The 1968 NBA Championship Series — Lakers and Celtics


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing columnist

In spring 1968, the Boston Celtics (54-28) coached by Bill Russell with Red Auerbach as the executive faced the Los Angeles Lakers (52-30) coached by Butch van Brede Kolff and with executive Fred Schaus.

The Celtics had defeated the Detroit Pistons 4-2 and the Philadelphia 76ers 4-3 to get to the finals. They were led by player/coach Bill Russell ( 12.5 ppg, 18.6 rpg, 4.6 apg), John Havlicek (20.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.6 apg), Bailey Howell (19.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Sam Jones ( 21.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Larry Siegfried (12.2 ppg, 4.7 apg), Tom Saunders ( 10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Don Nelson (10.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Wayne Embry (4.1 rpg).

The Lakers got past the Chicago Bulls 4-1 and San Francisco Warriors 4-0 to get to the championship series. They were led by Elgin Baylor (26.0 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 4.6 apg), Jerry West (26.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.1 apg), Archie Clark (19.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg. 4.4 apg), Tom Hawkins (11.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Darrall Imhoff (10.9 rpg), Gail Goodrich 13.8 ppg), Ermin Mueller (5.7 rpg), Mel Counts (11.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg), Freddie Crawford (10.3 ppg) and Jim Barnes (5.0) rpg.

The series opened in the Boston Gardens with its famed parquet floor and the Lakers held a 61-48 lead at halftime. But the Celtics rallied behind player/coach Russell who had 19 points and 25 rebounds and played all 48 minutes of the game for a 107-101 win.

Jerry West had 25 points and Elgin Baylor had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Darrell Imhoff had 14 rebounds for Los Angeles while Bailey Howell had 20 points for the Celtics.

The Lakers rebounded in game two for a 123-113 victory behind 35 points from Jerry West to tie the series at one game each. Elgin Baylor had 23 points and Darrell Imhoff had 11 rebounds for LA while John Havlicek led Boston with 24 points, Don Nelson had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Russell pulled down 24 rebounds.

For game three, the teams switched to the Forum in Inglewood, California and the Celtics regrouped for a 127-119 win behind 27 points and 10 rebounds by John Havlicek, 25 points and 16 rebounds from Bill Russell, 20 points from Sam Jones and 26 from Larry Siegfried.

Jerry West had 33 points for the Lakers, Elgin Baylor had 28 points and 18 rebounds and Mel Counts had 16 rebounds.

In game four, Los Angeles tied up the series, 2-2, with a 118-105 win behind 38 points from jerry West and 30 from Elgin Baylor. Darrall Imhoff pulled down 22 rebounds for the Lakers while Havlicek had 23 points, Russell 22 rebounds, Bailey Howell 24 points and Sam Jones 20 points for Boston.

Game five was the closest and the key game in the series as the Celtics led by 14 after three quarters of play but the Lakers went on a 36-22 run to tie the game 108-108 and force overtime. Behind Russell and Havlicek, who both played all 53 minutes of the game, the Celtics eked out a 120-117 win to go ahead 3 games to 2 in the series.

Havlicek had 31 points, Russell had 22 points and 25 rebounds and Don Nelson contributed 26 points. Jerry West had 35 points and Elgin Baylor 24 while Mel Counts added 20 points.

Seizing on the momentum from game five, the Celtics built a 70-50 halftime lead and went on to a 124-109 win in game six and the series behind 40 points from John Havlicek. Bill Russell had 19 rebounds, Bailey Howell had 30 points and Larry Siegfried had 22.

Elgin Baylor led Los Angeles with 28 points, Jerry West had 22 and Mel Counts had 22 rebounds. Both teams were back the next year in the finals but the Lakers made a big change in the off season by trading for Wilt Chamberlain.

For Boston, it was their tenth title in twelve years. Series MVP’s were not named then but it would have been either Russell or Havlicek who would have garnered the award.

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