Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lakers and Celtics down the stretch
With Game 6 set for tonight in the NBA Finals and the Boston Celtics leading the Los Angeles Lakers three games to two, a story in today's Los Angeles Times sports section brought back some haunting memories for Lakers fans who could recall the 1969 final series between the two rivals.
The Celtics won that confrontation in seven games, taking Game 7 and the championship by two points, 108-106. The series featured six Hall of Fame players including Bill Russell, Sam Jones and John Havlicek for Boston, and Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain for the Lakers.
The late Mal Florence, who covered the Lakers that season for The Times, would often reminisce about Game 7 and how Lakers' owner Jack Kent Cooke had planned a celebration by having hundreds of balloons drop from the Forum's rafters.
Florence said that when the game ended, the victorious Russell ran off the court and looked up at the balloons which were still resting in a huge net above the floor. He pointed to the balloons and cackled in his famous high-pitched laugh.
If there was a highlight for the Lakers, who led the series early on, 2-0, it was that West was named the most valuable player, the only time in NBA Finals history that a player from the losing team was bestowed that honor.


add lakers-celtics: The 1969 series, of course, featured Chamberlain against Russell, who both had gone up against each other countless times on the East Coast, both in the regular season and playoffs. The late George Kiseda, a veteran writer and editor who covered the NBA and Chamberlain when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers, used to say that because Russell would always seem to get the best of Wilt in big games, that fans, especially those on the West Coast, believed that the Celtics' 6-9 center prevailed regularly against the 7-foot giant.
Kiseda said that "there would be nights when Chamberlain played Russell even up; there would be nights when Chamberlain outplayed Russell; and there would nights when Chamberlain dominated Russell."
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Russell always seemed to make a pivotal defensive play against them with the game on the line.

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