Basketball Snapshots - 12
1957 NBA Finals: Western and Eastern Playoffs
The 1956-7 St. Louis Hawks finished the regular season with a losing record, yet came within a few seconds of capturing the NBA championship in what many argue was the most exciting finals ever.
  • Third-year F Bob Pettit from LSU led player-coach Alex Hannum's Hawks with 1755 points, nearly 600 more than Ed Macauley.
  • Bob had an even larger lead in rebounding, 1037 to 645 for Jack Coleman.

With Pettit playing with his left arm in a cast, St. Louis lost its last two games to fall into a three-way tie with the Minneapolis Lakers and Fort Wayne Pistons for the top spot in the Western Division, all with 34-38 records.

  • Since the playoff schedule called for the second and third place teams in each division to meet in a best-of-three series with the victor facing the first place team for a berth in the finals, the three squads had to break the tie.
  • Fort Wayne visited St. Louis in the first elimination game, with the winner hosting the Lakers to determine first place.
  • The Hawks triumped 115-103 behind G Jack McMahon's 24 points.
  • Two days later, the Lakers took the Hawks into OT before falling 114-111. This time F Cliff Hagan led St. Louis in scoring with 28 and also finished second in rebounding with 15, three less than Pettit.

Minneapolis won back-to-back tight games over Fort Wayne to qualify to play the Hawks for the Western Division crown.

  • Playing with a lighter cast than in the previous three weeks, Pettit threw in 14 of his 22 points in the final period to spark the Hawks to an 118-109 home triumph in the opener of the best-of-five series.
  • The second game in St. Louis was a white knuckler. Pettit scored 11 in the last five minutes, including the winning three-point play, to enable the Hawks to shade the Lakers 106-104. Held to only seven rebounds, Bob finished with 30 points.
  • Their backs to the wall, Minneapolis at least got to go home for the third game the next night and, if needed, the fourth as well.
  • As in the one-game playoff for the West's top seed, the teams went into OT and then another one after each side scored 17 in the first five extra minutes. Finally, the Hawks, holding the Lakers to just four points in the second extra frame, pulled away to win 143-135 and earn the franchise's first finals berth. Pettit - who else? - led the Hawks with 35 although Laker G Slick Leonard topped all point makers with 42.

Meanwhile, the Eastern playoffs didn't produce anywhere near the drama the West did.

  • Bolstered by rookie Bill Russell who joined the club in December after playing in the Olympics, the 44-28 Celtics won their first division crown by six games over the Syracuse Nationals.
  • Syracuse eliminated the Philadelphia Warriors 2-0.
  • Continuing to mirror what happened in the West playoffs, Boston took three in a row over the Nats: 108-90 in Boston, 120-105 in Syracuse, and 83-80 back in Beantown.

So the Celtics met the Hawks in the best-of-seven finals.

  • The series would follow the 2-2-1-1-1 format starting in Boston since the Celtics had the better regular season record.
  • The teams had met nine times during the regular season with these results:
    @St. Louis: Boston 2 wins, St. Louis 2 wins
    @Boston: Boston 4 wins, St. Louis none
    Neutral court: Boston 1 win
  • You can see why the oddsmakers established the Celtics as 1-3 favorites.

The Boston Traveler asked the day of Game One: Can the Celtics accomplish in this 1957 basketball World Series what the Red Sox couldn't in the 1946 baseball Series, also against St. Louis?

Starting Lineups
St. Louis Hawks  
Boston Celtics
Cliff Hagan F Kentucky 6-4 5.5   Tom Heinsohn F Holy Cross 6-7 16.2
Ed Macauley F St. Louis 6-8 16.5   Jim Loscutoff F Oregon 6-5 10.6
Bob Pettit C LSU 6-9 24.7   Bill Russell C San Francisco 6-10 14.7
Slater Martin G Texas 5-10 11.5   Bob Cousy G Holy Cross 6-1 20.6
Jack McMahon G St. John's 6-1 8.6   Bill Sharman G Southern Cal 6-1 21.1

Continued below ...

Hawks F Bob Pettit
Bob Pettit

Hawks Coach Alex Hannum
Alex Hannum

Hawks G Jack McMahon

Hawks F Cliff Hagan
Cliff Hagan

Celtics C Bill Russell
Bill Russell

St. Louis F Ed Macauley
Ed Macauley

Referee Sid Borgia
Sid Borgia

Hawks G Slater Martin in action
Slater Martin in action

Boston G Bob Cousy
Bob Cousy

Boston C Arnie Risen

Celtics G Andy Phillip
Andy Phillip
Hawks F Jack Coleman
Celtics G Bill Sharman
Bill Sharman
Hawks G Med Park

1957 NBA Finals: Game One
Game One: Saturday, March 30 @ Boston Garden 2:30

Since both teams had swept their conference finals, they enjoyed almost a week off.

  • Hawks star F Bob Pettit played without the cast on his broken wrist for the first time since February 15.
  • The Celtics enjoyed having sixth man Frank Ramsey back on Army leave.

The state of the NBA in 1957 was illustrated by the fact that the attendance numbered only 5,976 - 8,000 short of a sellout thanks in part to wintry weather in early spring. But those who showed up saw a humdinger as did the national TV audience.

  • Quarter 1
    St. Louis jumped in front on Macauley's hoop and kept the lead the entire period.
    The game was barely two minutes old when Sid Borgia called a technical foul on Auerbach. Having already been warned once by Sid, Auerbach was arguing again while holding the ball. When Sid demanded the ball, Red rolled it to Cousy instead. But Macauley missed the technical FT.
    After nine minutes, the Hawks led 29-19 thanks to Easy Ed's hot hand and Boston's poor shooting. Then Ramsey and Jack McMahon traded hoops to make it 31-21 at the end of the first twelve minutes. The peppier Hawks shot 16 FTs against just 4 for the Celtics.
    Slater Martin, the smallest man on the court at 5'10", did an excellent job of containing Cousy.
    31-year-old Martin was finishing his first year with St. Louis after six seasons with the Minneapolis Lakers. He expressed his attitude toward the Celtics this way: As far as I'm concerned, Cousy is their ball club. It revolves around him, and if you can make him go badly, it affects the other Celts.
    Offensively, the former Texas Longhorn led the Hawks' fast break that was beating the Celtics at their own game.

  • Quarter 2
    Early on, the Hawks attained their biggest lead of the day at 33-21.
    Macauley went out for a rest, and the Celts began a comeback, pulling to 36-30 at the five-minute mark.
    Ed came back and canned the next seven Hawks points against a single set shot by veteran G Andy Phillip to pull back out to 43-32.
    Soon after, trailing 45-34, the Celtics poured in nine in a row. Martin sank two FTs, but Cousy and Arnie Risen answered with buckets to tie the game at 47.
    Pettit sank a jumper at the buzzer to put the Hawks back in front , 49-47, at the intermission.
    Like Martin, Risen had spent most of his career with another team, Rochester in this case. A 6'9" product of Ohio State, the 32-year-old C was in his second year with Boston after seven seasons as a Royal. Injuries limited him to only 43 games in the '56-7 regular season. Russell later wrote in his autobiography: I was attached to Arnie Risen ... I was taking Risen's job and I would not have blamed him if he had hated me. Instead, Arnie Risen went out of his way to help. I've never forgotten him for it and I never will. ... He was a team man all the way.

  • Quarter 3
    Auerbach opened the half with a unit of Cousy, Russell, Heinsohn, Risen, and Phillip.
    After 2:36, the Celtics finally went in front on a spectacular play by Russell. Big Bill batted a Macauley shot out to midcourt, raced down and grabbed it, dribbled the rest of the way, and stuffed it. That made it 53-51.
    The teams tied four times in the next few minutes. But with St. Louis in front 65-61, the locals racked up 10 points in 75 seconds compared to just a push shot by Hagan. The Celtics were in charge 71-67 and ended the period with a 74-71 advantage.
Cliff Hagan snares rebound for St. Louis.
Cliff Hagan snares a rebound over Heinsohn (15)
and Russell (6) as Risen (19) blocks out Pettit.
  • Quarter 4
    Martin scored two quick baskets and Jack Coleman added a shot-clock beater which, added to a FT by Pettit, shot St. Louis back ahead 78-74.
    After four minutes of play, the visitors still led by six, 85-79.
    Another four minutes found the Hawks still in front, 97-93.
    With a minute remaining, Sharman completed a three-point play to pull Boston within two, 102-100.
    The Hawks set up Coleman, who missed, and Russell clutched the rebound with 0:40 showing on the clock. But the possession ended with Bill's shot rimming out and the Hawks grabbing the rebound.
    They took their time, with Martin trying to run out the clock as fans headed for the exits. But Cousy stole the ball and dribbed downcourt. He set up Sharman under the hoop, but Bill missed. Heinsohn got his hands on the rebound and laid it in with six seconds remaining.
    The Hawks tried unsuccessfully to get the ball to Pettit. So it fell to Coleman to fire at the gun. But he missed to send the game into OT at 102 apiece.

  • OT 1
    Coleman popped in a fielder to open the extra five minutes.
    Celtic hopes suffered a blow when Russell committed his sixth foul to seal his rebounding total at 18. Pettit sank both shots for a 106-102 lead with 3:30 to go.
    The Hawks stretched the lead to six on two McMahon's FTs.
    Heinsohn came through with a three-point play, followed soon by a set shot from Loscutoff to make it 108-107.
    Pettit answered with a FG-FT combo of his own to expand the bulge to four again.
    Sharman connected from the field, and Cousy dropped in a FT to close to 111-110.
    Macauley flipped in a jumper for a three-point Hawk lead with 30 seconds remaining.
    Sherman sank a FT with 0:22 left. But could the Celtics get the ball back?
    On the out-of-bounds feed, Risen stuck his long arm out and knocked the ball away from Pettit. Phillip picked it up and fed Cousy, who launched a high set shot from 20' that swished through with 15 seconds left to tie the score again at 113.
    The hustling Celts again stole the ball with 0:03 left, but a feed to Risen for a deep hook shot didn't connect.

  • OT 2
    The fans rejoiced when Macauley fouled out with 23 points, although only seven came after hafltime. But that loss was soon offset when Risen took a permanent seat on Auerbach's bench.
    The Celts led by three points twice before a FT and basket by Pettit off of Martin's assist knotted the count at 121.
    Heinsohn's goal gave Boston a two-point edge again, but Pettit matched that at the four-minute mark with another jumper.
    On the Hawks' next possession, Pettit missed a jumper, but the Louisiana Leaper ducked underneath and followed in his own miss. 125-123 Hawks.
    Martin fouled out trying to stop Cousy's basket with 0:52 to go, but Bob missed the extra toss.
    With 30 seconds to play and the shot clock about to expire, Coleman let loose a sidearm line drive shot from 18' out that nestled in the strings for a two-point lead.
    The Celtics had plenty of time to tie the score, but the Hawks ganged up on Heinsohn under the basket and stripped him of the ball.
    Tommy quickly fouled Hagan and left the court with six fouls. But Cliff missed both FTs. Loscutoff corraled the rebound and hurled the ball out of bounds.
    Jim promptly fouled Med Park, who also obliged by flubbing both shots. Loscutoff got the ball to Cousy for one last try, a one-hander from 40' away that nudged the rim and rolled away at the buzzer.


  • Pettit won endurance honors by playing 54 of the 58 minutes7. Martin and McMahon each logged 53 minutes. Cousy, with 49, topped the Celtics in minutes.
  • Both teams canned 44 FGs but the Celts rang up 124 attempts to only 106 for the Hawks. The visitors shot a dozen more FTs, 54-42.
1957 Finals - Game One Box Score
  • St. Louis owner Ben Kerner promised is team Champagne for you guys tonight, and anything you want to eat after their unbelievable, fantastic, great performance.
  • Hannum cautioned: The series isn't over, but not it has to go seven. Kerner agreed. I thought if we blew this one, the gang would have folded. Not now.
  • Alex singled out Martin. Slater bothered Cousy. Look, nobody can hold Cousy down - he got 26. But that Martin scored 23 and kept on Bob. Cooz got only 20 shots, and when his man can stay three points from him offensively, you've got the Celts in trouble.
  • 7' C Charlie Share praised his coach. I think that Hannum majored in psychology. He's really got every one of us in just the right mood. He let us know that each of us will play as much as we should; that if we have a bad day, he won't give up on us or put us in the dog house.
  • All Auerbach would say was, Well, we're not going home and shoot ourselves. We'll be back to win tomorrow.
Continued below ...
1957 NBA Finals III: Games Two and Three
Game Two: Sunday, March 31 @ Boston Garden 2:30

The Celtics faced a must win situation because they could not go to St. Louis down 0-2.

  • A roaring capacity throng of 13,909 watched Boston's point production machine hit on all cylinders. The Celts put up 31 in both the first and second periods and 32 in the third to forge a 94-70 lead heading into Q4.
  • The lead reached 30 during the final period before a 13-point run by the Hawks brought the margin down to 119-99 at the final buzzer.
  • The contest rocked along until Arnie Risen and Frank Ramsey came off the bench late in Q1 to touch off the detonation. Frank tied with Bob Cousy for high man for Red Auerbach's club with 22. Five other Celtics scored in double figures. Russell contributed 25 rebounds, 12 more than the next high man on either team, Bob Pettit of St. Louis.
  • Aiding the Boston romp was an off day by Pettit, who made only 3 FGs and 11 points. Easy Ed Macauley led St. Louis with 19. G Slater Martin, who burned the Celts with 23 in Game One, canned only 8 with only one FG.
Cousy passes in midair in Game Two.

The series now took a five-day hiatus with Games 3 and 4 in St. Louis the following Saturday and Sunday.

  • Some Celtics complained about the long break, citing what happened to them in Game One after five days off. G Bill Sharman: That long layoff from game competition since last Sunday threw us off Satuday. It threw us off on our timing as well as our conditioning. After you play so many games in such a short space of time during the regular season, a six-day layoff seems almost like a month. Then again we were off form in the early stages of Saturday's game, largely because the Hawks had a 16-3 advantage on us in fouls at the time. You would be surprised how mentally upset you can get when the other team seems to be going up to the free-throw line so often. We defensed them much better today. We were pretty awful in letting them get so many easy shots Saturday. Well, we have another layoff this week before our two games at St. Louis, and you can be sure the players don't like it. They're trying to make a major league out of the NBA, but they're certainly running it in bush league fashion.
  • Star rookie Russell had his own opinion about the reason for the Celtics winning so decisively after losing the opener. This league is so well balanced that anything can happen from one day to another. You're apt to murder a team on a given day, and that same team is capable of turning around and doing the same thing to you when they're having a hot day. Yes, I heard the crowd yelling for me to shoot more, but I feel that in a game like today's a player should practice passing the ball around and setting up easier shots.
  • Hawks' 6'11" C Chuck Share said that he liked to play against Russell. He doesn't push you around or shove you like that Lovellette. I find him unusually easy to handle when he has the ball, but he's just the opposite when you have it. He really makes you think then, and he throws you off on your shooting because you're wondering where that big hand of his is.
Game Two Boxscore 
Game Three: Saturday, April 6 @ Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis 8:30

The 10,048 Hawks fans who bought out the arena hoped to help their heroes seize the series with back-to-back wins.

  • Ramsey rejoined his mates Saturday morning from military duty at Fort Knox KY. Jungle Jim Loscutoff reported himself over his upset stomach, and Russell's bruised calf was not considered serious.
  • St. Louis coach Alex Hannum insisted rebounding would decide the issue. Bob Pettit is rested and ready. He also hoped that Martin would return to his Game One form when he thoroughly outplayed his rival PG Cousy on both ends of the court.
  • Observers agreed that the Celtics had the deeper team. While Boston could concentrate on Pettit and Macauley, St. Louis had to contend with the entire Hub squad, including Ramsey, Risen, and Andy Phillip off the bench.
  • It didn't help the Hawks' cause that Hannum had angered the Celts by accusing them of playing "dirty basketball."

The bad blood between the teams reached a new low during warmups.

  • Three Celtics told Auerbach that the basket was too high. So the coach asked the officials to measure the height of the rims.
  • The hopped up crowd began to boo, and St. Louis owner Ben Kerner rushed onto the floor. He berated Red, who charged from 12' away and threw a right hand punch that cut Kerner's lip, and the pair were separated before any more damage could be done.
  • Auerbach said after the game, What he called me isn't printable. He just cussed me out, and I didn't want to take it. Red also complained that the Hawks gave the Celtics old and ragged balls for practice.
  • Kerner denied using unprintable language. All I called him was a "busher." Look, I took his best punch, and nothing happened. That's real "bush." With all that talent he has, he still has to pull tricks like that. It isn't the first time Auerbach has done this. In Minneapolis about eight years ago, he said they were bringing in illegally high baskets. He was wrong then, too. Aw, he's just a big sorehead. Just forget it.
  • NBA President Maurice Podoloff watched the incident. I must ascertain the facts. Then, after I have a full report, I will study the case and take action if I feel some is warranted.

The battle before the game made a madhouse out of the packed hall, and it affected both clubs.

  • Quarter 1
    The teams started slowly, and after three minutes the Hawks led 5-3.
    But the Celts settled down and ripped off 8 points on two baskets by Cousy and one apiece from Tom Heinsohn and Sharman. The Hawks countered with only a set shot by Jack McMahon to trail 11-7.
    But Pettit and Jack Coleman led a resurgence to tie at 14 all.
    The crowd really grew ugly when Pettit, going up for a rebound, struck his head against the upright supporting the basket and fell.
    The period ended shortly after with the count even at 19.
    In his report on the game the next day, Sid Kramer of the Boston Record American felt the officials favored the home team. Bob Pettit ... didn't have a foul called on him until the closing minutes of the game although he shoved and battered everybody in sight while Russell had three quickies called in the first 10 minutes to wrack his effectiveness.

  • Quarter 2
    The physical play continued on a night when the two teams would shoot 85 FTs, and both outfits were still far off their mark.
    Over the first five minutes, Boston had only one FG and three FTs, but the Hawks could forge only a three-point lead, 27-24.
    Then Macauley popped two jumpers to give the home club a seven-point advantage.
    A Risen hook and a Loscutoff jumper cut into the margin.
    Macauley stayed hot, but rookie Heinsohn came up with two out of the world twisting layups to narrow the deficit to 33-32.
    Over the last two minutes, the Green outscored the Hawks 7-1 to go to the locker room with a 44-39 lead.
    But the visitors were upset over a call by referee Sid Borgia as the clock ran out. The Celtics had possession with 0:07 showing. They set up Ramsey for a last-second shot. Frank took dead aim and fired the ball through the strings. The St. Louis players kicked the air in disgust, but Borgia saved the day. "No good, no good," screamed Sid. The Celtics raved, the fans laughed, and the ref ignored everyone.
    Borgia explained afterwards. I pay no attention to that gun. I watch the red light over the basket, and when it is red, the period is over. The light was red before Ramsey took the shot. It definitely was after the half ended. There never was any question in my mind.
    The cancelled two points would loom big as the game went down to the wire.
    The Celtics shot only 29% from the field in the first half, but that was still better than the Hawks' 23%.

  • Quarter 3
    The Celtics took a 54-46 lead early in the period.
    Let Murray Kramer give his version of what happened next.
    Borgia went to town: He took the ball away from Cousy once, claiming he went out of bounds on the opposite sideline right in front of the press bench - a ridiculous call. He let the Hawks get away with murder to set up a St. Louis surge of seven points to make it 54-53.
    Bad calls or no, the Celtics led at the end of the period 74-69.
  • Quarter 4
    Sharman scored four points in a row to put Boston back in front 85-84 after the Hawks threatened to take a decisive lead.
    With 4:13 to play, the visitors led 91-87.
    Martin went all the way for a layup after the Celts missed an easy one from underneath.
    According to Kramer, Borgia again came to the home team's rescue.
    Three times, the Hawks double teamed the Celtics dribbler, committed mayhem, got the ball away and went in for three hoops.
    Just 18 seconds after Martin's layup, Cliff Hagan stole the ball and went all the way for a dunk to tie the score.
    Then Hagan made another steal 22 seconds later and fed Med Park for a layup to put the Hawks in front.
    Meanwhile, two fans were ejected for fighting with three minutes remaining.
    Martin added two FTs and another layup to counter a Celtic basket and make it 97-93.
    But without Sharman, who fouled out with two minutes left after scoring a game-high 28, Boston rallied to make it 98-98 with one minute left on three FTs by Ramsey. It was the 17th tie of the nerve-wracking battle.
    The Hawks called timeout to set up a play that ended with Pettit canning a 30' jumper, the longest shot he took during the entire contest. St. Louis led 100-98 with 45 seconds left.
    The Celts took time out at the 0:42 mark to set up the equalizer.
    Cousy missed the set shot, but Boston got the rebound, and Bob missed again. Once more, the Celtics got control of the ball but couldn't drop it in from up close. But Heinsohn came down with the rebound, faked his man out of position, and fed an open Russell only to see the ball squirt out of Bill's hands out of bounds.
    Martin, the "big little guy" for the Hawks, took over and killed most of the remaining 15 seconds with some nifty dribbling.
    The Hawks led the Series, two games to one with two more in St. Louis before returning to Beantown.


  • Pettit led all rebounders with 28 to Russell's 19. Bob threw in 25 points, second to Sharman's 28.
  • Hannum: The pressure's on Boston now. We're not afraid of the Celtics. We can take 'em again tomorrow night.
  • Some Celtics were still steaming about the two points denied them at the end of the first half. Veteran G Phillip: I've seen everything now. Ramsey's shot was good, and no one can deny it. Ramsey: I can only say that I thought I put it into the air before the half was over.
    But the other official, Arnie Heft, who was under the goal for the shot, backed up Borgia as did Jim Duffy, the alternate referee who was sitting beside the official scorer. Borgia called it no good right away, and he was right.
  • Heinsohn took the blame for the bad pass that cost his club a chance to tie in the last seconds. It was my fault. I faked everyone, but Russell wasn't ready for my pass.
  • Seen hobbling in the dressing room, Russell explained that he pulled a muscle in the small of his back. He would undergo therapy Sunday morning.
  • Owner Kerner was so elated after the game that he dropped his threat to swear out a warrant against Auerbach.
 Game Three Boxscore

Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy
Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy

Celtics G Frank Ramsey
Frank Ramsey

Bob Pettit tries to shoot over Tom Heinsohn.
Bob Pettit tries to shoot over Tom Heinsohn with Bill Russell nearby.

Celtics G Bill Sharman

St. Louis C Chuck Share




Hawks G Slater Martin
Slater Martin

St. Louis Hawks Owner Ben Kerner
Ben Kerner

NBA Commissioner Maurice Podoloff
Maurice Podoloff

Hawks F Ed Macauley
Ed Macauley

Celtics C Arnie Risen
Arnie Risen

Celtics F Jim Loscutoff
Jim Loscutoff

St. Louis F Cliff Hagan
Cliff Hagan

Bob Pettit

Bill Russell

Tom Heinsohn

Bill Sharman (21)

Jack McMahon

Alex Hannum

Jim Loscutoff


Slater Martin

Cliff Hagan

Red Auerbach

1957 NBA Finals III: Games Four, Five, and Six
Game Four: Sunday, April 7, 1957 @ Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis 8:30

Down two games to one, the Celtics desperately needed a win to even the series before returning home for Game 5.

  • Hawks' coach Alex Hannum announced before Game 3 that rebounding will decide this series.
  • Boston won the battle of the boards 67-50 to take Game 4 123-118 be­fore another sellout crowd of 10,035. C Bill Russell won his personal rebounding duel with Hawks F Bob Pettit 20-16. Celtics head man Red Auerbach: We beat 'em off the boards. Good thing we did too.
  • His club threatened to break the contest wide open by taking an 18-point lead, 85-67, in Q3. But Cliff Hagan led a rally, scoring eight points in the last two minutes of the period, to reduce the gap to 96-90 going into Q4. Cliff ended with 25 points.
  • The relentless Hawks chipped away at the margin until they got in down to one, 97-96. Four more times St. Louis closed to within a point but were never able to tie the game. They were aided by Celtic foul trouble as both Arnie Risen and Frank Ramsey left the court with six personals.
  • Pettit's layup made the score 118-117 with 1:37 left. But rookie F Tom Heinsohn hit a long one-hander, and Jim Loscutoff added the clincher seconds later.
  • Celts' playmaker Bob Cousy outscored his dogged counterpart, Slater Martin, 31-15. Martin came out of the rough game with a pinched leg muscle while Cooz suffered a leg bump and missing tooth.
  • Russell came through with 17 unexpected points despite a sore back that had undergone therapy earlier in the day. The back didn't bother me, said Bill, who played 44 of the 48 minutes. Cousy, six years older than rookie Bill, was on the court for 43 minutes while his backcourt mate Bill Shar­man did him one minute better and talled 24 points.
  • The Hawks could blame their defeat primarily on a stone cold second pe­riod when they made only four FGs and missed eight of 17 FTs.
  • Even in victory, the Celtics continued their running beef with the officials. F Tom Heinsohn: I didn't think I ever was going to get a foul shot. I was getting clobbered, but neither [Sid] Borgia or [Arnie] Heft would call any­thing. For the record, St. Louis shot only three from FTs, 54-51.
Game Five: Tuesday, April 9 @ Boston Garden, 8:30

Forty-five minutes after Game 5, Hawks G Jack McMahon was still sitting in the dressing room in full uniform asking, What can I do to stop him?

  • "Him" was Bill Sharman, whose 32 points led the Celtics to a 121-109 victory for their first lead in the series as a raucous throng of 13,909 looked on. His average for the five games was now 25.8, including 95% of his FTs (39-41) and 44% of his FG attempts (45-102).
  • The greatest shooter in basketball, McMahon said. I'm not doing anything wrong, but there just isn't any way to stop him. The Celtics have got set plays for Sharman now, and there's no way to get through the blocks they set up for him. That Loscutoff is like a stone barricade for Sharman. He blocks me out and by the time I get through to Sharman, the ball is going through the strings. He never lets up for a second. Never mind about his shooting, how about his guts? He's a great competitor, as great as I've ever seen.
  • The Sharmans and Hannums were lifelong friends and were still very close despite the bitter rivalry between their two teams. Bill's mother in California wrote him a letter telling him not to pay any attention to Han­num's charge that the Celtics were "hatchet men."
  • The other Celtic G, Cousy, didn't have such a bad night himself, setting a playoff record with 13 assists, many on blind passes, to go with his 21 points. In addition to setting up Sharman time after time, Cooz also helped Heinsohn can 23.
  • Auerbach, who found out before the game that Commissioner Maurice Podoloff had fined him $300 for the altercation with Hawks' owner Ben Kerner before Game 3, received the biggest ovation he had ever received in the pregame introductions.
  • The Hawks raced to a 30-21 Q1 lead before Boston cut it to 60-59 at halftime. Pettit pulled down 14 rebounds in the first half before Russell, Risen, and Loscutoff held Bob to just a single rebound in the final 24 minutes. The lanky Hawk F led all scorers with his second straight 33- point performance. Russell ended with 23 boards to put him only 19 behind George Mikan's record of 208 in the 1952 playoffs.
  • The Celtics felt confident they would close out the series in Game 6 despite its being played in the Mound City. Sharman: For the first time, we've got the jump on them. Until now, they've had the game edge, and we've had to fight to even the series. Now the pressure is on them. What's more, we couldn't have gotten the edge at a better time. Playing them on their home court is rough enough. If we had the added pressure of having to catch up with them, I don't know. It might have been too much. ... The pressure is on them, and they look tired. I think we finally have them where we want them.
  • Cousy: We found we can really run against them. We found out the hard way, but we certainly should profit by our discovery.

Bob Cousy drives on Hawks.
Game Six: Thursday, April 11 @ Kiel Auditorium, 8:30

10,053 saw a tense, spirited battle that wasn't decided until the final seconds.

  • The lead changed hands 23 times, and the score was tied 20 times. The teams stayed within six points of each other throughout the first half. Finally, Boston edged ahead by six early in Q3.
  • But the Hawks battled back to take a 75-72 lead on four straight FTs by Jack Coleman and Martin's driving layup. Heinshohn hit a spectacular hook shot from the corner to send the Celtics into the last quarter owning a 78-77 lead.
  • The game seesawed until goals by Hagan and Pettit gave St. Louis a 91-90 edge with 3:35 left. Heinsohn hit a FG but fouled on the play, and Med Park made the charity toss to tie the game at 92. Tommy hit ano­ther fielder only to be matched by Pettit's jump shot that tied the score at 94 with 2:21 left.
  • Each team called time out twice in the last 90 seconds to set up plays, but neither could connect. On their second-to-last possession, the Celtics missed a shot and three follow ups. Their next time down the court, Cou­sy missed from far out, and the Hawks took over when the ball bounced over the backboard with 0:12 on the clock. The home team drove the ball to midcourt where they called a timeout.
  • The pass came in to - who else? - Pettit who started a drive, stopped, and fired a long one-hander from the corner that missed. But former Cel­tic Hagan deftly shoved the ball in the basket to give the Hawks their third last-minute two-point victory of the finals as the crowd went stark, raving mad. Auerbach charged the timer when the time ran out after Ha­gan's shot even though it is supposed to stop after a hoop in the last two minutes.
  • Pettit led all scorers with 32, one less than he had canned in each of the previous two contests. Heinsohn topped all Celtics with 28 and did an outstanding defensive job on Ed Macauley, who scored only 4. The trend of the team winning the rebounding war taking the game continued as the Hawks topped Boston 83-72. The private war of Pettit and Russell ended in a 23-23 standoff as Big Bill broke Mikan's playoff series record. Hagan's last second tap in was his 20th rebound.
  • Ramsey, who was on the bench at the time, explained what happened on the winning play: Nobody blocked Hagan out on the rebound after Pettit's shot. The last thing we said was to be sure and block out everyone, but Ha­gan wasn't blocked. Heinsohn said, I was trying to help Loscutoff cover Pettit. He got by Loscutoff, and I ran over to help out. When Tom left Ha­gan, Cliff raced in from the right side and tipped in the winning basket with one second on the clock.
  • Boston continued belly-aching about the referees. Auerbach slammed the dressing room doors in anger. All the Celtics whined, especially about Borgia, who returned to action after missing the last game in Boston. Even Risen, who usually didn't have much to say, beefed. You can't even look at Pettit without him getting a free throw. Twice, I slapped the ball out of his hands, and both times the referees called a foul on me. Pettit hit 16 of 22 from the line but, overall, the stats showed no great disparity in fouls - 28 on Boston, 26 on St. Louis.
  • Perhaps the Celts should have looked at their shooting numbers to ex­plain their loss: Cousy 6-20, Sharman 5-20, Loscutoff 1-14, Russell 5-16, Heinsohn 12-34 for a 28% mark for the starting five. Heinsohn could be excused since he spent the afternoon under a doctor's care and ran a slight fever.
  • In addition to the three Finals victories by a deuce, the Hawks beat the Celtics twice during the regular season - both by two points.
The stage was set for arguably the greatest Game 7 in NBA Finals history.

Continued below ...

1957 NBA Finals III: Game Seven
Game Seven: Saturday, April 13, 1957 @ Boston Garden 2:30

Boston coach Red Auerbach couldn't let Game Six go.

  • Early Friday morning, as the Celtics boarded their plane at the St. Louis airport, Red accosted referee Jim Duffy and NBA president Maurice Podoloff. Auerbach claimed his squad was jobbed out of three extra seconds by the timer, whom Duffy, as the third man on the officiating crew, was assigned to watch. We had three seconds left, but you didn't have the guts to stop the clock! Red yelled. Duffy, his Irish up, replied, I've shown as much guts as you have in this series. What are you doing, making a grandstand play for the writers? Jim motioned to the group of scribes waiting to board their plane. Jocko Collins, the league's supervisor of officials, separated the two combatants at that point.
  • Auerbach's argument was that the rules called for the clock to stop after Cliff Hagan's go-ahead tap-in. That would have given the Celts time to throw the ball in and race downcourt for a last-second shot.
  • The Celtics were unhappy about the officiating in general in the series, pointing to the fact that the Hawks had averaged six more FTs per game in the series.

The Celtics were favored by anywhere from four to eight points to give the city of Boston its first major pro sport title since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1941.

  • Hawks coach Alex Hannum declared, There's no pressure on us. We weren't supposed to be up here two months ago. ... We'll win it. We haven't come this far to lose. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose. We know we can win in Boston. He was referring to the 125-123 victory in Game One. He closed with the comment he had made before. Rebounding will tell the story.
  • Celtics G Bill Sharman admitted he couldn't sleep after Game 6. You'd think after all these years of competition, I'd be used to losing. But I'm not. After we lose, I can't sleep, especially after we've lost through no fault of our own. Another knock at the refs. I try to sleep, but it's no use. I lie in bed thinking about what happened, and I burn. Oh, I finally drop off to sleep, but by the time I do, it's almost time to get up again. I'm better the next day, but I'm still usually sore and sleepy. Bill's last sleepless night came after Game 3, won by the Hawks in St. Louis. That was a real bad one, Bill recalled. I didn't sleep a wink that night. The Hawks didn't sleep well the next night after Sharman personally clipped their wings with 32 points.
  • Sharman's backcourt mate, Bob Cousy, slept well but indulged in self-criticism after a loss also. After Hawks' G Slater Martin outplayed Cousy in Game One, Bob ate Slater alive the next day. Bob had another subpar outing in Game Six. Would he bounce back in the finale?
  • One thing was certain. The winning team would bring the first NBA championship to its franchise.

The stats from the first six clashes showed this:

St. Louis Hawks Boston Celtics
Top scorers:
Bob Pettit 24.7
Ed Macauley 16.5
Slater Martin 10.9
Top rebounders:
Bob Pettit 109
Cliff Hagan 65
Ed Macauley 34
Top scorers:
Bill Sharman 21.1
Bob Cousy 20.6
Tom Heinsohn 16.2
Top rebounders:
Bill Russell 128
Tom Heinsohn 65
Jim Loscutoff 59

Heinsohn fires away.

Russell hooks over Pettit.

A sellout crowd of 13,909 jammed Boston Garden.
  • The game was televised in the Northeast and, under a last-minute arrangement, back to St. Louis.
  • Included in the crowd were members of the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, whose exhibition game that afternoon had been cancelled because of temperatures in the 30s. Also on hand were the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadians, who would meet in their playoff clash Sunday night.
  • Actor Danny Kaye, a Celtics good luck charm who had missed only one playoff game - a loss, watched the first half but had to leave for his appearance at the Colonial Theater. He had a radio backstage and squirmed through the rest of the game.
  • Right before the game, Auerbach shook hands with St. Louis owner Ben Kerner, whom he had bopped before Game 3. I'm sorry, apologized the Boston coach. Forget it, Red, replied Ben.

Thus began one of the greatest basketball games ever.

  • Quarter 1
    Slater Martin set a record when he took the court for his 77th playoff game.
    The Celtics led by five at one point but the visitors rallied to take a two-point lead.
    Hawks 28 Celtics 26

  • Quarter 2
    Boston went nine in front and twice led by six after that.
    But in the final three minutes before halftime, the Hawks picked up 10 points with Hagan scoring six of them. Boston could counter with only an Arnie Risen hook.
    Hagan ended the half with 17 points but would contribute only seven more.
    Hawks 53 Celtics 51

Cousy passes.
  • Quarter 3
    Once again the Celts raced to a lead only to have it wiped out by the never-quit Hawks.
    A unit of Jack Nichols, Heinsohn, Andy Phillip, Russell, and Cousy changed the score from 68-66 against them to 73-68 in their favor.
    The period ended with a beautiful Cousy-to-Nichols pass and bucket.
    Boston's lead could have been larger except that Heinsohn missed eight straight freebies in the second half.
    Celtics 83 Hawks 77
Russell shoots over Charlie Share.
  • Quarter 4
    The period opened with Phillip converting a Cousy pass on a clever give-and-go maneuver. Then two FTs by Bob followed by a Nichols FG when he guided Cousy's feed into the hoop put Boston in front 85-77 - their largest lead of the afternoon.
    Just when it looked like the Celtics were finally pulling away, the Hawks came back with nine straight. Hagan, Macauley, Pettit, and Martin all contributed to the outburst.
    From there to the finish, the customers were put through an emotional wringer.
    Not playing like a rookie, Heinsohn rammed in four of the next six Boston two-pointers.
    Down 101-97 with 1:40 to play, the Celts scored six in a row - two freebies by Cousy, one by Ramsey, a clever turn-around basket from the pivot by Russell with 22 seconds to go, and another FT by Cousy ten seconds later. However, Bob missed his second try. St. Louis rebounded and took time out.
    Not surprisingly, Hannum called for the ball to go to Pettit, who drove on Russell and was fouled in the act of shooting. With the capacity house screaming, Bob calmly sank two FTs to tie the game with 0:07 left.
    The Celtics had the last shot, but Sharman's jumper rolled around the rim and came out.
    Celtics 103 Hawks 103

Cousy shoots over Med Park (32) and Slater Martin (22).
  • OT 1
    Boston fell behind 109-105, but two goals by Ramsey tied the game halfway through the OT.
    The teams traded baskets to remain tied. The Hawks lost Hagan when he committed his sixth foul with 0:55 remaining. But Ramsey missed both tries.
    Coleman did the same with 0:44 on the clock. Heinsohn pushed in a rebound with 25 seconds to go. But Coleman, guarded by Tommy, leaped for the equalizer with nine ticks left.
    Again, Sharman took a jump shot to win and again rimmed the hoop.
    Celtics 113 Hawks 113

  • OT 2
    Tommy scored the first two Boston baskets. But the visitors jumped in front again, 120-117. Russell and Heinsohn scored from the floor to take a one-point advantage. But Heinsohn fouled out on Martin, whose FT tied it. Macauley committed his sixth foul on Ramsey, who sank a free one. With four Hawks disqualified, Hannum put himself in at F for his first action of the series.
    After Russell blocked Coleman's shot, Frank took a pass from Cousy and put it in with 75 seconds left. It marked the 31st lead change.
    Shortly afterwards, Frank sank a 25' jumper for a 124-121 lead. It was the clutch Kentuckian's ninth and tenth points in OT.
    The Hawks kept battling. Martin converted a FT with 50 seconds left. Then Slater stole the ball from Ramsey and fed Med Park, who was fouled by Phillip. Park made the first FT but missed a chance to tie the game with the second. But the ball bounced deep, and Hannum corraled the rebound. The player-coach called time out to set up the game-winning basket. The ball ended up in his hands in the corner, but his shot went around the rim and out. The scrap for the rebound resulted in the ball going out of bounds off the Celts with 0:17 on the clock. After the throw in, Phillip blocked Park's shot, and Hannum was called for traveling as he tried to control the loose ball. Eight ticks remained.
    The ball came in to Sharman who got rid of it to Loscutoff. Jim was double-teamed and fouled by Hannum with one second to play. Jungle Jim made the FT to make it 125-123.
    But the excitement still wasn't over. Hannum called another time out to set up a seemingly impossible play. He stood on the baseline and fired the ball all the way to the other end off the backboard. The ball bounded to Pettit, as planned, and Bob jumped and threw the ball at the goal but it rolled off the rim. The Hawks leading scorer, who hurt his wrist on the opening tap of the second OT, failed to scratch in the final five minutes.
    Celtics 125 Hawks 123

Heinsohn swarmed by the crowd.
When the final buzzer sounded, spectators, almost as tired as the players, swarmed on the court and provided a shoulder ride to the dressing room for the winners.
  • The two teams combined for 37 missed FTs.
  • Russell had 32 rebounds for a total of 244 in the playoffs to explode the old mark of 107 by George Mikan in 1952. Heinsohn added 23 boards.
  • Cousy's 1 1 assists raised his series total to 93, breaking the old mark of 90 established by Dick McGuire in 1952.
  • Sharman hit 61 of 64 FTs, bettering the previous mark of 41 of 44 made by Cousy in 1955.
  • The Celtics won despite extremely cold shooting by Sharman (3 for 20) and Cousy (2 for 20).


Celtics celebrate their first championship with their owned and doused coach

  • Auerbach, senior coach in the NBA in terms of service, had finally directed a playoff winner. He was kept busy speaking into tape recorders but managed to puff his victory cigar between quotes. This is the greatest victory of my life. This was the greatest team. And these are the greatest bunch of fellows I've ever coached. ... Yes, Sharman was off, but he's still our best shooter. That's why I had him take the last shots of the fourth period and first overtime. It wound up okay, but I could have been a bum. This is a great team, one that never quit despite blowing some good leads during the series. Red brought Cousy over. Here's the guy. Here's my sidekick. He brought us this far, and the team carried through in the clincher. Cousy and I have been chasing this for seven years. My nervous system is shot. I thought we were goners there twice, and we both had the game won four or five times, but Hannum and I both blew it. Heinsohn and Loscutoff dragged their coach, sport coat and all, into the showers for the traditional dunking.
  • In a span of 12 1/2 months, Russell had been a member of an NCAA championship team, the gold medal U.S. Olympic team, and now the NBA titlists. He shaved off his goatee which he had vowed to keep until the team won the title. I guess it's all right to take it off now. If I have any grey hairs, I picked them up today. The suspense was terrific ... Mistakes in a game like this one can kill you because there's no tomorrow. Auerbach took a few swipes with the razor to help remove the "lucky" facial hair. Bill admitted that he turned to prayer to prepare for the final contest. I was sitting on my bed, saying my nightly prayers. I said a prayer for my family. Then I prayed I would play well. Then I thought I'd better say one for Lusky. After that, I thought I'd better not forget The Rook. Once I got going, I figured I'd better say one for Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman too. And then for the old boys, Arnie Risen and Andy Phillip. I wound up saying one for everybody. Everybody except the officials.
  • After playing all 58 minutes, Cousy was so exhausted he could hardly dress himself. Wiping a tear from his eye, Bob said, I've waited a long time for this. ... Imagine me missing that second FT that would have sewed it up. Just as I was about to shoot, I started to think about how I would throw it up there, and I didn't follow through. A player never should think when he goes up to that line - just throw it up automatically and you won't miss. It's been a great series but a tremendous strain because possession of the ball was always being contested, unlike during the regular season when you can coast here and there. I thought it was an unusually clean series - but, boy, I've had it.
  • Sharman praised Heinsohn, who would be announced as the Rookie of the Year the next day. Tommy played the greatest game under such terrific pressure of any rookie I have ever seen. He bailed us out at least half a dozen times. Did you ever see another series like this one? I never did in any sport. The mental strain was much worse than the physical. I only had one hour's sleep Thursday night after we dropped that two-pointer in St. Louis. Last night, I kept waking up so often I only had a couple of hours more. ... It was a long time coming. Maybe that's why it feels so good. It will feel good again, but never like this first time.
  • Loscutoff was still shaking after he had showered. Look at my fingers. It was a beautiful series, though, wasn't it? What a way to end it. Oh those rookies (Heinsohn and Russell). We never could have done it without 'em.
  • Ramsey: I don't even mind going back to the Army until Thursday.
  • Heinsohn was the last to leave the dressing room. Yes, I was really nervous before the game, but I was all right once it got under way. The toughest part of the afternoon for me was sitting on the bench when Red wanted to rest me. I was so excited on one of those occasions that I started for the dressing room before I realized what I was doing. Any athlete will tell you that it's much worse sitting on the bench in a game like today's than being in there playing. Frankly, I couldn't watch it while I was resting. I had to put my jacket over my head. Incidentally, I thought the officiating was the best of the seven games in the series. It was almost as tough on the officials as it was on us because a bad call could have cost either team the title. Yes, that Hagan is the toughest guy on the Hawks for me to handle ...
  • On the other side, Hannum kept the press outside the locker room for half an hour. A key hole peeper heard champagne corks popping. The Hawks deserved it, win or lose. When Alex finally spoke to the media, he was asked about inserting himself into the game. No one left but Balmoras and I. Couldn't put him on the spot. Concerning the key traveling call, he said, I didn't think I was, but what can you say. The play was to feed Pettit. We never got a chance. They're a great team - they had to be to beat my boys. They played their hearts out. ... That Tom Heinsohn really isn't a rookie. I know he's a first-year man, but he's got the poise and determination of a player with many years of experience. And what a competitor. His play in the series surprised us more than anybody else's on the Boston team.
  • Hannum, Martin, Park, and Coleman walked to the Celtics' dressing room to offer their congratulations. I'm very proud of the way my boys played throughout the series, said Alex. It took the greatest basketball team I have ever seen to beat them. Boston can be proud of a real champion.
  • Pettit criticized himself despite his great performance throughout the series. We fight all year for this chance, and then I have to blow the big shot at the end.
  • Ben Kerner visited the officials' dressing room to praise Mendy Rudolph and Sid Borgia for their excellent work.
  • 2,000 fans would gather at the St. Louis Airport that night to greet Kerner's Hawks.

Of the seven games, five ended with two-point margins of victory and two went into double OT.

Boston Herald

1956-57 Boston Celtics

Front row (L-R): Lou Tsioropoulos, Andy Phillip, Frank Ramsey, Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Jim Loscutoff
Second row: President Walter Brown, Dick Hemric, Jack Nichols, Bill Russell, Arnie Risen, Tom Heinsohn, Harvey Cohn, VP Lou Pieri