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The Lakers playoff Threepeat over the Chicago Bulls, 1971-73


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#1 Lakers_55

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Posted April 06, 2011 - 06:34 PM

Thanks to all for the positive responses I am getting in the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry thread. Since Lakers vs. Bulls is a potential 2011 finals matchup, I thought I'd share this. Most of you know we lost to Chicago in the 1991 finals, but in their early years, they played in the west, and we beat them 4 times. Also, keep in mind, many of you have a great advantage over me. At age 56 I won't live long enough to see as many Lakers seasons as most of you will. There are plenty of future Lakers fans yet to be born that you will have to tell tales to in coming years. It's your responsibility. When you're needed, please step in.

1970-71 started yet another year of trying to get over the hump and win a champiionship in Los Angeles for the Lakers, who still hadn't done so since playing in Minnesota. We were coming off a finals los to the Knicks, who were the early favorites. The NBA added 3 expansion teams, Portland, Cleveland, and buffalo (Now the Cluippers). Realignment of confernces was done, and divisonal play was introduced. Our recent rival, teh Atlanta Hawks were sent east, but in return we were dealt a new monster, the Milwaukee Bucks went to the new Midwest division. Led by future GOAT candidate Lew Alcindor (Now Kareem Abdul Jabbar) they virtually locked top dog in the west status by trading for Oscar Roberston, the greatest guard to ever play in the NBA until Magic and Michael came along. Milwaukee broke the NBA record for longest winning streak at 20, which had been set the year before by the champion Knicks. That lasted one more season when we won 33 in a row,.

The Lakers season started on a sour note. Elgin Baylor played two games and was lost for the season. By the playoffs, Elgin suited up and participated in before half shootarounds. Maybe he would have come back had we made the finals. We didn't use him versus the Bucks, but I'd like to think he would have tried against the Bullets had we beaten Milwaukee. The Lakers would have been favorites and held HCA because Baltimore upset the Knicks. In game 71, Jerry West was lost for the season. While playing in Buffalo, Bob Kaufman fell on him, tearing a ligament in Jerry's knee. Jerry West night was scheduled for game 81 in advance, and was televised live (not the game). Jerry had to come out on crutches to accept his accolades. Lakers closed the season at 48-34, losing 8 of their last 11 games without Jerry. On postive notes, we did reacquire Gail Goodrich from Phoenix for Mel Counts, but many people said the Suns got the better of the deal. not true down the line, espcially when you consider Gail was parlayed into Magic Johnson. Happy Hairston put up great rebounding and scoring numbers for us n his first full season. An unheralded rookie, Jim McMillian, and reserves Keith Erickson and Pat Riley would play pivotal roles for the Lakers in the upcoming playoff with the Bulls. Chamberlain was utilized often by coach Joe Mullaney, who integrated him into the offense. We weren't a fast breaking team yet. wilt \did a lot of dunking and shot a fallaway bankshot from about 15 feet out, usually left side of the key. He was still active on defense, blocking and altering plenty of shots and getting plenty of rebounds on both ends of the court. If he got next to the basket, it was a virtual automatic dunk.

The playoffs had an odd rule for seeding, soon abandonded. Division winners played the runner up in the opposite division that conference and received an automatic home court advantage. Some teams with better records missed the playoffs entirely. Regardless, the Lakers entered the series
as heavy underdogs to the Bulls. Chicago had a better record than us, and fairly, should have had HCA, but the rules disagreed. HCA was critical, as the home team won every game in the 7 game series. Chicago was expected to win in 5 or 6 games, and even a sweep wasn't out of the question. the loss of Jeerry West and our season ending tailspin seemed to make that a certainty.

The Chicago Bulls were led by coach Dick Motta, a coach with mixed results. His career spanned about 30 years and he won one NBA title, in 1978 with the Washington Bullets. They had two superstars, or close to it, in Bob Love and Chet Walker. You have all heard of Jerry Slaon, long time coach of the Jazz. He played on this team and was just a pesky a player as his Jazz teams have been over the years. This guy did not quit. some of my high school buddies called him a dirty player, he was that physical. Future Clippers coach Bob Weiss was on the squad. they had a big center, Tom Boerwinkle, that played just over half the game and did his best to contain Wilt. Chicago games tended to be low scoring, they liked to take most the 24 second clock to get a shot off.

Game 1, March 24, 1971. Lakers 100 Bulls 99.

I listened to this on the radio. This is the first time in my fandom that the Lakers pulled off an incredible playoff comeback. Certainly not the last! We got down by
about 17-19 points by the half or early third quarter, then came steadily back. Goodrich, Erickson, and McMillian were the keys. Chick Hearn made a nervous wreck out of me this game, not the first time he did that either! (The series against the Suns in 1970 where we were down 3-1 and came back did that). It's nervous time at the Fabulous Forum", a patented Chick line. Once it ws over, the crowd was into it, and suddenly, the players realized they had a chance after all!

Game 2, March 26, 1971, Lakers 105 Bulls 95.

I don't remember anything more thanI listened, the Lakers stepped up again, and the Forum corwd and Chick Hearn rode us to victory.

Game 3, March 28, 1971 Bulls 106, Lakers 98.

I watched this on TV. I emember Chick Hearn saying the Lakers would like to sweep the Bulls, but it turned out that wasn't going to happen. Chicago utilized HCA and ground us down.

Game 4, March 30, 1971 Bulls 112 Lakers 102
I watched this as well, and it was just like game 3.

Game 5, April 2, 1971. Lakers 115 Bulls 89

I don't remember this game at all, other than the question was could the Lakers recapture the magic of the first two games, or was Chicago going to knuckle down and prove they were the better team, The final score shows we rose to the challenge.

Game 6, April 4, 1971 Bulls 113 Lakers 99.

I watched this on TV and Chicago did what they had to do. One game left!

Game 7, April 6, 1971. Lakers 109 Bulls 98.

This was the first Lakers game I went to. Lakers sustained the lead in a close game thoughout. I believe we fell behind by about 3 late third or early fourth quarter. The final spread of 11 points wasn't a true indicator. When desperation hit the Bulls, the turnovers erupted. Happy Hairston got two breakaway dunks in last minute to ice it.

Coming soon, 1972 matchup!

Seasons the Celtics lost ECF when Lakers won the championship (7): 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1988, 2002
In NBA history, the Lakers have finished better than the Celtics by a margin of 41-25!

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#2 Lakers_55

Lakers_55

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Posted April 06, 2011 - 06:52 PM

I forgot to add couple of things. Security those days was poor. I was able before the game to walk right into "Chick's Nest" his boradcast location and called his name from behind. He turned around, surprised, and I asked for his autograph, and he happily obliged. Although we sat in the nosebleeds, after the game I was able to walk down to courtside and enjoy seeing everything but the players up close. You can't do that at Staples I found out, or I'm doing it wrong!

Seasons the Celtics lost ECF when Lakers won the championship (7): 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1988, 2002
In NBA history, the Lakers have finished better than the Celtics by a margin of 41-25!

Click for Video proof Lakers are the greatest NBA franchise
FaceBook: http://www.facebook....nCelticsBusters


#3 LakersGAFan

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Posted April 06, 2011 - 07:03 PM

great story bro. thanks for sharing. +1

#4 RayRay

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Posted April 06, 2011 - 09:21 PM

Jesus at it again
only Kobe can stop Kobe.

#5 Game

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Posted April 07, 2011 - 06:34 PM

oh, saw this too late...was pointing out in another thread that it would be cool if we got bulls lakers again for the opportunity for phil's last championship to mirror his first in a way...beat me to it! another awesome thread indeed

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#6 Lakers_55

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Posted April 14, 2011 - 04:09 PM

History shows the 1971-72 Lakers swept the Chicago Bulls, 4-0. There is much more to the story than that. A true rivalry was born this year, jump started from the Lakers upset over the Bulls the previous season. Lakers had also beaten them in 1968 playoffs, but it wasn't part of the Threepeat. That was Chicago's second season in the NBA. They even made it their first.

Chicago was probably no worse than the fourth best team in the NBA from 1971-75 in any season. In 1971-72, they compiled the third best record in the NBA behind the Lakers and Bucks. Had they been in the east, they may have made the finals a few times. Chicago definitely was a better team than the sesson before. There were two roster upgrades. Rookie center Clifford Ray split the center duties with Tom Boerwinkle, each would play a full quarter. Together, they averaged nearly 22 rebounds per game. They added Norm Van Lier to the backcourt, who brought a consistent 12 points per game. Clifford Ray was dealt to the Warriors in 1974-75 for veteran Nate Thurmond and played a key role in bringing the lone Warrior title won in the bay area in 1975.

The Lakers on the other hand had vast improvements from the previous season. Coach Bil Sharman was hired to bring that elusive NBA title to Los Angeles. He integrated a fast break offense, Chamberlain or Hairston and their combined 32 rebounds per game would get an outlet pass to West, Goodrich, or McMillian and those guys would push the ball up the court and score. The Lakers bench players followed suit in transition. Jerry West, injured in last year's playoffs was healthy, and beasted against Chicago. He went stone cold after that, shooting around 30% for the last two rounds. Sophomore Jim McMillian stepped it up. When he was inserted into the startng lineupo to take Baylor's place, Elgin retired in pride, rather than come off the bench. There were a few other key role players on this Lakers team. Forward John Q. Trapp took Baylor's spot. He wasn't that great, but he was tall, 6-7. Back in this ear, most guards were 6'3" and shorter, and many teams started 6'5" forwards. Milwaukee countered this acquisition by dumping short staring forward Greg Smith (His son later played for the Lakers) and adding a taller Curtis Perry. Trapp could go out there and bang bodies with other forwards and centers. Center Leroy Ellis had played for the Lakers a few seasons in the early 60's and had never won a title. He served as Wilt's backup and as forward, at 6'10, gave the Lakers an intimidating front line. Since Wilt played all 48 minutes, unless the game was a blowout, Leroy had to make due with the 14 minutes per game he did get, and he rarely disappointed. There was one other key reserve, Flynn Robinson. Chick Hearn dubbed him "Instant Points" because he would come into the game and light up the scoreboard. Think JR Smith, we had a guy like that. At one time, Flynn came within a shot of tying the then NBA consecutive free throw mark, around 56 in a row. He was also the key player the Bucks gave up the previous season to acquire Oscar Robertson, so he was a welcome additon to the Lakers. Unfortunately, Flynn's defense was suspect and Sharman more or less quickly took him out of the rotation. Flynn did play 54 games that season, but many of his minutes were in garbage time. Sharman started using him again in the WCF against the Bucks.That series is another story, which I will tell one day soon. Pat Riley was still steady as a reserve. Keith Erickson was injured twice this season. He came back late in the year, only to suffer another season ending knee injury.

The first meeting of the year came at exactly the right time for the Bulls, in the Lakers home opener. LA had started 4-0 on the road, but Jerry West suffered an ankle sprain in game four at Atlanta, and missed 5 games. Lakers went 2-3. Lakers also lost at home to the Warriors in Baylor's final game and up in Seattle, the team "experts" picked to win the western division. The Lakers wree already being written off by many. When West returned, Baylor retired and the Lakers commenced their 33 game winning streak. Lakers got to 37-0 when west played. Could the Lakers have started 42-0? Who knows, but looking back it was possible. Anyway, with West out of the lineup against the Bulls, they took revenge on us with a 113-106 win that they pretty much controlled the whole way. We beat them the next 4 games in the regular season. On to the playoffs!

Game one was ominous. THe Lakers had socred 100 points or more in 81 of 82 regular season games. We managed to do it 4 times in the 15 games we played in the playoffs, including the first game with Chicago.

Game 1, March 28, 1972, Home: Lakers 95 Bulls 80. I listened to it, but all I remember is I was disappointed we didn't score 100 points. The only game we had failed to do that (Game 71, Lakers 94 Bullets 108) featured some cold fourth quarter shooting.

Game 2, March 30, 1972, Home: Lakers 131 Bulls 124. I listened to this as well. I don't think it was as close as the score, but the offense was back.

Game 3, April 2, 1972, Road: Lakers 108 Bulls 101. I watched it on TV, but don't remember much, other than the Lakes just stayed in charge and closed it out.

Game 4, April 4, 1972. Road: Lakers 108 Bulls 97. I watched this as well, and at games' end, some bad blood showed The Lakers controlled it all the way as I recall, and when they left the court at the end, Chicago fans were throwing things at our players.

One more series to follow, and the most heated one yet. This one was really a war!

Seasons the Celtics lost ECF when Lakers won the championship (7): 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1988, 2002
In NBA history, the Lakers have finished better than the Celtics by a margin of 41-25!

Click for Video proof Lakers are the greatest NBA franchise
FaceBook: http://www.facebook....nCelticsBusters





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