|Posted by shawn cassidy on August 4, 2012 at 11:35 AM|
The big question for the Celtics as the 1963-64 campaign rolled around was how the loss of Cousy would affect the team. For years aficionados of the game had debated whether it was Cousy or Russell who provided the foundation for the Celtics'dynasty. Russell answered the question by leading the club to a 59-win season.Russell was clearly the anchor of the dynasty. You can't leave Cousy out in the cold, without any credit, but Russell was able to adapt to what he had.
Yet as important as Russell's contributions were, Boston prospered by virtue of a total team effort. The guard tandem of Sam Jones and K. C. Jones offered the perfect balance of scoring and defense, while Tom Heinsohn and Satch Sanders anchored the forward positions. The team's highest scorer didn't even start-Havlicek came off the bench to average 19.9 points. Boston waltzed through postseason play to a sixth straight championship, beating the Cincinnati Royals in five games and then defeating Wilt Chamberlain, and the San Francisco Warriors in the title series.
Owner Walter Brown passed away before the 1964-65 season. Brown,one of the founding fathers of modern professional basketball, hadowned the Celtics since starting the team in 1946. The club dedicated its season to him and kicked it off with 11 straight victories. Overall, Boston won 62 games and ended the regular season with a 14-game cushion over second-place Cincinnati.
Boston faced the Philadelphia 76ers (formerly the SyracuseNationals) in the opening round of the playoffs. Philadelphia hadestablished itself as a contender with the acquisition of Wilt Chamberlain from San Francisco midway through the season. The teams traded victories, with Boston winning Games 1, 3, and 5 andPhiladelphia claiming Games 2, 4, and 6.
Holding a seven-point lead with 2:00 left in Game 7, Boston appeared to have the game in hand, but then Chamberlain scored six quick points to pull the 76ers within one at 110-109. With five seconds left, Russell inbounded the ball with a pass that hit awire supporting the basket, and possession went to Philadelphia.But when the Sixers' Hal Greer threw the ball in to Chet Walker,John Havlicek stepped in and snatched the pass, inciting announcerJohnny Most's legendary shouts of "Havlicek stole the ball!Havlicek stole the ball!"
By comparison, Boston's NBA Finals matchup with Los Angelesseemed anticlimactic. The Lakers were playing without the injured Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West by himself was no match for theCeltics. Boston won Game 1 by 32 points and Game 5 by 34. Inbetween, the Celtics lost only once as they earned their seventh consecutive championship. Red Auerbach was named NBA Coach of theYear.