Golden Basketball Magazine
NBA Finals - Game 7
1952: New York Knicks @ Minneapolis Lakers
One franchise moved and changed its nickname for the NBA's sixth season.
  • The Tri-Cities Blackhawks relocated from the "Tri-Cities" area of Moline IL, Rock Island IL, and Davenport IA to Milwaukee and changed their name to Hawks.
  • The change didn't do them much good as they won eight fewer games and stayed in last place in the Western Division.
6'10" George Mikan, the dominant big man in the NBA's early years, returned from an ankle injury that cost his Lakers a spot in the 1951 finals to find the league had passed a rule designed to limit his effectiveness. The lane was widened from 7' to 12'.
  • George's scoring average dropped from 28.4 to 23.8 to put him second behind jump-shooting Paul Arizin of the Philadelphia Warriors.
  • Mikan decided that the wider lane helped him and his teammates. "It opened up the lane and made it more difficult for them to defense me. Opposing teams couldn't deter our cutters going through the lane. It moved me out and gave me more shot selection instead of just short pivots and hooks. I was able to dribble across the lane and use a lot more freedom setting the shot up."

The 1951-52 NBA season ended with these results.

Eastern Division
Team W L % GB
Syracuse Nationals 40 26 .606 --
Boston Celtics 39 27 .591 1
New York Knicks 37 29 .561 3
Philadelphia Warriors 33 33 .500 7
Baltimore Bullets 20 46 .303 20
Western Division
Team W L % GB
Rochester Royals 41 25 .621 --
Minneapolis Lakers 40 26 .606 1
Indianapolis Olympians 34 32 .515 7
Fort Wayne Pistons 29 37 .439 12
Milwaukee Hawks 17 49 .258 24
  • For the fifth straight season, the Royals and Lakers finished atop their division. Rochester nosed out Minneapolis for first in the regular season by one game.
  • New York finished third in the East for the second straight season, then engineered two straight upsets to reach the finals again.

The top four in each division met in the playoffs, and once again neither regular season winner survived to the finals.

  • First Round
    Knicks over Celtics 2-1
    Nationals over Warriors 2-1
    Lakers over Olympians 2-0
    Royals over Pistons 2-0
  • Conference Finals
    Knicks over Nationals 3-1
    Lakers over Royals 3-1
Joe Lapchick had essentially the same team that lost in the finals the year before.
  • The only newcomer was G Dick McGuire's little brother, Al, a feisty defensive player who served as the team's designated fouler (a position almost every club had).
  • NY had no dominant scorer. Instead, four starters averaged in double figures: G Max Zaslofsky (14.1) and three front-court players: Vince Boryla (11.9), Harry Gallatin (11.2), and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton (10.6).
  • Clifton led in rebounding (11.8 rpg) with Gallatin a close second with 10.0.
  • As in 1951, the Knicks pulled two upsets to reach the finals, knocking off the same teams. The Celtics fell in three and the Nationals in four.

Unlike the East, the West finals pitted the top two teams in the regular season standings.

  • The Lakers canceled the Royals' home court advantage by taking Game 2 in Rochester 83-78.
  • Back home in the Twin Cities, Mikan & Company won 77-67 and 82-80 to take the division crown for the third time in their four seasons in the league.

The teams began their struggle for the $7,500 per man prize on April 12, Lapchick's 52nd birthday.

  • The Knicks' style was described as a "track meet offense." "Run, run, run" was Joe's strategy. "A win would be the best birthday present I ever received," said Joe. "We haven't the size to cope with George Mikan's 6-10 height but we'll try to match that with some fast footwork."
  • Minneapolis head coach Johnny Kundla explained, "We're getting all set to stop this running attack, one way or another, to try for a few baskets on our own." He identified the first two games at home in the 2-2-1-1-1 format as crucial. "We can't afford to lose either one."
  • To show the NBA's status in the sports world at that time, the Lakers' home court, the Minneapolis Auditorium, was unavailable for Games 1, 2, and 5 because a Sportsmen's Outdoor Show was being held there. So the games would be played across the Mississippi in St. Paul.
1952 New York Knicks
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
3 Al McGuire G 6-2 180 St. John's 1
7 Ray Lumpp G 6-1 180 NYU 4
8 Nat Clifton F 6-6 220 Xavier (NO) 2
9 Ernie Vandeweghe F-G 6-3 195 Colgate 3
10 Max Zaslofsky G 6-2 170 St. John's 6
11 Harry Gallatin F-C 6-6 210 Truman St. 3
12 Vince Boryla F 6-5 210 Denver 3
15 Dick McGuire G 6-0 180 St. John's 3
17 George Kaftan F 6-3 190 Holy Cross 4
18 Connie Simmons C-F 6-8 222 None 6
19 Herb Scherer C 6-9 210 LIU 2
Head Coach: Joe Lapchick
Assistant Coach: Butch Van Breda Kolff
1952 Minneapolis Lakers
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
11 Lew Hitch F 6-8 200 Kansas State 1
12 Howie Schultz F 6-6 200 Hamline 2
15 Joe Hutton G 6-1 170 Hamline 2
16 Bob Harrison G 6-1 190 Michigan 3
17 Jim Pollard F 6-4 185 Stanford 4
18 Pep Saul G 6-2 185 Seton Hall 3
19 Vern Mikkelsen F 6-7 230 Hamline 3
20 Whitey Skoog G 5-11 180 Minnesota 1
22 Slater Martin G 5-10 170 Texas 3
99 George Mikan C 6-10 245 DePaul 4
Head Coach: John Kundla

# Date Place Winner Loser Winning Team
High Scorer
Losing Team
High Scorer
1 Apr.12 St. Paul Lakers 83 Knicks 79 Jim Pollard 34 D.McGuire,
C. Simmons
2 Apr.13 St. Paul Knicks 80 Lakers 72 Harry Gallatin 18 George Mikan 18
3 Apr.16 New York Lakers 82 Knicks 77 Mikan 26 M. Zaslofsky 17
4 Apr.18 New York Knicks 90 Lakers 89 Simmons 30 Slater Martin 32
5 Apr.20 St. Paul Lakers 102 Knicks 89 Mikan, Vern Mikkelsen 32 Nat Clifton 17
6 Apr.23 New York Knicks 76 Lakers 68 Zaslofsky 23 Mikan 28
The teams alternated wins in the first six games.
  • Game One: An odd play in Q1 caused controversy. Al McGuire drove the lane, sank the basket, and was fouled. But officials Sid Borgia and Stan Stutz sent McGuire to the foul line for two shots. When Coach Lapchick protested, the refs said that neither of them had seen the shot go in. Al made one of the two shots. The missing two points came back to haunt the Knicks when the game ended 71-71 tie, and the Lakers won in OT.
  • Game Two: The visitors' frustration expressed itself the next night by holding F Jim Pollard to 13, 21 less than the night before, to shock the Lakers 80-72.
  • Game Three: Minneapolis regained home court advantage by shaking loose in Q4 for a 82-77 victory.
  • Game Four: Pollard suffered a back injury in Game 4, and NY held Mikan to 11 to pave the way for an 80-79 OT victory.
  • Game Five: Jim's frontcourt mates, Mikan and Vern Mikkelsen, picked up the slack, scoring 32 apiece, in the 102-89 triumph.
  • Game Six: With many fans apparently thinking the series was over, only 3,000 fans showed up at the 69th Regiment Armory - the Knicks' home when Madison Square Garden wasn't available. But Lapchick's crew wasn't about to give up. They held the West champs to 68 points to force Game 7. Foul trouble and the NY defense limited Mikkelsen to a measly five points.

1952 Finals Action

Minneapolis Auditorium
The Minneapolis Auditorium was available for Game 7.
  • That was bad news for the Knicks, who had lost their last eleven games in that building dating back four seasons. However, Lapchick took a positive approach the day of the game. "We're about due, and tonight may be the payoff."
  • Lapchick would have a valuable sub available for the contest. Ernie Vandeweghe had continued to play while attending medical school in the New York area. There was no conflict for the games in the Big Apple, but he was able to play in the game in Minneapolis the previous Sunday but had to leave at the end of Q3 to catch a flight to New York. Game 7 on a Friday night presented no problem.
    Ernie became a physician in the Air Force and fathered a son named Kiki who played in the NBA for 15 years.
  • A crowd of 8,612 gathered for the ultimate game.
It was the Lakers' turn to shine on defense to deny the Knickerbockers their first NBA championship.
  • With the approval of a bone specialist at the Mayo Clinic, Pollard returned to the lineup. Kundla saved him for the second half, when he contributed ten points.
  • Minneapolis held the visitors to ten FGs in the first three quarters. Only two Knicks - Max Zaslofsky and Connie Simmons - were able to score in double digits.
  • It was a "wild game," enlivened by two technical fouls, one by Dick McGuire of the Knicks, the other by Mikan. There also was a double foul called against Mikkelsen and Harry Gallatin.
  • New York's only lead was 3-2. The Lakers led 18-12 at the end of Q1 and stretched the lead to 34-22 before the Knicks reduced the deficit to 36-29 at the intermission.
  • Scoring picked up in the final period. Trailing 49-37 after tallying only eight points in Q3, the Easterners pulled within seven with eight minutes to go and put on a full-court press.
  • But Mikan got his huge paws on the ball and dribbled the length of the court for a basket. Moments later, Pollard hit a push shot from the corner to take the steam out of the Knicks' rallly.
  • The visitors poured in 28 in the final stanza, but the Lakers more than matched them with 33 to take the title, 82-65.
  • Spectators surged onto the floor and lifted Coach Kundla onto Mikan's wide shoulders for a victory lap around the court.
  • The final stats showed Minneapolis with a 48-32 rebound advantage.

Mikan's launches his patented hook shot over Nat Clifton.

Paul Arizin

Joe Lapchick

Al McGuire

Max Zaslofsky moves past
Bob Cousy.

Vince Boryla

Harry Gallatin

John Kundla

Sid Borgia

Jim Pollard

Vern Mikkelsen

Ernie Vanderweghe

  FG FT Rebounds Assists Fouls Points
George Mikan 7-15 8-10 19 4 5 22
Pep Saul 5-8 4-4 6 4 5 14
Bob Harrison 7-13 0-0 3 1 6 14
Vern Mikkelsen 5-14 3-4 7 1 5 13
Jim Pollard 4-6 2-4 3 1 2 10
Slater Martin 2-5 5-5 6 6 5 9
Lew Hitch 0-0 0-0 1 1 1 0
Joe Hutton 0-2 0-1 2 2 1 0
Howie Schultz 0-2 0-0 1 1 1 0
Total 30-65 22-28 48 21 31 82
  FG FT Rebounds Assists Fouls Points
Max Zaslofsky 7-18 7-10 3 1 4 21
Connie Simmons 4-13 5-8 3 1 1 13
Dick McGuire 3-7 3-4 4 1 2 9
Nat Clifton 1-9 6-7 10 3 4 8
Harry Gallatin 1-3 3-4 6 0 2 5
Al McGuire 0-4 3-3 1 2 4 3
Ernie Vandeweghe 1-5 1-1 3 0 5 3
George Kaftan 1-3 1-2 2 1 1 3
Ray Lumpp 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 0
Total 18-64 29-39 32 10 24 65

Mikan carries off Coach Kundla after Game 7.
Participants in the 1952 NBA Finals who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame:
Lakers: George Mikan (1959), Vern Mikkelsen (1995), Jim Pollard (1978), Coach John Kundla (1995)
Knicks: Nat Clifton (2014), Harry Gallatin (1991), Dick McGuire (1993), Coach Joe Lapchick (1966)
1952 NBA Champion Minneapolis Lakers