The Cleveland Cavaliers are swimming upstream against history. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to win a championship. And only three teams have ever won a seventh game on the road.
For just the third time in history, a team has forced a seventh game after trailing 3-1 in the NBA Finals. That would be the Cavaliers, who will go to the mat against the Warriors on the road in Oakland.
In 1951, the Knicks trailed the Rochester Royals 3-0 and rallied to force a Game 7 but lost 79-75 in the final game (shown above). Arnie Risen led all scorers with 24 points as Rochester won its only NBA Championship. The Royals later moved West, first to Cincinnati, then Kansas City-Omaha, and eventually Sacramento. Somewhere in transit they become the Kings.
In 1966 the Lakers trailed the Celtics 3-1, only to win twice and force a decisive game. Boston held on to win that game 95-93 at the Boston Garden and capture a record eighth straight NBA championship. Bill Russell scored 25 points and took down 32 rebounds to lead the way.
Seventh games are a rarity in the NBA Finals. Cleveland-Golden State is just the 19th Game 7 since the league’s first playoff in 1947. Since 1984, only six Finals, including this one, have gone the distance.
And the home team – that would be the Warriors – has the decided edge if history proves true to form. Only three teams have won a seventh game game on the road. The last team to win a Finals Game 7 on the road was the Washington Bullets, who beat the Supersonics in Seattle. The Bullets won 105-89 behind center Wes Unseld, who was named MVP.
The Celtics did it twice – in 1974 against the Bucks in Milwaukee and.in 1969 against the Lakers at the Los Angeles Forum. In 1974, the road team won five times, including the last four games. The Celtics won 102-87 in what turned out to be Oscar Robertson’s final game.
In 1969, Boston, which finished in fourth place in the Eastern Division, came back to take the last two games as Russell outplayed Wilt Chamberlain. Boston held onto what had been a 17-point lead in the finale to win its 11th title 108-106.
Jerry West became the only player on a losing team to win Finals MVP. LA owner Jack Kent Cooke had thousands of balloons in the rafters ready to be released when the Lakers won. The balloons never came down.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry, right, recently lit up Madison Square Garden for 54 points, making 11 of 13 three-pointers in a loss to the Knicks. Curry’s majestic performance raised the obvious questions about all-time scoring heroics at MSG.
New York Newsday has a slide show on MSG’s 50-point games at both the old Garden on Eighth Avenue and the current facility atop Penn Station, which opened in 1968. Here are 10 factoids about the top scoring games at Madison Square Garden, the so-called world’s most famous arena and the mecca of basketball.
1. No surprise here. Wilt Chamberlain has held the record for most points scored at MSG for more than 50 years. In November of 1962, the Big Dipper, playing for the San Francisco Warriors, dropped 73 points on the Knicks at the old Garden.
2. Chamberlain indeed has recorded five of the top eight scoring games at MSG. In addition to his 73-point outburst, Wilt scored 62 (3rd all-time), 59 (6th), and 58 twice (7th and 8th). All came at the old Garden in a four-year span between 1960 and 1964.
3. Lakers forward Elgin Baylor set the NBA single-game scoring record in November, 1960, when he scored 71 against the Knicks. Baylor also had 25 rebounds at MSG that night.
4. Another Laker, Kobe Bryant, scored 61 at the current MSG — aka MSG IV, the NBA’s oldest arena — in February of 2009. Bryant made all 20 of his free throws that night.
5. The Knick single-game scoring record is 60, set by Bernard King, left, on Christmas Day in 1984 in a loss to the New Jersey Nets. That new Garden record stood for nearly 25 years until Kobe broke it.
6. All told, five Knicks have eclipsed 50 points at the Garden. Richie Guerin had 57 and 51 at the old MSG, and King (55,52), Patrick Ewing (51,50), Jamaal Crawford (52) and Allan Houston (50) at the new place.
7. Guerin’s 57 in 1959 broke the Garden record held by Neil Johnston of the Philadelphia Warriors. Johnston was the first player to score 50 points in a game against the Syracuse Nationals in 1954 — part of an all-NBA doubleheader at MSG.
8. Michael Jordan twice scored 50 at MSG, including the famous double nickel 55 in 1995. Exactly 3,069 days earlier Jordan hit for 50 in 1986, the only player to shoot less than 50 percent in a 50-point effort at the Garden.
9. As a Cleveland Cavalier, LeBron James surpassed the half century mark twice in New York, with 52 in 2009 and 50 one year earlier. At the time, LeBron’s 50-point, 10-assist game was only the third since the ABA-NBA merger.
10. The only other players to score 50 or more in an NBA game at the Garden were Rick Barry, who scored 57 as a rookie with San Francisco in 1965 and Richard Hamilton of the Detroit Pistons, who scored 51 points in a triple overtime loss to the Knicks in 200
Name a great one. Babe Ruth. Ted Williams. Jim Brown. Tom Brady. Wayne Gretzky. Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan.
The list goes on and on, but no athlete in the history of professional sports ever had a more dominant game — and a more dominant year — than Wilton Norman Chamberlain, playing for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1961-62.
The crowning achievement of Chamberlain’s year (and his career) occurred on March 2, 1962, when Wilt scored 100 points against the New York Knickerbockers.
The ‘Game of the Century” was played before a half-empty arena with 4,124 in attendance in Hershey, Pa. The contest was not televised — in fact no footage of any kind exists.
Not a single New York sportswriter was there to write about it. There were only two photographers on hand, and one of them left after the first quarter. Veteran broadcaster Bill Campbell broadcast the game over WPHT radio in Philadelphia.
In addition to his 100 points, Wilt established single game records that still stand for field goal attempts (63), field goals made (36), and free throws made (28 on 32 attempts), mind-boggling for such a terrible foul shooter.
No NBA player has ever come close to approaching 100. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in 2006. David Robinson had 71 in 1994. Michael Jordan scored 69 in an overtime game. Pete Maravich once scored 68 against the Knicks.
Here are 10 interesting sidebars about Wilt Chamberlain and his incomparable 1961-62 ‘Season of the Century’:
1. 50.4 PPG: Chamberlain scored 4,029 points and averaged 50,4 points a game during the 1961-62 season, coming off a 44.8 scoring average the previous year. In the 50 years since, Michael Jordan’s 37.1 ppg in 1986-87 is the NBA high water mark.
2. Scoring Streaks: In 1962, Wilt scored more than 50 points 44 times, more than 60 a dozen times and more than 70 twice. In December of 1961, Chamberlain had five straight games of 50, including a then-record 78 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Later that December, he scored 50 or more seven times in a row. He had another streak of six straight 50+ games in January of 1962, topped by 73 against the Chicago Packers. Wilt scored 67, 65 and 61 in the games leading up to 100. And two nights after 100, Chamberlain torched the Knicks for 58 at Madison Square Garden.
3. Rebounds: Wilt averaged 25.6 rebounds per game that year, third best all-time behind his own best 27.2 in 1960-61 and 27.0 in his rookie year, 1959-60.
4. League Leader: Chamberlain led the NBA in at least 10 major categories in 1961-62, including minutes played, field goals, field goal attempts, free throws, free throw attempts, total rebounds, points, minutes per game, points per game and rebound per game.
5. Minute Man: Wilt played every minute of every Warriors game that year, and averaged more than 48 minutes per game (48.52), the only time that’s ever been done. In fact, the top seven seasons of minutes played all belong to Chamberlain, who never fouled out of an NBA game.
6. All-Star Game Record: He set new standards in the NBA All-Star game that year with 42 points and 24 rebounds. But Bob Pettit of the host St. Louis Hawks won the MVP as the West beat the East, 150-130.
7. Playoffs: Wilt’s Warriors finished second in the NBA East in 1961-62 with a 49-31 record, 11 games behind the Boston Celtics (60-20). Philadelphia beat the Syracuse Nationals 3-2 in the best-of-five first round, then lost to the eventual NBA champion Celtics in seven games, with the home team winning each time. Wilt outscored his Boston counterpart, Bill Russell, in all seven games, with a 42-point, 37-rebound effort in Game Two, and a 41-point, 34-rebound performance in Game 4. In the deciding Game 7, Chamberlain had 22 points and 21 rebounds, and tied the game in the last minute with a three-point play, but the Celtics’ Sam Jones hit the game-winner with two seconds remaining. Russell finished with 19 points and 22 rebounds
8. No MVP: Despite putting together the greatest statistical season in NBA (and arguably pro sports) history in 1961-62, Wilt Chamberlain did not with the MVP. That honor went to his rival, Bill Russell. Wilt did win four NBA MVP awards.
9. NBA Leader: Chamberlain won the NBA scoring title his first seven years in the league, beginning with his rookie year in 1959-60. He led the league in rebounds 11 times in 14 seasons, and even won the assist title in 1967-68. He won two NBA titles, with the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers and the 1971-72 Lakers.
10. On the Record: The record books are heavy with Chamberlain’s accomplishments. In addition to what’s been outlined above, he holds the NBA record for most consecutive field goals (18), most rebounds in a game (55), most games with 50+ points (118); most consecutive games with 40+ points (14) most consecutive games with 30+ points (65), most consecutive games with 20+ points (126), highest rookie scoring average (37.6 ppg) and highest field goal percentage in a season (.727).
The “heat” is on Miami’s LeBron James following his Game 4 flame-out.
When LeBron James pulled his disappearing act against the Dallas Mavs in Game 4 of the NBA Finals the other night, he evoked memories of another classic underachiever — Wilt Chamberlain.
LBJ is considered by many to be the best player in the NBA today. He’s been compared to some of the all-time greats, including his Airness himself, Michael Jordan.
But in these NBA Finals, LeBron is not even the best player on the Miami Heat. Dwayne Wade, pure and simple, has been Miami’s best player and their go-to-guy down the stretch.
King James scored eight points in Game 4. Eight points. Are you serious? You have to go back 434 games to find the last time the great Lebron scored eight points or less in a game.
LeBron made just three of 11 shots and came up empty when it mattered most, down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
James did finish with had nine rebounds and seven assists. But all that really matters is that the Heat got eight points from the most dominant basketball force on the planet and lost by three with a chance to put a stranglehold on the series.
Wilt in The Clutch
Sounds like Wilt Chamberlain, the Big Dipper. Wilt was a virtually unstoppable force who once averaged 50 points for an entire season and scored 100 points in a single game.
For years in the 60s, Wilt’s teams — the Philadelphia Warriors and later the 76ers — came up short against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs before the Sixers won the NBA title in 1967.
The following year, Philly blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Celtics in a seventh game where Wilt, far right against Bill Russell, scored only 14 points and failed to score a single point in the second half.
Wilt was traded to the Lakers in the off-season, and took LA to the NBA Finals. But in Game 7 of the 1968 Finals, Chamberlain took himself out of the game midway through the fourth quarter, never returned, and the Lakers lost to the Celtics.
In 1970, it happened again. Lakers-Knicks in the NBA Finals, Game 5, and New York’s Willis Reed went down in the first quarter with a thigh injury. The Lakers led by 13 at the half, but collapsed in the second half when Wilt and Jerry West combined for just five shots.
Wilt had a monster Game 6 with 45 points and 27 rebounds as the Lakers forced a seventh game. But facing a hobbled Reed in Game 7, Chamberlain was barely visible as the Knicks romped to their first NBA Championship.
Two Titles for Chamberlain
Wilt did manage to win a second NBA title in 1972 when Reed was once again sidelined by injury.
In Chamberlain’s defense, he faced Hall of Fame centers like Russell, Reed, Nate Thurmond and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and led far inferior teams to near titles.
LeBron, who is seeking his first NBA Championship, has an edge in talent in these finals. The Heat were heavily favored coming in, and hold the homecourt advantage over Dallas.
“I’ll come back in Game 5 and do things that need to be done to help our team win,” LBJ said after the Game 4 meltdown.
The jury is still out on that one.
Amar’e Stoudemire broke the Knicks record for consecutive 30-point games….but he has miles to go to eclipse Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA record of 65.
Amar’e Stoudemire set a Knicks team record recently when he scored 30 points for the eighth game in a row, all of them New York victories.
Stoudemire broke the team record set by Willie Naulls in 1962, a record that has stood for nearly 50 years, surviving scoring splurges by Knick greats like Walt Frazier, Bernard King and Patrick Ewing
Naulls, nicknamed The Whale, ended his streak by scoring 31 points against the Philadelphia Warriors on March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pa. That game is forever emblazoned in NBA lore — it’s the night Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points against the Knicks.
Chamberlain holds the NBA record for most consecutive games scoring 30 or more points with 65 from November 4, 1961 to February 22, 1962. That’s the basketball equivalent of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, or Johnny Unitas string of 47 games with at least one touchdown pass.
Wilt on The Record
Wilt also holds the NBA record for most consecutive games with 50 points (7), 40 points (14) and 20 points (126), all established or begun during the 1961-62 season.
That was quite a year for Chamberlain, who averaged 50.4 points per game — for the season. That’s another of Wilt’s many records that will never be broken.
Willie Naulls, was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks but traded to the Knicks for Slater Martin just 19 games into his rookie season. He averaged a career-high 25 points per game for the Knicks in 1961-62.
Early in the 1962-63 season he was traded to the San Francisco Warriors along with Kenny Sears for Tom Gola, and became teammates with Chamberlain.
Naulls wound up his career winning three straight NBA championships with the Boston Celtics before he retired in 1966.
Incredibly, no Boston Celtic has ever won the NBA scoring title
The Celtics, along with the New York Knicks, are the only original NBA teams dating back to the Basketball Association of America (BAA) which began in 1946. The Philadelphia Warriors, who moved to California to become the Golden State Warriors in 1962, were also part of that inaugural BAA season.
Just before the start of the 1948-49 season, four teams from the National Basketball League (NBL) joined the BAA — the Fort Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons, Indianapolis Jets, Minneapolis (now Los Angeles) Lakers and Rochester Royals (now Sacramento Kings).
Before the 1949 season, the six remaining NBL teams — Anderson (Ind.), Denver, Sheboygan (Wis.), Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers), Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now Atlanta Hawks), and Waterloo (Iowa) — joined the BAA, along with the new Indianapolis Olympians, and became the National Basketball Association.
As for the two other original teams, the Knicks have had one scoring champion, Bernard King in 1985. The Warriors have had a number of scoring champs, including Joe Fulks, right, in 1947, Wilt Chamberlain (6), Neil Johnson (3) and Paul Arizin (2). However the Warriors have not had a scoring champ since Rick Barry averaged 35.6 points per game in 1967.
BTW, Lakers who led the league in scoring were George Mikan, three times with Minneapolis beginning in 1949, Jerry West in 1970 and Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.
Related NBA reading: Celtics-Lakers Would Be Historic NBA Final