Golden Basketball Magazine
NBA Finals - Game 7
1966: Los Angeles Lakers @ Boston Celtics

Since the last Finals Game 7 in 1962, the Boston Celtics had extended their amazing streak of NBA championships to seven.
  • They defeated the Lakers in the finals in 1963 in six games and in 1965 in five games.
  • In between, the San Francisco Warriors won the Western Division crown and lost to the Lakers in five games in '64.

By 1965-66, the following changes occurred in the league since 1962.

  • 1962: The Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco.
  • 1963: The Chicago Packers became the Baltimore Bullets in the Western Division.
  • 1963: The Syracuse Nationals became the Philadelphia 76ers.

The biggest personnel move during that period involved Wilt Chamberlain.

  • At the 1965 All-Star break, the Warriors traded The Stilt back to his hometown with the 76ers for three players and $150,000.
  • Wilt joined a promising Sixers team, which defeated the Celtics six out of 10 in '65-66 to edge them for the top spot in the East by one game. It was the first time in a decade that the Celts didn't win the division.
  • But in the Eastern Finals, Boston won four of five despite Chamberlain's 28 points and 30 rebounds per game.
  • The Celtics led the league in defense, giving up 107.8ppg.
  • Red Auerbach's '66 team was still centered around C Bill Russell. But in the four years since the '62 finals, guards Bob Cousy and Frank Ramsey and forwards Jim Loscutoff and Tom Heinsohn had retired.
  • G/F John Havlicek ranked second in scoring (18.8ppg) behind old reliable Sam Jones (23.5), and G Larry Siegfried was third (13.7ppg).

With no team comparable to Philadelphia in the West, the Lakers had an easier time, winning by seven games but with nine fewer victories than the second place Celtics in the East.

  • LA continued to be the Jerry West show as he averaged 31.3ppg, second only to Wilt's 33.5, to lead the Lakers to the top scoring averaging in the league - 119.5.
  • But Jerry got less help from aging forward Elgin Baylor, who averaged only 16.6ppg, nearly nine points less than the previous low year in his eight-year career.
    Baylor suffered a serious knee injury during the 1965 playoffs. Doctors told him the injury ended his playing career. But he was determined to prove them wrong. He succeeded in returning to the team for the '65-66, but, in his own words, "I was about 75% of the player I had been."
  • The Laker offense was bolstered by the emergence of a pair of guards, Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich, both products of UCLA's national championship teams.
  • 6'10" C Darrall Imhoff led the Lakers in rebounds with 13 per game, closely followed by 6'10" Gene Wiley at 12.7rpg.

Final standings

Eastern Division
Team W L % GB
Philadelphia 76ers 55 25 .688 --
Boston Celtics 54 26 .675 1
Cincinnati Royals 45 35 .563 10
New York Knicks 30 50 .375 25
Western Division
Team W L % GB
Los Angeles Lakers 45 35 .675 --
Baltimore Bullets 38 42 .475 7
St. Louis Hawks 36 44 .450 9
San Francisco Warriors 35 45 .438 10
Detroit Pistons 22 58 .275 23
  • Division Semifinals
    Celtics over Royals 3-2
    Hawks over Bullets 3-0
  • Division Finals
    Celtics over 76ers 4-1
    Lakers over Hawks 4-3
1966 Los Angeles Lakers
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
11 Gail Goodrich SG 6-1 170 UCLA 1
12 Gene Wiley C 6-10 210 Wichita State 4
14 Darrall Imhoff C 6-10 220 California 6
15 Bob Boozer PF 6-8 215 Kansas State 6
21 Jim King PG 6-2 175 Tulsa 3
22 Elgin Baylor SF 6-5 225 Seattle 8
25 Leroy Ellis C 6-10 210 St. John's 4
33 John Fairchild     SF 6-8 205 Brigham Young 1
35 Rudy LaRusso PF 6-7 220 Dartmouth 7
42 Walt Hazzard SG 6-2 185 UCLA 2
44 Jerry West PG 6-2 175 West Virginia 6
Coach: Fred Schaus
1966 Boston Celtics
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
5 John Thompson C 6-10 225 Providence 2
6 Bill Russell C 6-10 215 San Francisco 10
11 Mel Counts C 7-0 230 Oregon State 2
12 Willie Naulls SF 6-6 225 UCLA 10
16 Tom Sanders SF 6-6 210 NYU 6
17 John Havlicek SF 6-5 205 Ohio State 3
19 Don Nelson SF 6-6 210 Iowa 4
20 Larry Siegfried PG 6-3 190 Ohio State 3
21 Ron Bonham SG 6-5 190 Cincinnati 2
24 Sam Jones F 6-4 200 No. Car. Central 9
25 K. C. Jones G 6-1 200 San Francisco 8
Coach: Red Auerbach

RESULTS OF FIRST SIX GAMES
# Date Place Winner Loser Winning Team
High Scorer
Losing Team
High Scorer
1 Apr.17 Boston Lakers 133 Celtics 129 West 41 Russell 28
2 Apr.19 Boston Celtics 129 Lakers 109 Havlicek/S.Jones 21 West 18
3 Apr.20 Los Angeles Celtics 115 Lakers 106 Sam Jones 36 West 34
4 Apr.22 Los Angeles Celtics 122 Lakers 117 Havlicek 32 West 45
5 Apr.24 Boston Lakers 121 Celtics 117 West 41 Russell 32
6 Apr.26 Los Angeles Lakers 123 Celtics 115 West 32 Havlicek 27
The Lakers surprised the Celtics in the opener.
  • Game One: The Celtics jumped to a 38-20 lead, but the Lakers fought back to tie it late. With the Celtics leading 121-119 with 30 seconds to go, Russell blocked a Baylor shot but was called for goal-tending by Mendy Rudolph for trapping the ball against the backboard. The call enraged the Celtics and sent the game into overtime, which the Lakers won 12-8. Russell, who rarely complained, said, "It was as good a block as I have ever made, and it wasn't a trap." West and Baylor scored 77 points.
    After the game, Auerbach, who had said before the season began that this would be his last year, announced that Russell would become player-coach the next season.
  • Game Two: The Celtics could not afford to lose both home games before going to California for the next two. They clamped down on West and Baylor, holding them to a combined 31 points. Boston got balanced scoring: John Havlicek and Sam Jones 21, Larry Siegfried 20, and Russell 19. Bill gathered in 24 rebounds as LA's starting C LeRoy Ellis picked up three fouls in the first six minutes.
  • Game Three: The teams came back the next night after traveling 3,000 miles. The Celtics won the third game of the finals for the first time in five years, 120-106. Auerbach praised his defense for keeping his club in the game until the offense broke the game open in the third period. Sam Jones outscored West 36-34, and Satch Sanders added 32, 14 more than Baylor.
  • Game Four: The Lakers had no one to match up with Havlicek, of whom LA Coach Fred Schaus said, "No one in the league his size is even close to Havlicek in quickness." The Ohio State grad hit the home team with 32 big ones to lead the Celtics to a 122-117 victory to take a commanding 3-1 lead before the season's largest crowd at the LA Sports Arena, 15,251. West torched the visitors for 45, but it wasn't enough.

    Havlicek drives on West.
  • Game Five: What was supposed to be a joyous celebration of another Celtic championship as well as the last game of Auerbach's glorious career was spoiled by the upstart Lakers, 121-117. Red summarized the game this way: "We came off the floor, got the lead, and then got careless." "Off the floor" referred to his club falling behind 37-23 at the end of the first 12 minutes and still trailing 64-58 at the half. Schaus moved West to forward and put Goodrich on Havlicek. But the Celts finally took the lead at 74-72 midway through Q3 as they held LA without a basket for 5:10. The lead stretched to nine before the visitors, their backs to the wall, rallied for the victory. Baylor (41) and West (31) scored 60% of LA's points.
  • Game Six: Back home, the Lakers staved off defeat again as Gail Goodrich added 28 points to West's 33 and Baylor's 25 to win 123-115. The contest paralleled Game Five in that LA led throughout the first half before the Celtics took a one-point lead into Q4 only to have the home team, buoyed by another 15,000+ crowd, outscore them by nine in the final 12 minutes.
The pressure now shifted to the Celtics as they no longer had any margin for error if they were to send Auerbach as a winner before 13,909 (considered an underestimate by at least 4,000).
  • Quarter 1
    After two poor starts, the Celtics jumped in front right away, unleashing a press and scoring the first 10 points. Sam Jones' 12 points paced the first period scoring.
    Celtics 27 Lakers 20

  • Quarter 2
    Boston extended the lead as they held Baylor and West to a combined 3-of-18 from the floor in the first half.
    Celtics 53 Lakers 38
  • Quarter 3
    You can't hold down Jerry West all night, and he got going in the second half, ending up as the game's high scorer with 36. Baylor also added 16 after intermission. After the Celts soared to a game-high lead of 19, 59-40, the Lakers reduced the margin down to eight before slipping back to 16 down by the quarter break.
    Celtics 76 Lakers 60

    Elgin Baylor drives as Russell prepares to leap to block the shot.
  • Quarter 4
    LA scored the first five points on their way to reducing the margin to nine midway through the period. Then, after falling further behind, they scored six in a row to inch within seven, 89-82, with three minutes left. Russell scored at the 2:15 mark, and Sam Jones hit a back-breaking 24-second buzzer-beater from 37'. Hazzard and Russell traded baskets to keep the lead at 10 with 16 seconds left, and Auerbach finally lit his trademark victory cigar. But the Lakers weren't done. Pressing full court, they scored four baskets in the remaining time to cut the final margin of Auerbach's 1,037th career win to a scant two points. FINAL: Celtics 95 Lakers 93
    The final seconds were wild. When the Lakers cut the lead to two with four seconds left, the fans rushed the floor to celebrate the championship. They knocked down Russell, who scored 25 points and snared 32 rebounds despite a broken bone in his foot. The mob also knocked over orange juice containers by the Celtics bench. Satch Sanders lost his shirt to the crowd. After some semblance of order was restored, K.C. Jones got the inbounds pass to Havlicek, who dribbled away the final seconds.
GAME SEVEN BOX SCORE
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
  Min FG FT Rebs Ast Fouls Points
Jerry West 48 12-27 12-16 10 3 3 36
Elgin Baylor 45 6-22 6-6 14 1 1 18
Leroy Ellis 34 5-11 2-3 11 0 2 12
Walt Hazzard 24 5-7 2-5 2 3 2 12
Rudy LaRusso 25 2-7 3-4 6 0 5 7
Gail Goodrich 30 2-9 2-3 4 1 4 6
Jim King 16 1-4 0-1 2 0 1 2
Darrall Imhoff   14 0-1 0-0 3 0 3 0
Bob Boozer 4 0-0 0-0 2 1 1 0
Total 240 33-88 27-38 54 9 22 93
BOSTON CELTICS
  Min FG FT Rebs Ast Fouls Points
Bill Russell 48 10-22 5-5 32 1 5 25
Sam Jones 29 10-21 2-2 5 22 5 27
John Havlicek 48 6-21 4-6 16 2 3 16
Larry Siegfried 22 4-13 4-5 2 2 4 12
Don Nelson 28 2-9 4-4 8 2 3 8
Tom Sanders 31 3-9 1-1 2 3 5 7
K. C. Jones 31 2-9 1-1 2 3 5 5
Willie Naulls 3 0-1 0-0 1 0 5 5
Total 240 37-105 21-24 70 13 33 95

Postgame

  • Auerbach lauded each and every player, but especially Russell. "He is the greatest." He insisted he would never return to coaching. "I'm through. I'm finished. My coaching career is over. My only concern now is that Coach Bill Russell will let me in his dressing room next year."
  • Russ admitted this Celtics club wasn't the greatest. "This was one big family. For the first time, I can honestly say I liked everybody on his club. We helped each other; we went out of our ways to do things for each other."
  • Referring to Auerbach's cigar, Coach Schaus said, "We came awfully close to puttng that damn thing out." He added, "They got on top of us early and forced us into shots we shouldn't have taken. I thought we were prepared for 'em. Like the press. We didn't handle it well. We did the three games before this one. And we died again at the foul line (11 missed shots)." He also pointed to the difference in shots from the floor in the first half - 36 more by Boston. "Never in all my years in this game have I seen anything like that difference in floor attempts during a 24-minute stretch."


Wilt Chamberlain dunks.


Sam Jones shoots over Gale Goodrich.


Larry Siegfried


Walt Hazzard


Darrall Imhoff


Gene Wiley watches Russell rebound.


Russell tries to block West's shot.


Satch Sanders


Russell contests West's shot.


Leroy Ellis (25) grabs a rebound.


Russell grabs a rebound in front of Ellis and Rudy LaRusso.


Havlicek guards Baylor.


Baylor drives on Don Nelson.


Another Russell Game 7 rebound.


Auerbach exults as Game 7 ends.


Auerbach enjoys another championship with his successor.


1965-66 Boston Celtics

1965-66 Los Angeles Lakers
Participants in the 1965 NBA Finals who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame:
Lakers: Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Jerry West
Celtics: Coach Red Auerbach, John Havlicek, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Don Nelson (as a coach), Bill Russell, Tom Sanders