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1976 NBA Finals, Game-5: Excitement, irony & greatness

 Some have called it "the greatest NBA game ever played" - but at very least, Game-5 of the 1976 Finals between the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns should be a "must-see" for any League fan. 

Boston won Game-5, 128-126, in triple-overtime, and there were thrills galore. John Havlicek started the game for the first time in the series, and the result was immediate. The Celtics built a big lead by the end of the first quarter. The pace was super-fast with both teams fast-breaking on every opportunity, often initiated by a defensive board and a long outlet pass.

Here's some irony. The Celtics JoJo White covered the Suns' Paul Westphal, a former teammate of White in Boston. In the backcourt with JoJo for Boston was Charlie Scott, the guy brought over from Phoenix for Westphal. JoJo had a team-high 33 points, six boards and nine assists in the win - playing 60 minutes in the thjriller  and was named Finals MVP after Boston won the Title in Game-6 in Phoenix.

Dave Cowens was immense in Game-5 - grabbing 19 rebounds and scoring 26 points. During the game, "Big Red" was called a "man possessed" and described as dispensing a "reign of terror" on the opposition. Paul Silas was absolutely indispensable in the victory, with 17 points and 14 rebounds. 

More irony. Red Auerbach once called Tommy Heinsohn the "oldest 27-year-old body in the history of sports", but in 1976, Tommy was coaching a Celtics team that was conditioned and geared to run opponents off the floor. With White, Cowens and John Havlicek on the court, they fast-breaked on almost every possession.

Rebounds? Boston gathered 62 in the contest, with 20 coming off the offensive glass. Cowens and Silas were relentless.

The Boston fans? The announcers for the game stated, "Boston fans can come alive like no fans in America". But that did go to far when one fan rushed on to the court to attack referee, Richie Powers.

Charlie Scott had a mediocre performance with six points, four boards, three assists and four steals, while the man who took his place in Phoenix, Paul Westphal, was terrific - scoring 25 points, including a number of critical plays. Maybe that wasn't one of Red's top trades.

That is only part of the story, folks. Many will debate the "greatest NBA game" tag, bit the excitement and fast pace can not be denied. I found it difficult to write down notes without pausing the replay. Key plays were happening that fast. Well worth watching.


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