Golden Basketball Magazine
NBA Finals - Game 7
1974: Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks
The NBA added three franchises for the 1970-71 season and broke into four divisions.
  • The Buffalo Braves competed in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference while the Cleveland Cavaliers were placed in the Central Division. In the West, the Portland Trail Blazers gave the Pacific Division five teams.
  • In 1972, the Cincinnati franchise moved to Kansas City/Omaha.

The Milwaukee Bucks won the 1970-71 NBA championship in just their third season in the league. Two superstars spearheaded the rapid ascent of Coach Larry Costello's club.

  • The Bucks used the #1 pick in the 1969 draft to select Lew Alcindor of UCLA. The result was a 29-game improvement in 1969-70. Lew made the All-Rookie Team as did Milwaukee's fourth round pick, 6'6" F Bobby Dandridge.
  • Milwaukee defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the first round of the playoffs. Then the New York Knicks trampled the Bucks in five games to reach the finals.
  • The next day, Milwaukee General Manager Wayne Embry traded two players to Cincinnati for G/F Oscar Robertson.
  • With Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, averaging 34.8ppg and Oscar orchestrating the offense, the Bucks tore through the 1970 +playoffs, culminating in a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Bullets in the finals.
  • Any thoughts of a dynasty vanished the following season when the Bucks went 63-19 only to lose to the Lakers in six games in the Western Conference Finals as Wilt Chamberlain neutralized Kareem enough to take the series.
  • The 1972-73 season saw the Bucks win the Midwest Division again but stumble in the playoffs, losing to the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

The 1973-74 Bucks finished 59-23, their worst record since their maiden season of '68-69.

  • But that was still the best record in the league to earn home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
  • Kareem dominated the statistics, leading the club in points (27.0 per game), rebounds (14.5), field goal % (53.9), and blocks (3.5).
  • 35-year-old Robertson, who once led the NBA in scoring, was content to be the fourth-leading scorer on the team but lead the club in assists (6.4).
  • Dandridge contributed 18.9ppg, and the other guard, Lucius Allen, ranked third with 17.6ppg. .
  • The Bucks were fourth in the Western Conference in scoring but second in points allowed thanks to Kareem protecting the lane.

The Boston Celtics fell on hard times quickly after upsetting the Lakers in the 1969 Finals.

  • The downfall began when player-coach Bill Russell retired from both roles. The Jones boys, K. C. and Sam, joined him.
  • So General Manager Red Auerbach started a rebuilding project, refocusing the team around 6'5" G John Havlicek.
  • Under another former player, Tom Heinsohn, the Celtics went 34-48 in 1969-70 to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1950.
  • They improved to 44-38 the next year but again failed to qualify for the post-season.

Celtic fortunes took a turn for the better when, like the Bucks the year before, Boston drafted a center in the first round of the 1970 draft.

  • GM Red Auerbach fell in love with Florida State C Dave Cowens after seeing him play in one college game.
    As the story goes, the more Auerbach watched Cowens, the more he liked him. But the wily GM didn't want the other pro scouts at the game to think he liked Cowens. So after a few minutes of play, Red got up and left with a disgusted look on his face.
  • Red was concerned that the 6'8" Cowens would not be tall enough to be an NBA center. But Dave resisted that move in training camp. Auerbach phoned Russell to get his opinion. "No one's going to intimidate that kid," said Bill. "Let him play where he wants."
  • Cowens created his own version of "NBA center." Too small to bang around in the low post with larger opponents, Dave used his other assets. He was a fine leaper with great speed and long arms. That allowed him to play corner-to-corner, enabling the Celtics to have the best switching defense in the NBA because Cowens could keep pace with smaller men if necessary.
  • The lefthander also worked on increasing his shooting range.

Now that he had Cowens, Heinsohn wanted to reinstate the fast break the Celtics used so effectively when Bill Russell was their center.

  • Tom needed quick guards to run the break. So he turned to 6'5" Don Chaney, hitherto a defensive specialist who worked hard to improve his shooting, and rookie Jo Jo White. White had the agility to lead the fast break, but he came from Kansas, a program that played a controlled offense.
  • The Celtics improved ten games from '70 to '71 (34-48 to 44-38). They ascended to 56-26 in '71-72 to win the Atlantic Division and reach the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the Knicks in the conference finals.
  • The upward surge continued in '72-73 aided by another shrewd acquisition by Auerbach - PF Paul Silas from Phoenix. Boston's 68-14 record topped the league by eight, but they lost to the Knicks again in the Boston Garden in Game 7 of the conference finals and watched on TV as New York trampled the Lakers in the Finals.

Final standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
Team W L % GB
Boston Celtics 56 26 .683 --
New York Knicks 49 33 .598 7
Buffalo Braves 42 40 .512 14
Philadelphia 76ers 25 57 .305 31
Central Division
Team W L % GB
Capital Bullets 47 35 .573 --
Atlanta Hawks 35 47 .427 12
Houston Rockets 32 50 .390 15
Cleveland Cavaliers 29 53 .354 18
Western Conference
Midwest Division
Team W L % GB
Milwaukee Bucks 59 23 .720 --
Chicago Bulls 54 28 .659 5
Detroit Pistons 52 30 .634 7
KC-Omaha Kings 33 49 .402 26
Pacific Division
Team W L % GB
Los Angeles Lakers 47 35 .573 --
Golden State Warriors 44 38 .537 3
Seattle Supersonics 36 46 .439 11
Phoenix Suns 30 52 .366 17
Portland Trail Blazers 27 55 .329 20

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Celtics over Braves 4-2
Knicks over Bullets 4-3
Western Conference Semifinals
Bucks over Lakers 4-1
Bulls over Pistons 4-3
Eastern Conference Finals
Celtics over Knicks 4-1
Western Conference Finals
Bucks over Bulls 4-0

A freak injury hurt the Bucks as they entered the playoffs.

  • Lucius Allen slipped when he stepped on a warmup jersey near the end of the season and tore up his knee. Allen's replacement, Ron Williams, had played less than half the minutes that Allen logged. So Oscar would face the vaunted Celtic press virtually alone. At the least, Boston hoped to wear down the 35-year-old point guard during each game and as the finals continued.
  • Both coaches agreed that the matchup in the middle would probably determine the series.
    Heinsohn: "There's no real way to defense Jabbar. All you can do is get position on him and make his hooks a little longer and double team him. You can't overplay him too much because he's such a good passer."
    Costello: "Cowens is a good shooter, and if he goes out 15 to 18 feet, Kareem will have to go out and play him. The key then will be what our forwards do with their forwards."
1974 Milwaukee Bucks
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
1 Oscar Robertson PG 6-5 205 Cincinnati 14
7 Terry Driscoll PF 6-7 215 Boston College 4
10 Bob Dandridge SF 6-6 195 Norfolk State 5
12 Ron Williams PG 6-3 188 West Virginia 6
14 Jon McGlocklin SG 6-5 205 Indiana 9
18 Curtis Perry PF 6-7 220 Missouri State 4
20 Mickey Davis SF 6-7 195 Duquesne 3
21 Russ Lee SF 6-5 185 Marshall 2
24 Dick Garrett SG 6-3 185 Southern illinois 5
33 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar C 7-2 225 UCLA 5
35 Cornell Warner C 6-9 220 Jackson State 4
Coach: Larry Costello
1974 Boston Celtics
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
7 Art Williams PG 6-1 180 Cal Poly Pomona  7
10 Jo Jo White PG 6-3 190 Kansas 4
11 Steve Kuberski SF 6-8 215 Bradley 4
12 Don Chaney SG 6-5 210 Houston 5
17 John Havlicek SF 6-5 203 Ohio State 11
18 Dave Cowens C 6-9 230 Florida State 3
19 Don Nelson SF 6-6 210 Iowa 11
20 Phil Hankinson          SF 6-8 195 Pennsylvania 1
29 Hank Finkel C 7-0 240 Dayton 7
35 Paul Silas PF 6-7 220 Creighton 9
44 Paul Westphal SG 6-4 195 USC 2
Coach: Tom Heinsohn
# Date Place Winner Loser Winning Team
High Scorer
Losing Team
High Scorer
1 Apr.28 Milwaukee Celtics 98 Bucks 83 Havlicek 26 Abdul-Jabbar 35
2 Apr.30 Milwaukee Bucks 105 Celtics 96 Abdul-Jabbar 36 White 25
3 Apr.29 Boston Celtics 95 Bucks 83 Cowens 30 Abdul-Jabbar 26
4 May 5 Boston Bucks 97 Celtics 89 Abdul-Jabbar 34 Havlicek 33
5 May 7 Milwaukee Celtics 96 Bucks 87 Havlicek/Cowens 28 Abdul-Jabbar 37
6 May 10 Boston Bucks 102 Celtics 101 Abdul-Jabbar 34 Havlicek 36
The teams alternated victories through the first six games.
  • Game One: The Celtics' press forced turnovers that helped the visitors get off to a 35-19 lead at the end of the first quarter. Kareem scored 35 but had to take 28 shots to do so. Milwaukee cut the margin to 69-61 heading into the final period, but the Celtics outscored them 29-22 in the final 12 minutes to seal the 98-83 victory.
  • Game Two: Costello changed his strategy, sending all the help upcourt and leaving Oscar to face Chaney alone. With Kareem getting others involved in the offense - Bob Dandridge scored 24 - and harassing Cowens into 8-for-22 shooting, the Bucks led 55-41 at the half. But the Celtics came back to tie the game in the final period. Cowens took the final shot, a running hook in the lane that Kareem blocked. The Bucks then won the overtime 15-6 to even the series.
  • Game Three: On their vaunted parquet floor, the Celtics raced to an even bigger first quarter lead than in Game One: 32-13. The Bucks committed 27 turnovers as Boston coasted to a 95-83 victory. Cowens outscored Kareem 30-26, and Havlicek added 28. The Bucks shot only 13 free throws to 27 for the Celts.
  • Game Four: Costello replaced the beleaguered Williams with 6'7" substitute F Mickey Davis, who presented major problems for White. That forced Heinsohn to switch Chaney, 2" taller and 20 lbs heavier than Jo Jo, off Robertson and onto Davis. Kareem outscored Cowens 34-24 as the Bucks evened the series again, 97-89, and restored their homecourt advantage.
  • Game Five: Havlicek and Cowens scored 28 apiece to counteract Kareem's 37 and Oscar's series-best 23 as Boston regained homecourt advantage 96-87.
  • Game Six: A packed house at the Garden saw Cowens get in foul trouble early, helping the Bucks amass a 47-40 halftime lead. Down six heading into the final period, the Celtics rallied to force overtime when Havlicek hit a long jumper and Robertson committed a 24-second violation as time expired. Havlicek was the hero of the first overtime, hitting a long jumper to tie the game in the last seconds. John scored nine of Boston's 11 points in the second extra period, including another long jumper with seven seconds left for a 101-100 lead. During a timeout, the Bucks decided that Kareem should not take the last shot. Instead, he set a pick for Jon McGlocklin. But when the rookie couldn't get free and finding no open man, Kareem dribbled to the base line and put up his patented sky hook from 17'. Swish! Bucks stay alive 102-101!

    Abdul-Jabbar sinks winning hook shot in Game 6.

Game Seven

The Celtics changed their strategy against Kareem. They double-teamed him and made it difficult for him to get the ball. He would score only 26 points, tied with Game Three for his lowest output in the Series. Milwaukee would need Oscar Robertson to take up the slack, but he hit only two of 13 shots as the Celtics forced him to use up most of his energy bringing the ball up court.
  • Quarter 1
    The Celtics double-teamed Kareem, giving the Bucks forwards the shots, but Cornell Warner and Curtis Perry would combine to shoot just 3-of-10 for the game. Coach Costello adjusted by going with smaller forwards Bob Dandridge and Mickey Davis, but Paul Silas started posting Dandridge inside on the other end, and the Celtics picked up their offense again. When Kareem hit a basket to give him 14 points and tie the score at 20 with 27 seconds left in the period, no one would have predicted that he would go 18 minutes of playing time without a basket.
    Celtics 22 Bucks 20

  • Quarter 2
    After taking nine shots and making six in the first period, Jabbar took only two shots in the second quarter, during which he went scoreless as Cowens and Silas double-teamed him. Meanwhile, Dave went outside and pumped in ten points as Kareem didn't come out after him. When Don Chaney got into foul trouble, Paul Westphal replaced him and sparked a 10-0 Celtic surge to end the period.
    53 Bucks 40
  • Quarter 3
    Davis gave the Bucks a spark, scoring 10 of his 15 points during the period. But with Kareem contributing nothing, the Boston lead stretched to 17 points with 8:21 remaining. Then the Celtics' shooting turned ice cold, and the Bucks finally got points from Kareem after the Celtics stopped sagging down on him. At the 6:28 mark, the 7'4" center slammed home his first basket since the first period and later closed the gap to 67-64 with another bucket with 1:30 on the clock. Westphal then drove the baseline and twisted around Jabbar for a layup. After Kareem hit two free throws, Havlicek sank a rainbow jumper over the 7'4" center.
    Celtics 71 Bucks 66
  • Quarter 4
    Milwaukee hit the first basket to cut the lead to three. Then Cowens got his fifth foul on a charge just 36 seconds into the period. But Dave stayed in the game and never fouled out. He sank a running hook, and White added a fast break layup that was triggered by a Paul Silas rebound to swing the momentum back to Boston. Ten seconds later, Cowens was knocked unconscious scrambling for a loose ball with Robertson. After Dave was revived by smelling salts, Westphal sank a layup, Jabbar commited a turnover, and Curtis Perry was called for goaltending on Silas's running layup. McGlocklin hit a jumper to break the Bucks' three-minute scoring drought, but Cowens wiped that out with a hook shot for an 11-point lead with 7:45 remaining. The home team put on a 7-2 spurt to cut lead to 83-76 only to have the visitors respond with an 11-point run that began and ended with three-point plays by Havlicek. With the score 98-79, Auerbach, sitting behind the Boston bench, lit up his famed victory cigar. Heinsohn sent in the reserves as most of the crowd of 10,938 began filing sadly out of the arena.
    FINAL: Celtics 102 Bucks 87

Rookie Lew Alcindor

John Havlicek

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Tom Heinsohn

Dave Cowens

Dandridge passes around Cowens.

Cowens guards Kareem.

Dandridge guards Havlicek.

Kareem's Unstoppable Sky Hook

Cowens hooks over Kareem.

Finkel contests Kareem's shot.

Cowens and Nelson surround Kareem.

Mickey Davis

Cowens and Havlicek celebrate the championship.

Jubilant Heinsohn with Havlicek

  Min FG FT Rebs Ast Fouls  Points 
Dave Cowens 47 13-25 2-2 14 4 5 28
John Havlicek 46 6-20 4-4 9 6 3 16
Jo Jo White 43 6-15 4-4 3 5 4 16
Don Chaney 23 3-8 0-0 3 1 5 6
Don Nelson 17 2-4 2-2 5 3 1 6
Paul Westphal 31 4-11 4-7 3 6 5 12
Paul Silas 29 5-11 4-4 9 1 2 14
Phil Hankinson           1 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 2
Steve Kuberski               1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 2
Hank Finkel 1 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0
Total 240 40-96 22-25 47 27 26 102
  Min FG FT Rebs Ast Fouls Points
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 46 10-21 6-11 13 4 1 26
Bob Dandridge 46 6-12 2-4 3 0 6 14
Oscar Robertson 46 2-13 2-2 3 11 4 6
Mickey Davis 33 6-9 3-3 5 2 3 15
Cornell Warner 29 0-3 1-2 9 3 5 1
Jon McGlockin 21 6-8 1-2 0 2 2 13
Curtis Perry 12 3-7 0-0 4 0 3 6
Ron Williams 2 2-3 0-0 0 0 0 4
Terry Driscoll 2 1-3 0-0 4 1 1 2
Russ Lee 2 0-1 0-2 1 0 0 0
Dick Garrett 1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0
Total 240 36-81 15-26 42 23 25 87

was voted the Finals MVP.


Celtics Locker Room

  • Coach Heinsohn: "We came in for a lot of criticism when we drafted Dave Cowens and put him at center. People said we should've played him at forward because we would never win a title with a small man in the middle. We proved the so-called experts wrong."
  • Boston's oldest players, 11-year veterans John Havlicek and Don Nelson, agreed that this championship was the most satisfying. "John and I are the senior citizens on this team," exclaimed Nelson. "We personally had a part in the rebuilding of the team after Russell and Sam Jones retired."
  • GM Red Auerbach, who was among the first to undergo the champagne dousing ritual, spoke in a similar vein while holding the Walter A. Brown Championship Cup. "This is where it belongs. It's been gone for a while, but we're glad to get it back. You always remember the first championship, but this one has to go down as its equal. After losing that heartbreaker in Boston Friday night and then coming back to win here for the third time - wow, that's the greatest thing I've seen. It was the Celtics' pride that proved the difference. There's no way, even if they had lost, you could have faulted these guys. They played their hearts out."
  • Paul Silas, a 10-year veteran who had just played in his first championship series, was elated. "I can't describe the feeling, but it's beautiful. It's like walking on clouds. I don't think I need to get on the airplane to get home."

Bucks Locker Room

  • Coach Costello: "I'm real proud. We had a great series and a great season, but Boston is a magnificent team. They have shooters, rebounders, a strong bench, and they pass great. They had no weaknesses, at least none that I could find."
    On the Celtics' defense against Kareem: "They swarmed on him. We tried to loosen that up, but we don't have any perimeter shooters outside of McGlocklin."
    More on the Boston defense: "The pressure beat us. It wasn't their offense. It was their defense. We were playing three men against five because we had a forward in the back court helping bring the ball up when Oscar got double teamed. We never got our people into position, and they took us right out of our offense. You can't beat quickness and speed. They've got a hell of a lot of that. A lot of our quickness was in (the injured) Lucius Allen. I don't know if we'd have won it if he were with us, but I know it would have been a lot easier bringing the ball up. And that would have given us a lot more of Oscar on offense. Oscar went 46 minutes today, and at 35 having to do all that dribbling to get the ball up, a guy should get a rest. But if I took him out, who the hell is going to bring it up?"
Robertson retired from basketball after the '74 finals.

1973-74 Boston Celtics

1973-74 Milwaukee Bucks
Participants in the 1974 NBA Finals who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame:
Celtics: Coach Tom Heinsohn (as a player), Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Paul Westphal, Jo Jo White
Bucks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson
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