Sunday, May 5, 2013

NBA (and ABA) Playoffs, Round of Eight

So, when we left off last season, 1966-67, the Boston Celtics' long run of NBA championships had been at last ended at eight, as the Philadelphia 76ers put together what even Bill Russell had to agree was one of the best seasons in NBA history. 

As the 1967-68 NBA division semifinals commence, all indications are that the 76ers are ready to begin a championship run of their own. Philadelphia finished the NBA's first 82-game regular season with 62 wins--including a 30-point romp in the season's last week against the Western Division-runnerup Los Angeles Lakers. The 76ers' 31-year-old, hometown-hero center, Wilt Chamberlain, had 53 points, 32 rebounds and 14 assists in the game, en route to his fourth-straight honor as the league's most valuable player. Like last season, Chamberlain was expected to shoulder less of the team's scoring load. After his first nine NBA seasons, in which he averaged no fewer than 30.1 points per game, Chamberlain had averaged 24.1 and 24.3 points in the 1966-67 and '67-68 seasons, respectively. In 1967-68, he also averaged a league-best 23.8 rebounds and totaled a league-best 702 assists (8.6 per).

Also qualifying from the playoffs from the Eastern Division are the Boston Celtics (54-28), New York Knichs (43-39) and Detroit Pistons (40-42). The Cincinnati Royals (39-43) and Baltimore Bulllets (36-46) finished out of the reason.

In the Western Division, the final standings saw the St. Louis Hawks (56-26) in first, followed by Los Angeles (52-30), the San Francisco Warriors (43-39), the Chicago Bulls (29-53), the expansion Seattle SuperSonics (23-59) and the expansion San Diego Rockets (15-67). After winning the Western Division last season, San Francisco slid in the standings in 1967-68 without Rick Barry, the NBA's rookie of the year in 1965-66 and leading scorer in 1966-67.

Barry left San Francisco and the NBA to join the Oakland Oaks of the first-year American Basketball Association. However, a San Francisco judge ruled in favor of the Warriors in a court case that prevented Barry from playing for the ABA Oaks for one year under terms of the NBA's reserve clause. So, with 23-year-old Barry providing radio commentary, the Oaks went 22-56 in the first ABA regular season--last place in the Western Division, behind the New Orleans Buccaneers (48-30), Dallas Chaparrals (46-32), Denver Rockets (45-33), Houston Mavericks (29-49) and Anaheim Amigos (25-53). In the Eastern Division, it was the Pittsburgh Pipers (54-24) coming in first, ahead of the Minnesota Muskies (50-28), Indiana Pacers (38-40), Kentucky Colonels (36-42) and New Jersey Americans (36-42).

The NBA playoffs open Friday, March 22, 1968. Here are the round-of-eight pairings:

-- 76ers vs. Knicks,
-- Celtics vs. Pistons,
-- Hawks vs. Warriors and
-- Lakers vs. Bulls.

The ABA playoffs tip off Saturday, March 23, 1968. Here are those round-of-eight pairings:

-- Pipers vs. Pacers,
-- Muskies vs. Colonels,
-- Buccaneers vs. Rockets and
-- Chaparrals vs. Mavericks.


  1. It was a tough season for us Bullets fans, but maybe we're headed toward being able to get this "AL-sin-duhr" guy from UCLA in a few years.

  2. We took a first step to a rematch of last season's NBA Finals, as both the 76ers and Warriors won their opening playoff games March 22, 1968. Wilt Chamberlain tallied 37 points, 29 rebounds and seven assists as Philadelphia beat the Knicks, 118-110, and Jeff Mullins--an old Lexington Lafayette High General who then starred at Duke--had 29 as San Francisco beat the Hawks, 111-106. These series are best-of-seven. I used to go to church in North Carolina with a fellow who, in the 1990s, was jogging buddies with Jeff Mullins. This was after Mullins coached basketball at UNC-Charlotte back in the Sun Belt Conference's glory days. There's a great Brent Musburger anecdote at the end of this story about Jeff Mullins.

    Meanwhile, in the NCAA semifinals, John Wooden saddled Lynn Shackleford on Elvin Hayes and then aligned his other four Bruin defenders in a diamond, with Lew Alcindor at the point under the goal. Hayes was limited to 10 points, and UCLA slugged Houston, 101-69, for the Cougars' only loss of the season after 31 victories. North Carolina beat Ohio State, 80-66, in the other semi.

    "The Bruin-Tar Heel nationally-televised final is scheduled for 10 p.m. EST, following the 8 p.m. consolation between Houston and Ohio State," reports the Associated Press.

    One of the angriest annual moments for my mother is about 8 p.m. Central on the Monday when the NCAA men's basketball championship still hasn't quite tipped off. "Why do they wait so late to get started?" she'll usually say during a phone call about this time every year, before complaining that she'll probably "have to" go ahead and pop a second bag of popcorn and relenting that at least she gets to listen to Jim Nantz.

    1. The fact that college basketball survived the UCLA dynasty is a real tribute to the passion of college basketball fans.

  3. The Hawks and the Knicks even their NBA series with the defending conference-champion Warriors and 76ers, respectively, on Saturday, March 23, 1968. The big star for New York was Walt Frazier, a rookie from Southern Illinois. Per the Associated Press report in the March 24 Toledo Blade:

    Frazier poured in 25 points and directed the Knicks offense that held off a fourth-quarter Philadelphia threat.

    The 76ers had chopped a Knick lead that peaked at 18 points down to three when Frazier and Cazzie Russell pulled New York together.

    Frazier hit a basket and three foul shots, fed Russell for two baskets and Phil Jackson for another as New York pulled out of reach.

  4. Walt Frazier made a trip back to Carbondale, Ill., in 2011.

    I wonder if Walt Frazier ever played that great roller-ball football video game in the SIU student union.

  5. The March 24, 1968, Toledo Blade's only mention of the ABA playoffs, as a note in the agate that a Kentucky-at-New Jersey one-game playoff to determine the fourth seed in the Eastern Division playoffs had been canceled.

    In his (50-stars, super-highly recommended) 1990 book Loose Balls, Terry Pluto provided the 411 on the sitch: "First, it was to be at New Jersey's regular home, the Teaneck Armory, but that was booked by the circus, so the game was moved to Commack Arena on Long Island. But when the teams arrived, the floor was a shambles, with pieces of wood sticking out and loose nuts and bolts all over the place. Both teams called (ABA commissioner George) Mikan for a ruling, since the floor was unplayable. He forfeited the game to Kentucky, putting the Colonels in the playoffs." (That was on Page 89.)

  6. The Toledo Blade doesn't say so, but the Dallas Chaparrals nipped the Houston Mavericks, 111-110, in the Western Division playoff opener March 23, 1968.

  7. In other news, UCLA beat North Carolina for the NCAA championship (junior Lew Alcindor goes for 34 points and 15 rebounds); Ohio State beat Houston for third place ("'E's' A Loser"), and Erma Bombeck likes Born Free but not many other current movies.

  8. The 1968 NCAA Tournament is one of the most boring NCAA Tournaments ever played. The only really interesting game in the tournament was Ohio State's 82-81 win over UK in the Mideast Regional Final -- which was played in Lexington, of all places. It was the first of three excruciating defeats for Dan Issel in the NCAA Tournament. UK would not get its revenge on Ohio State for another 43 years.

  9. The March 25, 1968, Morning Record of Meriden, Conn., carries an AP report that the owner of the New Jersey Americans says "they will go to court in an attempt to have the American Basketball Association playoffs declared illegal" in the wake of Commissioner George Mikan's ruling to cancel Saturday's game because of unplayable conditions. "About 1,000 fans were on hand when the game was called off," goes on the AP report. "A spokesman for the Americans said the stanchions holding the baskets in place were unpadded and the floor also was unsuitable."

    Meanwhile, the ABA carried on. Darel Carrier--who was the most famous Bristow (Ky.) High School Comet cager of all time until "High-School High-Pointer" Rich Hendrick came along--hit a three-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter to give Kentucky an 89-85 lead, but then the home-standing Minnesota Muskies outscored the Colonels, 30-13, the rest of the way for a 115-102 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-five Eastern Division series. Mel Daniels scored 44 points for the Muskies, and attendance was reported at 661.

    In openers of NBA best-of-seven, first-round series March 24, the Celtics beat the Pistons, 123-116, and the Lakers beat the Bulls, 109-101.

    1. One wee-wee-hours-of-the-morning morning at the original Waffle House in Bowling Green, there was a dude mimicking Darel Carrier's three-point stroke from all around the store. He'd walk over to a booth, pretend to shoot a three and then say to whoever happened to be there, "BOOM! Automatic!" And then he'd walk over to another booth, air-shoot another three and say to whoever happened to be there, "BOOM! Automatic!" This would've been about 1989.

      More on Darel Carrier:

      -- Lots more, from Hilltopper Haven.

      Bristow High closed in 1969.

      Darel Carrier's twin brother is Harel Carrier.

  10. Pistons over Celtics, 126-116, and Lakers over Bulls, 111-106, in the NBA playoffs March 25, 1968. That evens the best-of-seven Eastern Division semifinal series at one game apiece and puts the Lakers up, 2-0, in the Western. Accounting for the Detroit victory, United Press International says, "speed and youth paid off against defense and experience." UPI notes that the Pistons opened in a fast-break offense that built an early lead and got key Celtics into early foul trouble. "Bill Russell, Tom Sanders and Bailey Howell foul(ed) out when the Celtics needed them most."

    Meanwhile, in the ABA playoffs March 25, 1968, the Chaparrals beat the Mavericks, 115-97 (Dallas leads, 2-0, in the best-of-five series), and the Pipers beat the Pacers, 146-127 (Pittsburgh is up, 1-0). The March 26, 1968, Middlesboro Daily News had no report on those games, but it did note the following:

    -- The UPI reports that Elvin Hayes of the University of Houston says he would sign with the San Diego Rockets but not the Houston Mavericks, the teams who hold the first overall picks in the NBA and ABA drafts, respectively. "He also said he would pass up a chance at the Olympics for a contract. The decision to skip the Olympics did not concern the boycott some Negro athletes have proposed, he said. ... 'I have to look out for myself and my family (his wife and son). If I get hurt, I have nothing. Nothing would come to me or my family. It would be zero-zero.'"

    -- All-Southeastern Kentucky Conference honorees in high-school basketball will be honored at the Middlesboro Country Club tonight. University of Tennessee coach Ray Mears is the scheduled guest speaker.

    -- Kentucky is the seventh state where former Alabama governor George C. Wallace has qualified to be an independent candidate for president this fall. Reports the UPI, "Named as electors for Wallace on the petitions filed today were Virgil Craycraft, Lexington, Kentucky coordinator of the John Birch Society; James Robinson, Frank Sadler and Peter Brown, also of Lexington; Rev. Robert H. Jones and Richard Treitz of Louisville; J.T. Taylor, Murray; V.J. Steele Jr., Owensboro, and Charles Carrell, Benton."

    -- Linus is not over his crush on Miss Othmar.

    -- Among the movies playing in the area are Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar; The War Wagon, and, at the Rosa drive-in north of Middlesboro, ("TONITE! 2 FIRST RUN HITS!") Barefoot in the Park and Discover America, which looks truly fantastic.

    -- Rick Jason, who played in Combat, married actress Patricia Connelly in Japan. Rest in peace, Mr. Jason.

    -- The U.S. Army reports that 20-year-old Wince Issac Overton Jr. of East Pineville was shot and killed in combat in Vietnam. He had been deployed there since July 23, 1967. Specialist Four Overton attended Bell County High, and his dad is a mechanic at Rewland Chevrolet in Pineville. Rest in peace, Specialist Four Overton.

    -- Everyone is invited to hear and see the Rev. and Mrs. C. Lee Eby, missionaries to New Guinea, "speak and present a colored slide show" at Pineville Church of the Nazarene tonight and First Church of the Nazarene in Middlesboro tomorrow. (And now the son and his family are rocking Senegal.)

  11. Tuesday, March 26, 1968, NBA result:

    -- Warriors 124, Hawks 109 (San Francisco leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1)

    Los Angeles plays at Chicago (the Lakers, 2-0), and New York plays at Philadelphia (1-1) on March 27. Boston is at Detroit (1-1) on March 28.

    Tuesday, March 26, 1968, ABA results:

    -- Chaparrals 116, Mavericks 103 (Dallas wins the best-of-five series, 3-0)

    -- Colonels 100, Muskies 95 (1-1)

    -- Pipers 121, Pacers 109 (Pittsburgh, 2-0)

    Denver plays at New Orleans (Buccaneers, 1-0); Kentucky plays at Minnesota, and Indiana plays at Pittsburgh--all on March 27.