Golden Basketball Magazine
NBA Finals - Game 7
1970: Los Angeles Lakers @ New York Knicks

The New York Knicks were one of the 11 original franchises when the Basketball Association of America, the forerunner of the National Basketball Association, began in 1946-47.
  • 23 years later, owner Ned Irish's club had still not won a league champion­ship.
  • They lost in the finals three straight years: 1951-53.
  • From 1956-1966, they reached the playoffs only once.

Their fortunes began to change in December 1967 when they hired Red Holzman, a Knicks scout, as head coach to replace former Knick star Dick McGuire.

  • Where McGuire had been easygoing, Holzman was tough.
  • Preaching strong defense, Red led the Knicks to the playoffs that year and in 1967-68, losing in the Eastern semifinals both times.
  • The next season, they lost to the Celtics in the East finals.
  • They finally broke through in 1969-70, upending the Milwaukee Bucks in five games to advance to the league finals for the first time in 16 years.

New York's success resulted from a combination of better coaching and drafting along with advantageous trades.

  • A year after Red took over, the Knicks traded C Walt Bellamy and G Howard Komives to Detroit for F Dave DeBusschere. The Pistons had made Dave their player-coach in 1964 when he was just 24 years old.
  • Although he wasn't a good leaper, DeBusschere was an excellent rebounder because he knew how to get position and box out. He also passed the ball well and had a smooth shot with great range.
  • Holzman focused his coaching almost entirely on defense, jokingly telling his players, "On offense, you guys can do what you want." Red let DeBus­schere install several key offensive plays that freed F Bill Bradley to shoot.
  • Trading Komives opened a spot in the backcourt for Walt Frazier, one of the best defensive guards in the league. As he got more playing time, Walt developed into an outstanding point guard and scorer.
  • The DeBusschere trade also allowed Willis Reed, who had been playing strong forward, to move to his natural position, center. Like Bill Russell, Reed was quick and intelligent but with a much better shot with more range. Like DeBusschere, Willis wasn't a great leaper but was a strong rebounder.
    Reed recalled that, after the Knicks lost to the Celtics in the 1969 East Finals, "DeBusschere said in the locker room that next year was going to be our year. We really believed it. Everybody went home eager for next year. We couldn't wait for the season to start. Everybody came back in good shape and ready to go."

The Knicks started 1969-70 strong and never looked back.

  • After winning the first five, then losing the six, they ripped off 18 victories in a row, a league record.
  • Inspired by Madison Square Garden crowds that were the most raucous in the league, the Knicks forged a league-best 60-22 record, including 30 of 41 home wins.
  • True to Holzman's creed, the Knicks led the league in defense, allowing 105.9ppg, almost six points better than the second place Lakers.

After winning a hard-fought seven-game series with the Baltimore Bullets, the Knicks met Milwaukee and their sensational rookie C Lew Alcindor in the East finals. But the Bucks were still a year away from prominence and fell in five games.

Despite reaching the finals the year before, the Lakers had a new coach as Joe Mullaney replaced Butch van Breda Kolff.

  • The team still had their Big Three: F Elgin Baylor, C Wilt Chamberlain, and G Jerry West.
  • But Wilt suffered a knee injury nine games into the season and didn't return until the final three games in March.
  • Yet LA finished second in the West, only two games behind the Atlanta Hawks.
  • One of the players who took up the slack without Wilt was F Happy Hair­ston, who average 20.6ppg.
  • But with Wilt back, they eliminated the Phoenix Suns in seven games be­fore taking four of five from Atlanta to reach the league finals for the third straight year and seven times in the last nine seasons.

Final standings

Eastern Division
Team W L % GB
New York Knicks 60 22 .732 --
Milwaukee Bucks 56 26 .683 4
Baltimore Bullets 50 32 .610 10
Philadelphia 76ers 42 40 .512 18
Cincinnati Royals 36 46 .439 24
Boston Celtics 34 48 .415 26
Detroit Pistons 31 51 .378 29
Western Division
Team W L % GB
Atlanta Hawks 48 34 .585 --
Los Angeles Lakers 46 36 .561 2
Chicago Bulls 39 43 .476 9
Phoenix Suns 39 43 .476 9
Seattle Supersonics 36 46 .439 12
San Francisco Warriors 30 52 .366 18
San Diego Rockets 27 55 .329 21
  • Division Semifinals
    Bucks over 76ers 4-1
    Knicks over Bullets 4-3
    Hawks over Bulls 4-1
    Lakers over Suns 4-3
  • Division Finals
    Knicks over Bucks 4-1
    Lakers over Hawks 4-0
1970- Los Angeles Lakers
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
13 Wilt Chamberlain C 7-1 275 Kansas 11
14 John Tresvant PF 6-7 215 Seattle 6
15 Willie McCarter SG 6-3 175 Drake 1
20 Dick Garrett SG 6-3 185 Southern Illinois 1
21 Johnny Egan PG 5-11 180 Providence 9
22 Elgin Baylor SF 6-5 225 Seattle 12
24 Keith Erickson SF 6-5 195 UCLA 5
31 Mel Counts PF 7-0 230 Oregon State 6
33 Mike Lynn SF 6-7 215 UCLA 1
35 Rick Roberson C 6-9 230 Cincinnati 1
44 Jerry West PG 6-2 175 West Virginia 10
52 Happy Hairston PF 6-7 225 NYU 6
Coach: Joe Mullaney
1970 New York Knicks
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
5 Don May SF 6-4 200 Dayton 2
6 Mike Riordan SG 6-4 200 Providence 2
9 Dave Stallworth SF 6-7 200 Wichita State 3
10 Walt Frazier PG 6-4 200 Southern Illinois 3
12 Dick Barnett SG 6-4 190 Tennessee State 9
16 John Warren SG 6-3 180 St. John's 1
17 Nate Bowman C 6-10 230 Wichita State 4
19 Willis Reid C 6-9 235 Grambling 6
20 Bill Hosket PF 6-8 225 Ohio State 2
22 Dave DeBusschere PF 6-6 220 Detroit 8
24 Bill Bradley SF 6-5 205 Princeton 3
33 Cazzie Russell SF 6-5 218 Michigan 4
Coach: Red Holzman
# Date Place Winner Loser Winning Team
High Scorer
Losing Team
High Scorer
1 Apr.24 New York Knicks 124 Lakers 120 Reed 37 West 33
2 Apr.27 New York Lakers 105 Knicks 103 West 34 Reed 29
3 Apr.29 Los Angeles Knicks 111 Lakers 108 Reed 38 West 34
4 May 1 Los Angeles Lakers 121 Knicks 115 West 37 Barnett 29
5 May 6 Los Angeles Lakers 135 Knicks 113 Chamberlain 45 DeBusschere 25
6 May 5 New York Knicks 113 Lakers 99 Frazier 36 West 28
The teams alternated wins until a key injury almost changed that pattern.
  • Game One: Reed outscored Chamberlain 37-17, mostly by popping out of the post for jump shots while Wilt stayed down low. The Knicks jumped out to a 35-25 lead after the first quarter and extended it by a point at halftime. But the Lakers stormed back in Q3, outscoring NY 38-24 to take a 92-89 lead. A key factor was Knicks G Dick Barnett getting into foul trouble after holding down Jerry West during the first half. But NY turned up their defense and won the fourth quarter 35-20.
    West praised the Knicks. "They're such a very, very intelligent team. Reed is so active, and they recognize this and use him so well in their offense. And they all can hit. They just work for an open 15' shot."

    Wilt Chamberlain guards Walt Frazier.
    Game Two: The Lakers started faster, and the game was tied 52-52 at halftime and 83-83 going into the final period. Chamberlain did a better job on Reed, forcing 17 missed shots. The game was nip-and-tuck until the final minute. West made two FTs with 0:46 left to put LA up 105-103. Then Chamberlain blocked Reed's shot, but the Knicks retrieved the ball. But a miss and a three-second violation allowed the Lakers to escape with a two-point win.

    Chamberlain guards Willis Reed.
  • Game Three: Back home, the Lakers raced to a 56-42 halftime lead. But the Knicks reversed the momentum in Q3 as DeBusschere and Barnett started hitting perimeter shots. The visitors finally tied the score at 96 with two minutes left. After Reed's FT put the Knicks ahead by one, West's jumper put LA back on top by one. But Barnett returned the favor at the 0:19 mark. As the Lakers worked for the final shot, Barnett fouled Wilt, a notoriously poor free throw shooter. He made only one of two to even the score again. DeBusschere hit what seemed to be the game winner to make it 102-100 with only three seconds left and the Lakers out of timeouts. But Jerry West took the inbounds pass, dribbled to within two strides of midcourt, and let fly a 60-footer. Swish! With no three-point shot yet in the NBA, the game went into overtime.

    West (far right) sinks a 60' shot to send Game 3 into overtime.
    Unfortunately for the Lakers, West's heroics was in vain since the Knicks scored the final three points for a 111-108 victory.
  • Game Four: Another overtime classic. Playing with a sprained thumb, West tallied 37 with 18 assists as neither team led by more than seven points at any of the first three quarter breaks. A bench-warmer proved to be the hero for the Lakers as John Tresvant hit three baskets in the overtime to even the series again, 121-115.

    Reed grabs a rebound.
  • Game Five: Whether it's the World Series or the NBA Finals, Game Five is the pivotal contest when the teams are tied with two wins apiece. Knicks fans recall this game as one of the greatest in their team's history. With LA leading 25-15 a little over eight minutes into the game, Reed tried to go around Wilt from the foul line but tripped over The Dipper's extra large foot and feel to the floor, writhing in pain from a torn thigh muscle. The Garden crowd grew quiet as Willis was helped off the court. With no Knick capable of checking Wilt, the Lakers expanded their lead to 53-40 at the half. In the locker room, Bill Bradley suggested the Knicks forget about using a pivot man on offense and employ a 3-2 zone offense to force Chamberlain to come out from the basket or give them open shots. But the Knicks had no one to check Chamberlain on defense. So the Lakers tried to get the ball inside during the third quarter only to have the defense collapse on Wilt and get turnovers. Inspired by 19,500 rabid fans chanting "Let's go, Knicks!," NY outscored the Lakers 35-29 in the period. The momentum continued in the final quarter until Bradley hit two straight jumpers to take an 89-87 lead with 5:19 left. The Lakers never regained the advantage as they committed 30 turnovers, and West failed to score a field goal in the second half. Chamberlain scored only four points in the half despite being guarded by much shorter players. Final score: Knicks 107 Lakers 100
  • Game Six: The Lakers corrected their mistakes from Game 5 and dominated the Knicks 135-113. Chamberlain sank 20-of-27 for 45 points and West added 33. Wilt also pulled down 27 rebounds. Rookie G Dick Garrett started hot and ended with 18 unexpected points.

Game Seven

In the locker room, captain Dave DeBusschere asked Willis Reed to give the team just one half. After receiving a cortisone shot, Willis joined his teammates for the pregame warmups to the great delight of the MSG crowd of 19,500.
Frazier recalled: "People thought it was premeditated that we knew Willis would play or come out. When we left the locker room, we had no idea." He added that when he saw the Lakers stop their warmups and stare at Reed, "Something told me we might have these guys."

Reed comes out from Game 7 warmups to a roar from the crowd.
  • Quarter 1
    Chamberlain easily won the tip from Reed, who didn't try to jump and stayed at midcourt as the Lakers missed a shot. Then Willis electrified the crowd by taking a pass from "Clyde" Frazier and hitting the first basket of the game - a "jumper" from the top to the key.
    Reed recalled: "Clyde wanted to see if I could make it. I was surprised that he passed me that first shot. But that's the kind of team we had, open man. You know, Red said, 'I don't care who shoots it as long as you're the open man.'"
    Willis didn't guard Chamberlain as Wilt followed a missed shot for LA's first basket. A half-minute later, Reed hit another basket from the top of the key. He then fouled Chamberlain, who missed both free throws. Walt Frazier, told by Coach Holzman to shoot more with Reed's status uncertain, got his first basket on the way to a 15-point quarter. Dave DeBusschere's jumper extended the lead to 9-2. With Barnett hounding Jerry West, the Knick lead reached 15-6 before Wilt finally got his first points on a putback.
    West had also gotten shots in both injured thumbs before the game and would receive another dose at halftime.
    Holzman's game plan called for the Knicks to attack Dick Garrett, who scored 20 in Game 6. As a result, the rookie picked up his third foul and went to the bench. West hit his first basket to make it 24-16, but a Frazier jumper upped the lead to ten again. Late in the period, Reed landed awkwardly on his bad leg after trying for a rebound but gutted out the rest of the period. Chamberlain finally made one of his "Big Dipper" shots, but the Knicks stayed hot.
    Knicks 38 Lakers 24

    Frazier shoots as Bradley blocks out West.

  • Quarter 2
    Continuing to play at their pace, the Knicks stretched the lead to 57-33 midway through the period. Two minutes later, the shooting statistics read: Knicks 24-for-40 (60%), Lakers 15-for-38 (39.5%). Continuing to keep Chamberlain from getting the ball directly under the hoop, Reed committed his third foul and was replaced for the first time. Garrett, who scored 18 in the first half of Game 6, sank only four. Chamberlain finally hit a free throw after missing his first seven. Frazier finished the half with 21 points. DeBusschere added 12 and Bradley 11. For LA, West led with 13, two more than Wilt. Knicks 69 Lakers 42
  • Quarter 3
    Reed stayed in the locker room and barely made it back for the start of the period. Nate Bowman was ready for the tip but surrendered to Willis. When he picked up his fourth personal with 5:44 remaining in the period and NY leading 79-54, Reed left the court for good. With Bowman, taller by an inch but not as strong as Willis, guarding Reed, the Knicks collapsed on Wilt when he got the ball and conceded the open shots. The strategy worked as the Lakers shaved only two points off the lead during the period.
    Knicks 94 Lakers 69
  • Quarter 4
    The Lakers didn't employ a press. Mullaney explained afterward, "If we used the press, we would have had to employ a completely different lineup. That would mean taking out our veterans and some of our better scorers." Showing some heart, LA "won" the final 12 minutes 30-19.
    FINAL: Knicks 113 Lakers 99


Ned Irish

Red Holzman

Walt Bellamy

Dave DeBusschere

Bill Bradley

Walt Frazier

Willis Reed

Lew Alcindor

Joe Mullaney

Happy Hairston

Willis Reed shoots over Wilt Chamberlain.

West drives past Frazier and Reed.

John Tresvant

Elgin Baylor shoots over Dave DeBusschere

West drives past Dick Barnett.

Walt Frazier drives past
Jerry West.

Reed makes a layup.

Reed trips over Chamberlain's foot.

West shoots.

Frazier guards Dick Garrett

Game 7 action.

Nate Bowman
  Min FG FT Rebs Ast Fouls Points
Walt Frazier 44 12-17 12-12 7 19 3 36
Dick Barnett 42 9-20 3-3 0 2 4 21
Bill Bradley 42 8-18 1-1 4 5 3 17
Dave DeBusschere 37 8-15 2-2 17 1 1 18
Willis Reed 27 2-5 0-0 3 1 4 4
Nate Bowman 21 3-5 0-1 5 0 5 6
Dave Stallworth 11 1-5 2-2 2 1 3 4
Mike Riordan 10 2-3 1-2 2 1 2 5
Cazzie Russell 6 1-4 0-0 3 0 0 2
Total 240 46-92 21-23 43 30 25 113
  Min FG FT Rebs Ast Fouls Points
Jerry West 48 9-19 10-12 6 5 4 28
Elgin Baylor 36 9-17 1-2 5 1 2 19
Wilt Chamberlain 48 10-16 1-11 24 4 1 21
Keith Erickson 36 5-10 4-6 6 6 3 14
Dick Garrett 34 3-10 2-2 4 1 4 8
Happy Hairston 15 2-5 2-2 2 0 1 6
John Tresvant 12 0-4 3-3 2 0 2 3
Johnny Egan 11 0-2 0-0 0 0 2 0
Total 240 38-83 23-38 49 17 19 99

was voted the Finals MVP.
On the night of Game 7, the New York Mets hosted the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium. Willie Mays hit home runs 605 and 606 of his illustrious career in a 7-1 drubbing of the Mets. From The New York Daily News: "Shea was overrun by transistor radios, as the large crowd of 43,109 kept track of the Knicks' lopsided drive to the NBA championship. Even M. Donald Grant, Mets President, could be found listening."


Knicks Locker Room

  • Willis Reed almost apologized for his performance. "I was never much confident of the leg. I never felt I could do much on it. I was going to play on one leg if I had to, so I knew I'd be there. But I couldn't do much. It killed me."
  • Clyde Frazier had a different view. "His presence did it. He was there, and he is our leader and what else could we have done? We had to win it." Overhearing what Frazier said, Reed smiled and asked, "All I want to know, man, is why you didn't pass me the ball more?" Frazier retorted, "Because I don't throw to a man who won't run up the court, captain."
  • Coach Holzman on Reed: "He gave us a tremendous lift just going out there. He couldn't play his normal game, but he did a lot of things out there. And he means a lot to the spirit of the other players."
  • Drenched with champagne, Dave Stallworth exulted: "There was no way Reed could play. He was limping so bad. The guy is beautiful, just beautiful."
  • Cazzie Russell used an interesting metaphor to describe Reed's return to action. "It's like getting your left arm sewed back on."

Lakers Locker Room

  • Jerry West: "Certainly it's discouraging. We used up a lot of sweat getting this far. It hurts. It hurt last year when we lost to the Celtics in the seventh game. It's something that stays with you. I really thought we were going to play a good game, but we didn't, and the Knicks were tremendous. We wanted it so badly, but would could we do?"
  • Elgin Baylor tried to cope with another finals loss. "They played well together, were well-coached, and played good team defense. They were exciting to watch. But that was disgusting, frustrating, because I felt we were the better team. Willis played hurt and gave them a tremendous lift. Willis was a great player and a great competitor. Just his mere presence did so much for the team."
  • Wilt Chamberlain took a jab at his archrival Bill Russell: "Willis has played better basketball against me than any center I've ever faced in playoff competition."
  • Coach Mullaney: "We fell into a faster tempo instead of trying to get back two points at a time. We just can't play that kind of pace against a team like the Knicks."
Reed recalled, "I didn't want to have to look at myself in the mirror 20 years later and say I wished I had tried to play." He added, "There isn't a day in my life that people don't remind me of that game."

1969-70 New York Knicks

1969-70 Los Angeles Lakers
Participants in the 1970 NBA Finals who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame:
Lakers: Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West
Knicks: Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Coach Red Holzman