkler (0)

Dick Cunningham (0)

Bob Greacen (0)

Jeff Webb (0)

Milwaukee Coach: Larry Costello

Baltimore starters (points scored)

Jack Marin (12) – Small Forward

Gus Johnson (11) – Power Forward

Wes Unseld (11) – Center

Fred Carter (28) – Point Guard

Earl Monroe (12) – Shooting Guard

Baltimore bench (points scored)

Kevin Loughery (18)

John Tresvant (8)

George Johnson (0)

Dorie Murrey (0)

Gary Zeller (6)

Baltimore Coach: Gene Shue

kareem_abdul_jabbar_1971_04_01

Lew Alcindor was the 1971 NBA Finals MVP after averaging 27 ppg versus the Bullets *photo courtesy of Spokeo

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One Comment
  1. Jack Runkle permalink

    The oddity of the crossover of playing first place team from one division against second-place team of another division may have come from the NHL playoffs. When the NHL expanded in 1966-67, it went from 6 teams to 12 teams overnight. All of the established teams played in one division and the expansion temas played in the other. The second round would have the remaining top seed from each division play the remaining lower seed from the other division to try to keep the best two teams alive for the Stanley Cup Final. In this way, the final may have two teams from the same division playing each other, although this did not happen, as expansion St. Louis was full of veterans who took them to the finals 3 straight years.

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