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1975 NBA Season – The Cardiac Kids

May 17, 2013

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Al Attles (top) and K.C. Jones (bottom) were the first black coaches to oppose each other in the All-Star Game and NBA Finals *photos courtesy of nba.com and sports illustrated nba

The retirements of Oscar Robertson from the Bucks and Jerry West from the Lakers were expected to knock down two great teams in the standings.  The retirement of Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere from New York took down another.  Of those three teams, only the Knicks, who finished at 40-42, made the playoffs in 1975.  And they were the 5th seed in the newly expanded playoffs.  Now the 4th and 5th place team was to play a best-of-3 quarterfinal series to see who would play the top seed.

But who was to be those top seeds?  Boston returned the same team and the World Champions were expected to be strong again but who would challenge them?  The two teams that were expected to do so were in the Eastern Conference and in the 1974 playoffs.  The Capital Bullets had become the Washington Bullets and new coach K.C. Jones had a strong roster with All-Stars Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes down low and guard Phil Chenier outside with point guard Kevin Porter.  The Buffalo Braves had a young strong roster that included Bob McAdoo, Randy Smith, Jim McMillian, and Garfield Heard.  The Celtics and Bullets would each win 60 games (the Celtics were the top seed) and the Braves would be the 3rd seed with 49 wins.  Those three teams did have the most wins in 1975, as expected.  The Houston Rockets with Rudy Tomjanovich and Calvin Murphy finished a game ahead of the Knicks in the standings and then beat them in the playoffs, winning the all-or-nothing Game 3 118-86.  The Celtics would easily defeat the Rockets while the Braves and Bullets battled it out in the Semifinals (which will be covered later).

In the West, one wasn’t quite sure what to expect except that they would not compete with the East.  The two best teams were knocked down with the retirements of all-time greats.  Milwaukee finished tied for 6th with a 38-44 record and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be traded in the summer of ’75 to the Lakers with Walt Wesley for Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters.  Milwaukee hasn’t been quite the same since.  Meanwhile in waiting for Kareem, the Lakers finished last in the conference with a 30-52 record.  They only had Gail Goodrich, Happy Hairston, and Pat Riley remaining from their 1972 championship team.  They had acquired Lucius Allen from the Bucks and Cazzie Russell from the Warriors.  Golden State had been perennial playoff contenders but had finished three games out in 1974.  But back strong they were in 1975 despite losing names like Russell, Clyde Lee and their great center Nate Thurmond.  Thurmond was traded to Chicago for unheralded center Clifford Ray, who couldn’t crack the lineup for the Bulls.  Chicago was getting older and their win total slipped to 47 games in 1975, but Thurmond was figured to help them.  He didn’t.  The Warriors surprised everybody by racing out to a 27-13 record at the All-Star break.  They held on to finish first in the West with a 48-34 record.  Meanwhile, Kansas City made their first playoff appearance since they were the Cincinnati Royals in 1967.  The Kings had All-Stars Nate Archibald and Sam Lacey.  In 4th place, the Seattle Sonics made their first ever playoff appearance.  The Sonics were coached by Bill Russell and led by All-Star Spencer Haywood and guards Fred Brown and Archie Clark.  They also had rookie Tom Burleson who led NC State to the 1974 NCAA Championship.  Seattle beat Detroit in the first round, but both the Sonics and Kings would bow out in 6 games to the Warriors and Bulls in the Semifinals.

CBS’ newly hired Brent Musberger and Oscar Robertson first called the action at the NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix.

January 14, 1975 – NBA All-Star Game: East 108, West 102

For those who watched the BCS National Championship Game this past year and wondered if Brent Musburger gushing about a girl in the audience was an isolated incident, there was a shot of a tan blond late in the game where Musburger made a comment of ‘see all the pretty girls don’t just go to college football games.’  Foreshadowing if I ever saw it.

Anyway, this was the first year that the fans selected the starters.  They selected a small backcourt for the West and the East’s pair of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe would take advantage of it (a shock that the fans selected an all-New York backcourt.. but they did deserve it).  Kansas City’s Nate Archibald started along with Gail Goodrich.  Goodrich averaged about 22 ppg for the Lakers but I think Charlie Scott of Phoenix should have started over him.. but who would you expect the fans to select? A Los Angeles golden boy who helped the Lakers to a title who also helped UCLA to two NCAA titles or any member of the Phoenix Suns?  Scott ended up playing most of the minutes at the other guard spot.  Like today, the coaches selected the other seven players.  Musberger did mention during the game that there were three players that deserved a spot in the All-Star Game (but don’t ask him who they should replace).  One of those players was Chet Walker of the Bulls.  He went on to mention that no Bulls were in the game and Dick Motta will probably use that as motivation.  Since I’m a Bulls fan, I’ll place the argument that Walker should have been in the game instead of Bob Dandridge.  Their stats were about the same but the Bulls were 3 games ahead of the Bucks in the standings and Milwaukee had 3 All-Stars! (and yes I know they made the Finals the year before).

The East got off to an early 8-2 start as they got out on the break.  Frazier got a steal and was fouled on one break, then Bob McAdoo and Elvin Hayes got easy jumpers on others.  The East kept that lead at 19-12 before a Rick Barry jumper, a Sidney Wicks layup on a McAdoo goaltend, and an Archibald jumper got the lead to one.  After McAdoo hit a jumper over Wicks and a free throw after being fouled by Sidney, Barry hit another jumper and Archibald got a layup off a Barry steal.  After a Phil Chenier free throw, Charlie Scott hit a jumper to the delight of the home crowd.  Scott’s jumper broke an 0-for-9 streak in the 1973 and 1974 All-Star Games (it was his only two points).  Two more West breaks led to a Bob Lanier dunk on an Archibald assist and then a Barry steal and layup that put the West up 28-23.  The East came back and the quarter ended with a 29-29 tie after Walt Frazier with his back to the basket guarded by Scott faked one way, dribbled once the other way, pump faked to get Scott in the air, then hit a jumper as Scott was on top of him.

The 2nd quarter started off sloppily for both teams.  Wicks went 0-for-3 by himself on one possession and Dandridge after a steal had the ball for an easy fast break layup but lost it out of bounds.  Wes Unseld for a rare time sailed an outlet pass out of bounds.  There were a lot of turnovers in this game (unfortunately I don’t have an official stat).  The East took another small lead as their bench came in and contributed.  Unseld, Chenier, Dave Cowens, Paul Silas, Jo Jo White, and Steve Mix (twice) hit field goals and it was 43-34 at 6:22.  A minute later, Bullets coach and former Celtic K.C. Jones put four Celtics (Havlicek, Cowens, Silas, and White) in the game at the same time.  They were in for about a minute and outscored the West 6-4.  This lineup did produce an outstanding play where quick passes by White and Cowens set up a Silas layup.  Frazier came back into the game and scored his 12th point on a turn-around to give the East a 51-40 lead.  The West finished the half on a 6-0 run though as Archibald, who led them with 12 points in the first half, got a steal and layup to complete the run.

An intriguing story for this game was the fact that both starting power forwards were a bit under the weather.  It was first reported that Spencer Haywood wouldn’t play too long because of the flu and he didn’t.  Also it was reported in the first half that Elvin Hayes would be out for the game because of a slight touch of bronchitis.  Hayes started the 2nd half but didn’t play too long.  The scoring went back-and-forth in the third with the East keeping its lead.  Frazier, Monroe, and Havlicek carried the East while Barry and Archibald paced the West.  There were a few highlights as Archibald from the free throw line on the break threw a perfect behind-the-back pass to Barry in the right wing for a jumper.  But the main highlights was the steady play of Frazier on both ends of the floor.  Walt scored 12 points in the third as the East grabbed a 10-point lead at the quarter break.  Cowens rebounded a missed free throw at 3 seconds and threw a perfect length of the court pass to Havlicek for a jumper at the buzzer.

Two Rick Barry assists to Sidney Wicks quickly cut the East’s lead to 83-77 but then a hustle effort by Havlicek retrieving the ball on the floor and giving it to Cowens for a layup started an 8-0 East run.  The other highlight of the run was a Frazier behind-the-back pass from the post to a cutting Havlicek for a layup.  The East held their lead at 99-87 at 4:02 when Frazier and Havlicek were checked out of the game.  The West went on a little run led by Barry and Archibald but the closest they could cut it was 106-102 before Frazier came back in to nail down the MVP for himself with two free throws for his 30th point.

East starters (teams) and point totals

John Havlicek (Boston Celtics) 16 – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (Washington Bullets) 4 – Power Forward

Bob McAdoo (Buffalo Braves) 11 – Center

Walt Frazier (New York Knicks) 30 – Point Guard

Earl Monroe (New York Knicks) 9 – Shooting Guard

East bench (teams) and point totals

Rudy Tomjanovich (Houston Rockets) 0

Wes Unseld (Washington Bullets) 6

Phil Chenier (Washington Bullets) 9

Dave Cowens (Boston Celtics) 6

Steve Mix (Philadelphia 76ers) 4

Jo Jo White (Boston Celtics) 7

Paul Silas (Boston Celtics) 6

East Coach: K.C. Jones (Washington Bullets)

West starters (teams) and point totals

Rick Barry (Golden State Warriors) 22 – Small Forward

Spencer Haywood (Seattle Sonics) 2 – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks) 7 – Center

Nate Archibald (Kansas City-Omaha Kings) 27 – Point Guard

Gail Goodrich (Los Angeles Lakers) 4 – Shooting Guard

West bench (teams) and point totals

Sidney Wicks (Portland Blazers) 16

Bob Lanier (Detroit Pistons) 2

Charlie Scott (Phoenix Suns) 2

Dave Bing (Detroit Pistons) 2

Bob Dandridge (Milwaukee Bucks) 4

Sam Lacey (Kansas City-Omaha Kings) 6

Jim Price (Milwaukee Bucks) 8

West Coach: Al Attles (Golden State Warriors)

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Walt Frazier receiving his All-Star MVP award *photo courtesy of nba.com

April 18, 1975 – East Semifinals, Game 4: Washington Bullets 102 @Buffalo Braves 108

Back in the olden days of the NBA (OK maybe not the olden days but the ’70’s and before) playoff series sites would alternate.  Nowadays, the first two games are played in the team with the home court advantage’s city.  In this particular series, Buffalo won the first game in Landover, Maryland 113-102 as Bob McAdoo had 35 and Gar Heard and Randy Smith followed with 24.  Then Buffalo lost Game 2 at home and Game 3 in Landover.

So a Friday night CBS Primetime game was set up for Game 4 in Buffalo with the Bullets up 2-1.  After his 24 in Game 1, Heard had scored 8 points in both 2 and 3.  The other forward, Jim McMillian, had scored 9, 8, and 10 points in the first three games.  Both forwards would step up in Game 4 to help McAdoo while Smith would be held down after scoring 24, 16, and 26 in the first 3 games.  McAdoo wouldn’t need much help though.  In a game where he would receive his league MVP award at halftime, McAdoo put up 50 points.

His first points were a fast break dunk in the first minute of the game to put the Braves up 4-0.  McAdoo, Heard, and McMillian would score all of Buffalo’s points in the first quarter.  But Washington led 25-23 thanks to their balanced attack; Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Phil Chenier would each have 6 points.  The second quarter started off even as big man Dale Schlueter came off the Buffalo bench and contributed a putback that got the crowd going.  Washington took its biggest lead at 5 when reserve Jimmy Jones got a three-point play on a Kevin Porter assist.  But Buffalo’s bench helped cut it to 38-37.  Then the Bullets made a run.  Porter made a free throw, Hayes made an up-and-under shot, reserve Nick Weatherspoon got a steal and slam, then an Unseld long outlet pass to Chenier for a layup forced a Buffalo timeout as the crowd was booing a bit.  Buffalo responded with five quick points but that was answered by Chenier as the Bullets maintained their lead for a 56-47 halftime advantage.

McAdoo hit the first shot of the third for his 22nd point but the Bullets kept their lead for the first three minutes.  Then a big momentum swing happened when Hayes committed his fourth foul.  With that, the Buffalo front court got going again.  McAdoo, Heard, and McMillian scored all of Buffalo’s points on their 10-2 run (McAdoo, in fact, had 6 of those points).  After Chenier got a fast break layup for a 64-59 lead, McMillian hit back-to-back jumpers.  Then Randy Smith missed an attempt to give Buffalo its first lead since 16-15.  But McAdoo grabbed his 8th rebound of the quarter and then hit a turn-around fadeaway while being fouled.  This three-point play gave him 31 points.  Buffalo would not trail for the rest of the game.  Point Guard Ken Charles would score 4 consecutive points and then McMillian hit for his 14th point and a 76-71 Buffalo lead.  McAdoo would finish the third quarter with 35 as the Braves were up 78-75.

A quick Bullets run to start the 4th would be held off by two Charles field goals and Buffalo maintained an 82-81 lead.  But at 9:46, Hayes got his 5th foul.  Hayes was scoreless in the second half to that point.  McAdoo then hit 2 free throws and a bank shot after an offensive rebound.  McAdoo then hit another jumper a minute later after blocking a Chenier shot for a 90-84 lead.  Hayes would come back into the game and get a dunk off a Porter assist, but would get his 6th foul at the 6:22 mark going after an offensive rebound.  McMillian’s two free throws as a result put Buffalo up 94-86.  McAdoo then hit a jumper from the top of the key.  With Buffalo up 99-88 a few minutes later, McAdoo got a layup off a great pass by Heard and then would steal and dunk for his 49th point.  At about this point, Washington took out most of its first team conceding the game.  But the Bullets would go on an 8-0 run led by reserve Nick Weatherpsoon to cut it to 103-96 (all the while the crowd was singing ‘Good Bye Bullets’).  But any Washington hopes would end when assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff got thrown out of the game.  McAdoo hit one of the two technical free throws for his 50th point and then went out of the game to a standing ovation.

Washington starters (points scored)

Mike Riordan (12) – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (16) – Power Forward

Wes Unseld (16) – Center

Kevin Porter (9) – Point Guard

Phil Chenier (19) – Shooting Guard

Washington bench (points scored)

Nick Weatherspoon (21)

Jimmy Jones (7)

Truck Robinson (0)

Clem Haskins (2)

Thomas Kozelko (0)

Washington Coach: K.C. Jones

Buffalo starters (points scored)

Jim McMillian (18) – Small Forward

Garfield Heard (14) – Power Forward

Bob McAdoo (50) – Center

Ken Charles (9) – Point Guard

Randy Smith (6) – Shooting Guard

Buffalo bench (points scored)

Jack Marin (4)

Lee Winfield (2)

Jim Washington (0)

Dale Schlueter (2)

Bob Weiss (3)

Buffalo Coach: Jack Ramsay

April 20, 1975 – East Semifinals, Game 5: Buffalo Braves 93 @Washington Bullets 97

I only have portions of this game from Elvin Hayes’ Vintage NBA.  Hayes seemed to be the only one scoring in this game (at least for the Bullets) as he had 23 of their 42 points at halftime.  The Braves took a 27-20 lead with 9:35 left in the first half as Randy Smith rebounded from a bad Game 4 and McMillian and Heard picked it up again.  McAdoo only had 6 points to that point.  Washington went on a 6-0 run, the last four points on two Hayes field goals that brought his total to 6-for-6 from the field.  After a McAdoo jumper, Hayes missed his first shot.  But Unseld got the putback.  Then Hayes hit his patented turnaround for a Bullets lead and then threw a perfect long outlet pass to Kevin Porter for a layup after a defensive rebound.  Then after a timeout, Hayes hit two more field goals.  The first half would finish with Hayes getting a layup after a pass from Chenier was deflected several times.

The second half would start with Gar Heard getting his fourth foul and Hayes would continue scoring.  But Buffalo stayed in game helped by Smith.  The Braves grabbed a three point lead on a McAdoo jumper.  Hayes was once again the only one scoring for the Bullets.  The Braves would lead 65-61 after 3 and 69-65 with 10:16 left.  Then Hayes got going again, he hit his 32nd point from the post and then answered a Bob Weiss jumper by scoring through a triple-team.  And then Big E did it again, answering a Randy Smith jumper with a baseline turnaround against a double-team.  Then he hit a lean-in bank shot from the top of the key.  But Randy Smith was matching him.  His three-point play would give Buffalo a 78-73 lead and give Smith the last of his 21 points.  Then after Kevin Porter split a pair of free throws, he stole the ball and got a layup.  Then on the Bullets next possession, Hayes went up for a shot and drew Heard’s 5th foul (although it looked like a clean block to me).  Hayes made the two free throws to tie the game and give him 40 points.

That’s where the game action that I have ends.  Hayes ended up with 46 as the Bullets won 97-93.  They would go on to win Game 7 at home as Phil Chenier led them with 39.  The Bullets would beat Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals in 6 games to reach the NBA Finals.

Buffalo starters (points scored)

Jim McMillian (14) – Small Forward

Garfield Heard (18) – Power Forward

Bob McAdoo (34) – Center

Ken Charles (2) – Point Guard

Randy Smith (21) – Shooting Guard

Buffalo bench (points scored)

Jack Marin (0)

Dale Schlueter (0)

Bob Weiss (4)

Buffalo Coach: Jack Ramsay

Washington starters (points scored)

Mike Riordan (6) – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (46) – Power Forward

Wes Unseld (14) – Center

Kevin Porter (10) – Point Guard

Phil Chenier (14) – Shooting Guard

Washington bench (points scored)

Nick Weatherspoon (4)

Jimmy Jones (2)

Truck Robinson (1)

Washington Coach: K.C. Jones

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At top, Bob McAdoo shooting over Wes Unseld.  At bottom, Unseld and Elvin Hayes *photos courtesy of Real GM and NBA.com

May 14, 1975 – Western Conference Finals, Game 7: Chicago Bulls 79 @Golden State Warriors 83

If I was alive as a Bulls fan in 1975, this game would haunt me.  As it is it only somewhat haunts me.  For the good ’70’s Bulls team with Bob Love, Chet Walker, Tom Boerwinkle, Norm Van Lier and Jerry Sloan, they had made 6 consecutive playoff appearances and had 4 straight 50 win seasons.  But this year was their first division title and their last chance at a championship.

The Bulls had come back to Chicago for Game 6 in this series with a 3-2 lead against the unheralded Golden State Warriors.  The Warriors basically featured Rick Barry and a bunch of role players.  Clifford Ray after coming over from Chicago for Thurmond did a solid job in the middle backed up by shot-blocker George Johnson.  Jamaal Wilkes (known as Keith Wilkes until after this season) and Phil Smith were rookies and would contribute.  The Warriors went 11 deep with players such as Charles Johnson, Butch Beard, Derrek Dickey and Charles Dudley.  Jeff Mullins was a veteran guard who had been with the Warriors since 1967 and Golden State picked up veteran forward Bill Bridges at the end of his career, with the idea being that he played the best defense on Bulls high-scoring forward Bob Love.

The Bulls had stolen Game 2 when Barry made a mistake and took a shot when all the Warriors had to do was run out the clock with a one-point lead.  The Bulls rebounded Barry’s miss and Van Lier found Boerwinkle for a layup as Chicago won 90-89.  That Chicago win tied the series.  They split the next two before Chicago broke through in Oakland 89-79 in Game 5.  The Bulls had a 25-18 lead after one quarter in Game 6 but were outscored 28-13 in the 2nd quarter and the Warriors won 86-72 to send it back to Game 7 in Oakland.

The game started out at 6-6 before the Bulls went on a 9-0 run.  Barry got off to a slow start by missing his first four shots.  Golden State came back to cut the Bulls lead to 21-16 after one quarter.  The quarter ended when Charles Johnson hit a baseline fadeaway over Van Lier.  Chicago started the second quarter quickly as Sloan would hit a quick jumper off a Van Lier steal.  Then Boerwinkle, one of the best passing centers in NBA history, threw an overhead pass from the post to a cutting Love for a layup.  Boerwinkle followed up with a little hook shot over George Johnson and then Sloan hit a pull-up jumper after a Van Lier block.  This gave Chicago a 29-16 lead.

The Bulls continued to roll for most of the second quarter as they worked backdoor with Boerwinkle at the high post and patiently killed the shot clock.  The Warriors stayed within the 9-13 point deficit range thanks to Wilkes, who was making up for a struggling Barry.  The Bulls Chet Walker, who was in his final NBA season, would finish the first half strong as he contributed 6 points on a Bulls 8-3 run.  A Love jumper in the lane would put the Bulls up 47-33 and Chicago would miss some great chances to increase that lead.  The Warriors would close the gap a bit helped by their scores table.  After Van Lier committed an offensive foul, Sloan was to check into the game for him.  But the table didn’t blow the horn to get the officials attention that there was a sub.  Sloan went in anyway and grabbed Van Lier to get out of the game but Norm wasn’t looking because of the lack of the horn.  So when the Warriors inbounded, the Bulls had 6 players on the floor and got a team technical foul.  An upset Van Lier knocked the PA microphone and a coca-cola can to the floor and didn’t get a technical (I guess the officials and scores table realized the mistake).  Barry made the technical while the floor was being cleaned up.  Chicago still led 47-36 at the half.

The second half also started off well for the Bulls.  Walker hit a baseline jumper off the 2nd half tip-off and then Love made a jumper after Sloan dove into the stands to save a ball.  These buckets maintained an 11-point lead but then the Warriors would make their first run at the Bulls.  Wilkes first made a turnaround from the post over Sloan and then got a layup on a Barry bullet pass.  Then Charles Johnson made a long jumper and it was 51-46.  Chicago though got five points back quickly as Love made a shot from the post and Sloan got an and-1 layup on an inbounds pass.  Barry’s struggles continued as he missed a pull-up jumper from the top of the key which made him 2-for-13 from the field.  Barry would go to the bench late in the 3rd after missing another shot.  The Bulls had a 61-51 lead at that point.  The Bulls though were beginning a drought at that point.  In fact, after Sloan’s and-1 layup mentioned earlier, the Bulls only field goal in the next 14 minutes was a Sloan jumper late in the 3rd to put the Bulls up 65-55.  The Warriors closed to 65-59 at the end of the third as Mullins hit a jumper and Dudley got a layup after a great spin move.  Wilkes and the Warriors bench had kept Golden State close.

Barry would come in after another Mullins jumper cut the score to 65-61.  After Van Lier hit two free throws, Barry had the ball at the left wing backing up against Love.  Barry hit a turn-around fadeaway for his 3rd field goal in 15 attempts.  Then Barry hit another jumper as Brent Musburger gushed that “the Golden Touch has returned.”  The Warriors got the ball back with a chance to tie it for the first time since 6-6.  Barry missed a running hook in the lane but the Warriors kept the ball alive and Barry hit a left elbow jumper to in fact tie the game as the crowd went bonker nuts.  The Bulls would reclaim a 70-67 lead after Boerwinkle missed a shot and fell down then stayed at the other end and cherry picked as Golden State missed a fast break jumper.  Barry then hit his fourth field goal in six 4th quarter attempts to cut the lead to one.  Then at 4:25, rookie Phil Smith hit a shot in the lane for a Warriors 71-70 lead.  After Walker hit 1-of-2 from the line, Love hit a jumper for a 73-71 Chicago advantage.  But the Warriors immediately came back down and Smith hit a pull-up at 3:18.

The Warriors then stole the ball and Wilkes finished off a 2-on-1.  Walker came back with a short bank shot attempt that went in-and-out.  Love got the offensive rebound but George Johnson blocked his shot.  On the Warriors next possession, Barry hit a high-arcing jumper.  But Van Lier responded with a leaner at 2:04 and it was 77-75 Golden State.  The Bulls made a great defensive stand as Boerwinkle stuffed Smith at the rim but then Van Lier missed another leaner attempt from the baseline.  The Warriors got the rebound and Smith pushed it up to Barry who finished a layup against Sloan for a four-point lead at 1:34.  After a Bulls timeout, Love’s shot was blocked by George Johnson but Wilkes lost the ball out of bounds on the offensive end.  But Chicago still couldn’t score as Love missed a baseline jumper and Boerwinkle got called for a loose ball foul.  The Warriors ran down the clock and at 41 seconds Barry at first went up for a shot but found George Johnson for a layup and an 81-75 lead.  After another Bulls timeout, Barry committed an unintentional foul on the inbounds and Van Lier hit two free throws.  After running down the shot clock, Barry missed a shot and Chicago pushed it at 16 seconds.  Walker found Boerwinkle for what looked to be an easy layup but none other than George Johnson blocked it out of bounds.  After the Bulls inbounded it, Walker missed a tough shot and on the rebound scramble Van Lier fouled Barry at 4 seconds.  Van Lier, knowing that that was probably it, crouched and pounded the floor in frustration.  Barry hit two free throws, Walker got a basket at the buzzer and the Warriors had survived and would play the Washington Bullets in the Finals.

Like in 1973’s Game 7 loss versus the Lakers, the Bulls had 14 points in the 4th quarter of Game 7 versus the Warriors after having a lead.  The Bulls lack of depth versus the Warriors wave of 11 players proved to be the difference.  The starters (three of them over the age of 32) went the distance in the fourth quarter, minus the first few minutes of the quarter when Thurmond was in for Boerwinkle (who wasn’t one of the starters over 32).  Thurmond was not a factor as he was 3-for-19 from the field in the series and didn’t even look at the basket in Game 7 (his two points came on free throws).  When the Bulls next made the playoffs in 1977 (sneaking into the last spot after going 21-6 after the All-Star break).  The only players still on that team were Van Lier and Boerwinkle.  Even Coach Dick Motta was gone to Washington by then.  They would be eliminated by eventual champion Portland in the first round.  Other than a 1981 playoff appearance in which they were dismantled by Boston, the Bulls would not be relevant again until they drafted Michael Jordan in 1984.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Bob Love (17) – Small Forward

Chet Walker (21) – Power Forward

Tom Boerwinkle (10) – Center

Norm Van Lier (14) – Point Guard

Jerry Sloan (14) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

Rowland Garrett (1)

Nate Thurmond (2)

Matt Guokas (0)

Chicago Coach: Dick Motta

Golden State starters (points scored)

Rick Barry (22) – Small Forward

Keith Wilkes (23) – Power Forward

Clifford Ray (0) – Center

Charles Johnson (10) – Point Guard

Butch Beard (2) – Shooting Guard

Golden State bench (points scored)

Jeff Mullins (8)

Derrek Dickey (0)

Phil Smith (8)

George Johnson (6)

Charles Dudley (2)

Bill Bridges (2)

Golden State Coach: Al Attles

warriorshuddle

The Warriors huddling around Coach Al Attles.  Sitting (from left to right) is George Johnson, Charles Johnson, Rick Barry, and Keith Wilkes (later Jamaal Wilkes) *photo courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle

May 20, 1975 – NBA Finals, Game 2: Washington Bullets 91 @Golden State Warriors 92

One thing was for sure coming into this series, that Washington was going to win probably in 4 games.  They were so confident that they agreed to a format quirk for the Finals.  The Oakland Coliseum people were sure they wouldn’t have to worry about the Warriors being in the Finals, so they booked an ice show during the series.  So the Cow Palace in San Francisco was booked where the Warriors hadn’t played since they were the San Francisco Warriors.  But Game 4 in the Cow Palace would have conflicted with a karate championship.  So the Bullets had a choice, play the first game in the Bay Area and then the next three at home or play the first game at home and the next two in the Bay Area.  They decided with the latter, thinking that they’d easily get the home win and then will take their chances in the Bay Area.

The Bullets had a 16-point lead in Game 1 but then something they didn’t expect happened.  They lost 101-95 as Phil Smith came off the bench for 20 points.  So now they had to go to San Fran for the next two games trailing 1-0.  They did get off to a good start as Riordan scored a layup off the opening tip.  Then after a Barry jumper, Chenier got a tip-in, a steal, and another layup.

The Bullets maintained a 21-17 lead then spurted.  Chenier hit two free throws for his 11th point so far.  Then Leonard ‘not quite Truck yet’ Robinson came off the bench and hit a jumper and then split a pair of free throws.  Riordan finished the 7-0 run with 2 free throws.  Barry broke the run at the buzzer of the first quarter with a running hook in the lane against Robinson.  The Warriors were behind again 28-19.

The Bullets grabbed a 13-point lead on four separate occasions in the second quarter as everyone seemed to be contributing.  The Warriors stayed in contact mostly because of the shooting of Rick Barry who had 12 points in the second quarter and 23 for the half.  It was Barry’s back-to-back jumpers that got the Warriors under the double-digit margin for good in the quarter.  The Bullets held a 52-46 halftime lead as Chenier had 15, Hayes 12 and Riordan 10.

But Washington grabbed an early 63-52 lead after two Chenier free throws.  Then on the Warriors next possession, Rick Barry had 6’0″ Kevin Porter in the post.  The pass was thrown over Barry’s head out of bounds but Barry was able to flop and get a foul call on Porter.  Then after the Warriors inbounded it, Smith hit a shot in the lane and drew Porter’s 4th foul.  This three-point play started a 9-1 Warriors run.  With Washington up 68-63, the Warriors had another mini-spurt.  Smith hit a baseline jumper and Wilkes hit two free throws.  Then Golden State grabbed their first lead of the game on a Charles Johnson wing jumper.  Then after Unseld split a pair of free throws, Wilkes hit a baseline jumper and Bill Bridges got a fast break layup on a Charles Johnson assist and it was 73-69 Warriors late in the 3rd.  The Bullets were able to respond though as Riordan got a basket on shot-blocker George Johnson’s goaltending and then Chenier hit from the top of the key to end the third tied at 73.

Washington continued their spurt as Chenier got a three-point play on a backdoor layup and then Porter hit a jumper.  But then Keith Wilkes came alive as well as the Warriors defense.  Wilkes scored 4 of the Warriors next 6 points as they took a 79-78 lead.  Then Elvin Hayes got a technical on an offensive goaltending call that went against him.  After Barry hit the technical, Wilkes hit another jumper.  After a Riordan jumper, Wilkes came back with a driving layup.  Then the Warriors fast break grabbed the next two baskets as Barry went coast-to-coast on a 2-on-1 and then Charles Johnson on another 2-on-1 delivered the ball to Phil Smith for a slam.  Golden State was up 88-80 at this point.  After Unseld and Chenier hit jumpers, Charles Johnson hit from the baseline with just over 5:00 left for a 90-84 lead.  This would be the Warriors last field goal.  The Bullets didn’t fully take advantage in the next 3 1/2 minutes as their only points were two Unseld free throws and a Chenier jumper.

But Washington got a defensive rebound and called time with 1:15 left.  The play they ended up setting up was Riordan driving the lane against Barry.  Mike hit a running hook and was fouled by Rick.  The free throw gave Washington a 91-90 lead with 1:01 left.  Barry came back and missed a jumper 9 seconds later and Washington got the rebound.  At this point, Hayes was 3-for-14 from the field and out of the lineup as Robinson, who was a rookie, played with the other four Bullets starters.  But somehow and for some reason, as the shot clock was running out Porter drove the lane and dished to the rookie.  Robinson hesitated, pivoted and was way short on a turnaround.  George Johnson got the rebound and hit a streaking Barry who was pushed into the basket support by Riordan who had been beaten long by Rick.  Barry hit two of his customary underhand free throws at 23 seconds for a 92-91 Warriors lead and 36 points for himself. Washington called timeout and brought Hayes in for the last play.  Porter dribbled some time off the clock and gave to Unseld at the free throw line.  Wes was surrounded and gave it to Chenier at the other elbow who was also surrounded.  Chenier gave over to Riordan at the right elbow who lifted a shot with Barry underneath him.  The shot went in-and-out but Hayes got the offensive rebound.  Elvin for whatever reason dribbled backwards before coming up way short on a jumper (it barely caught the front rim) as the buzzer went off.

Washington starters (points scored)

Mike Riordan (21) – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (15) – Power Forward

Wes Unseld (9) – Center

Kevin Porter (7) – Point Guard

Phil Chenier (30) – Shooting Guard

Washington bench (points scored)

Nick Weatherspoon (4)

Truck Robinson (3)

Clem Haskins (2)

Thomas Kozelko (0)

Washington Coach: K.C. Jones

Golden State starters (points scored)

Rick Barry (36) – Small Forward

Keith Wilkes (14) – Power Forward

Clifford Ray (0) – Center

Charles Johnson (13) – Point Guard

Butch Beard (0) – Shooting Guard

Golden State bench (points scored)

Jeff Mullins (8)

Derrek Dickey (4)

Phil Smith (9)

George Johnson (6)

Charles Dudley (0)

Bill Bridges (2)

Golden State Coach: Al Attles

May 25, 1975 – NBA Finals, Game 4: Golden State Warriors 96 @Washington Bullets 95

The Warriors did a weird thing in Game 3.  They didn’t fall behind and won going away.  So now Golden State was going back to Landover, Maryland up 3-0 and the favored Bullets were mighty frustrated.

Mike Riordan, a tenacious defender and scrappy to put it nicely, and the Bullets figured the only way now to beat the Warriors was to try and get Rick Barry out of the game, literally.  In a play early in the first quarter, Barry had the ball at the top of the key guarded by Riordan and was ready to come off a Clifford Ray pick.  As he did, Riordan trailing him jumped on top of him and grabbed him.  Immediately Warriors Coach Al Attles, known as one of the most tenacious players of his day and someone who you didn’t want to fight, came out on the floor after Riordan and had to be held back by Wes Unseld.  Attles ended up getting two technicals and was thrown out.  Barry smartly stayed out of the play and Riordan just got a common foul, which was his third.  Former Ohio State Buckeye Joe Roberts coached the Warriors for the rest of the game.

Chenier hit the two technical free throws to put the Bullets up 12-4.  The Bullets had been driving to the basket early in Game 4 and were getting layups.  The game was called closer after the incident and Wilkes and Hayes, as well as Barry, got 2 quick fouls.  The biggest key for the Bullets was that they were getting fast break buckets on outstanding Unseld outlets.  Consecutive outlets to Riordan and Porter gave the Bullets a 12-point lead.  Then Barry hit his first basket on a hook shot in the post and then hit a jumper on the next possession and it was 22-14.  But Washington grabbed a 30-18 lead with a few seconds left in the first quarter.  But Ray got a tip-in at the buzzer and it was 30-20 at the end of one.

The Bullets maintained a 42-32 lead when Hayes got an offensive foul for his fourth foul.  He was in and out of the game for the rest of the half but was ineffective.  Hayes, who had struggled in the series, had gotten off with 10 points.  The Warriors then went on an 8-2 run concluding with a Charles Johnson jumper.  Golden State stayed within that distance and trailed 52-48 at the half.  Barry surprisingly was the only Warrior in double figures with 14.  Chenier led the Bullets with 16 and Porter followed with 14.

The Bullets led 73-70 going into the fourth quarter.  They got off to a good start though as Chenier and Unseld hit jumpers.  After a Phil Smith baseline drive cut the Bullets lead to 80-76, Chenier hit another jumper and then on a 2-on-1 fast break threw an overhead pass to a trailing Unseld for a layup.  The Bullets maintained their 8-point lead for most of the quarter.  But a critical play happened when Mike Riordan drove the lane and scored.  He pulled a muscle on the play and had to go out of the game.  Normally his replacement would be Nick Weatherspoon, who was a decent player off the bench for the Bullets.  But Weatherspoon was 4-for-21 from the field in the series coming into Game 4.  He didn’t improve as he shot 1-for-5.  So K.C. Jones had to go to inexperienced Dick Gibbs, this would be a factor later.

Hayes hit a turnaround banker to put the Bullets up 92-84 with 4:37 left.  Wilkes then hit a reverse layup after a fake and a spin.  On the next Bullets possession, Kevin Porter concluded his 1-for-6 from the free throw line game with 2 misses.  Then on the Warriors next two possessions, Butch Beard hit a jumper and then kicked out to Wilkes for another one.  Then with just over two minutes left, Wilkes scored on an offensive rebound and the game was tied.  Hayes then hit 1-of-2 from the line and Beard drove the lane for a Warriors 94-93 lead.  The next Bullets possession resulted in a turnover as Unseld threw the ball out-of-bounds trying to get it inside to Chenier in the post.

After a Warriors timeout, Barry missed a jumper with just over a minute left.  Gibbs, who challenged Barry’s shot, kept running down court and Hayes outletted to him after grabbing the rebound.  Barry in hustling to catch up flew by Gibbs as he pump faked it.  But then Gibbs blew a wide open layup and the Warriors rebounded.  Golden State though committed a 24-second violation and the Bullets called timeout with 33 seconds left.  But Unseld in receiving the inbounds pass lost the ball off of his knee to the backcourt for a turnover with 30 seconds left.  Porter fouled Beard with 19 seconds left but the Bullets caught a break as Butch hit 1-of-2.  Washington set a play for Chenier to come off a double screen, but Clifford Ray challenged Chenier’s corner shot and Beard rebounded the miss at 9 seconds and was fouled by Hayes, his 6th.

Before the 1982 season, the NBA had the three-to-make-two free throw rule after the other team reached the penalty situation.  This rule came back to hurt the Bullets in this situation as Beard missed the first two free throws.  But Butch hit the third avoiding the hat-trick and the Warriors had a 96-93 lead.  Unseld got a tip-in with one second left but the Warriors got it inbounds after calling timeout and killed the clock.

Rick Barry has said many times that this was the most over-looked championship and upset in sports history.  Not only were the Bullets supposed to kill the Warriors but Golden State was not supposed to be anywhere near the playoffs.  Instead the Warriors went all the way and not only beat the 60-win Bullets, but swept them.

Golden State starters (points scored)

Rick Barry (20) – Small Forward

Keith Wilkes (12) – Power Forward

Clifford Ray (12) – Center

Charles Johnson (4) – Point Guard

Butch Beard (16) – Shooting Guard

Golden State bench (points scored)

Jeff Mullins (8)

Derrek Dickey (8)

Phil Smith (6)

George Johnson (8)

Charles Dudley (0)

Bill Bridges (2)

Golden State Coach: Al Attles (Joe Roberts coached much of this game after Attles was thrown out)

Washington starters (points scored)

Mike Riordan (8) – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (15) – Power Forward

Wes Unseld (19) – Center

Kevin Porter (19) – Point Guard

Phil Chenier (26) – Shooting Guard

Washington bench (points scored)

Nick Weatherspoon (4)

Truck Robinson (0)

Clem Haskins (0)

Dick Gibbs (0)

Thomas Kozelko (4)

Washington Coach: K.C. Jones

rick-barry barry_300_070503_display_image

No matter the arena, Rick Barry and the Warriors beat the Bullets in the 1975 NBA Finals *photos courtesy of Sports Illustrated for Kids and Bleacher Report

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2 Comments
  1. John Cannon permalink

    Brendan, where did you get the bit about the Bullets choosing not to have games 2,3 and 4 at home? I never heard that before. I am writing a piece for a website and would like to use that, but I need to verify it someplace.
    John Cannon 415-786-0402
    jcannonsports@gmail.com

    • So I cannot verify a link or website that I got that information from but there’s an old book by Roland Lazenby titled, “The NBA Finals: A Fifty-Year Celebration.” That’s where I got that information from.

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