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Game Day falls on the last Sunday of the month, Game 7 of an Eastern Conference Final re-match, down at the fancy gym on Causeway St.

A plucky bunch of re-vamped but snake-bitten Boston Celtics are out for revenge against the team that had rather easily dispatched them in five games twelve months earlier. One of the team’s up-and-coming stars has coyly quipped, “I’m not going to say anything, but we got them in Boston last time.”

The confident speaker of those words was none other than Jo Jo White, that “snake” – actually a solid Dave DeBusschere screen back in Game 3 – had bitten not Hayward or Irving, but C’s captain John Havlicek in the right shoulder. (After sitting out a Game 4 loss in Madison Square Garden the previous Sunday, the Hall of Famer contributed 80 minutes and 31 points over the final three games while playing left-handed – 18 of the points in an amazing 30-minute stint during a do-or-die Game 5 98 - 97 stare-down on the fabled parquet.)

It was 45 seasons ago – a month sooner on the calendar – when the “C US Rise” guys were playing for an innovative and admired coach, in his first and only NBA gig, by the name of Tom Heinsohn.

The 1972-73 NBA Coach of the Year had pulled a rabbit out of his hat – the kind for which a certain current C’s mentor is becoming admired – in a series-evening Game 6 victory in New York. At their leader’s behest, the normally gun-shy duo of Don Chaney and Paul Silas had combined to launch 18 of the team’s 85 shots, finding bottom an uncharacteristic 13 times.

White and Dave Cowens, both pulling a “full-48” that Friday, contributed 51 points to that “defining” 110 – 100 road victory. League MVP Cowens added 14 rebounds, seven of them coming in so dominant a Q4 performance that the Knicks’ Jerry Lucas was prompted to tell Sports Illustrated, “He’s so quick, he’s like a 6’9” Jerry West.”

Coach Heinsohn, in his fourth year on the job, had seen his team’s win total increase by double-digits each season. His ’72-73 team’s 68 victories – a franchise record that stands to this day – exactly doubled the output of his initial, pre-Cowens squad.

Like the current Celtics, Heinie’s ’73 troops were rife with young, developing talent, both “stars” like White and Cowens and competent role players like Chaney and Steve Kuberski. (Also available to Tom was about a dozen title rings-worth of savvy in Havlicek, Don Nelson and Satch Sanders.)

Interestingly – and just as Brad Stevens would do under similar circumstances four-and-a-half decades later – Coach Heinsohn had shortened his playing rotation to a mere seven players for that critical Game 6 on the road: Silas (43 min), Nelson (39), Havlicek (27), Chaney (23), Kuberski (12) along with the Cowens and White “box-to-wire” efforts.

Whether it was due to fatigue or a simple return to normalcy – “Tall Paul” and the “Duck” did shoot just 6-for-18 from the floor this time around – the Celtics’ battle-to-stay-close lasted only 24 minutes in the finale before New York eased its way to a third NBA Finals in four years – and ultimately to a championship over Wilt’s last Laker team.

No Celtic was able to make half his FG attempts that Sunday, they shot under 40 percent as a team. The Knicks, on the other hand, had five “better-than-half” shooters including a hatchet-man named Phil Jackson and the star-of-the-day Dean Meminger.

Despite the disappointment of a 94 – 78 thwacking on his renowned home court, GM Red Auerbach opted to keep together his developing unit of players. Sanders would retire, and draft picks Steve Downing and Phil Hankinson would hone their craft primarily on the practice floor.

But Heinsohn’s Game 6 “Magnificent Seven” augmented with journeyman Hambone Williams, flashy soph Paul Westphal and the athletically-challenged Henry Finkel would go on to snatch the Brass Ring the very next season – turning back those Knicks in five games en-route.

Any chance this “Déjà vu – 45 Years Later” can hang around a while longer?


Abacus Revelation for the Road

If a “vintage” Dave Cowens were playing in today’s NBA …

… we’d all be saying, “Draymond Who?”


images: nba.com, getty
lithpgraph: Eddie Germano, Sportoons

Abacus Reveals 6/14/2018 06:04:00 PM Edit
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