In a rematch of the previous year’s final the Lakers 60-22 faced off against the Knicks 57-25 with the opening game in the Forum in LA.
Los Angeles had dispatched Chicago and Golden State and New York had gotten by Washington and especially Boston in a hard fought seven game series. The Celtics had the league’s best record at 68-14 and might have prevailed against the Knicks but for John Havlicek being out of game seven with an injury.
With Bill Sharman still as coach they featured 36 year Wilt Chamberlain 12.2 ppg 18.6 rpg, 34 year old Jerry West 22.8 ppg8.8 assists per game, Gail Goodrich 23.9 ppg, Jim McMillan 18.9 ppg and Happy Hairston 16.3 ppg 13.2 rpg.
New York was led by Walt Frazier 21.1 ppg, Dave DeBusschere 16.3ppg 10.2 rpg, Bill Bradley 16.1 ppg, Earl Monroe 14.4 ppg and Willis Reed 11.0 ppg 8.6 rpg.
This was a solid team as six of its players would go on to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
In game one the Lakers field goal percentage was .517 to the Knicks .409 and outrebounded them52-44 to get an opening game 115-112 win. Goodrich had 30, McMillan 27 and West 24 points and Chamberlain had 20 rebounds for the winners while DeBusschere led New York with 25 points and 16 rebounds, Bradley had 24, Monroe 18 and Jerry Lucas 16 points and 9 rebounds.
It is significant even though LA had a better field goal percentage and more rebounds the Knicks had 15 more field goal attempts and that is why they lost by only three points.
Game two still in LA was tightly contested and may have been decided at the free throw line. The Knicks kept the ball away from Chamberlain as he had only 4 attempts from the field but they fouled him whenhe got the ball and he converted only one of nine from the charity stripe for a total of five points for 48 minutes of play.
Using that strategy the Knicks came out on top 99-96 with Frazier contributing 20 and Bradley 25 points while Phil Jackson came off the bench to score 17 points and pull down 9 rebounds.
For the Lakers West had 32 and McMillan had 26 points while Chamberlain had 20 rebounds.
The teams moved to Madison Square Garden in New York City for game three which was a low scoring defensive affair. West was only 5 for 13 and Goodrich 6 of 16 while Jim McMillan had 22 and Chamberlain was again held in check by the combination of Reed, DeBusschere and Jerry Lucas and had only 5 points and low for him 13 rebounds as the Knicks won 87-83.
Reed with 22 and Earl Monroe with 24 points stepped up to lead the Knicks.
Game four would be similar as in this game DeBusschere led the Knicks with 33 points and 14 rebounds while Willis Reed added 21 points and 11 rebounds. Chamberlain had a better game with 13 points and 19 rebounds, West and Goodrich each had 23 points but the Knicks hung on and won 103-98.
The Knicks were much deeper as their players didn’t have to play over 40 minutes per game while the older Lakers didn’t have as good a bench.
At the Forum game five would be similar to the previous three with the balanced Knick scoring of Earl Monroe with 23,Frazier with 18, Bradley with 20 and Willis Reed with 18 points and 12 rebounds would out distance Goodrich with 28 points, Jerry West with 12 points on 5 0f 17 from the field and Wilt Chamberlain, playing in his last NBA game going all 48 minutes and scoring 23 points and pulling down 21 rebounds as the Knicks win 102-93 to win the title.
Willis Reed got his second finals MVP award and the Knicks would return in 1994 with Pat Riley as their coach while the Lakers would be back in 1980.
Jerry Lucas became one of a select few to win titles in high school, college and in the pros as he won at Middletown High School, Ohio State and with New York.
For professional basketball it would be the end of an era with Wilt Chamberlain’s retirement. He left the game as the all-time points and rebounds leader and went on to be a wrestler, actor and volley ball player and as late as 1983 was rumored to be making a comeback to the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers but as Wilt said, and “That would have caused too much disruption on the team.”
He played in the shadow of Bill Russell and his teams were ousted from the playoffs by the Celtics 7 times in his career.
The Paul Bunyan of basketball he averaged50.4 ppg during the 1961-62 season and maybe his signature moment was on March 2, 1962, playing in the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the “Gentle Giant” scored 100 points on 36 for 63 from the field and 28 of 34 from the free throw line.
Ron Griffitts a contribution columnist for the Daily Advocate