I am a big Celtics History Buff. I'm always in the middle of a book on Celtics history. I posted a few of my favorites in my Summer Reading List post. This franchise has so history behind it that there are more books than time to read them. This is why one of my favorite blogs is Lex Nihil Novi. Lex always has fascinating articles and videos from back in the days when Bird, McHale and Parish (not to mention Mountain Man) were walking through those doors.
At the risk of moving into Lex's territory, I'm going to talk about about the greatest game in NBA history. If you ask any long time NBA fans, most would say that the greatest game in league history was Game 5 of the 1976 Finals between the Celtics and the Suns that went to 3 overtimes. It was an exciting game and a game that was filled with twists and turns and a few controversies as well. If you ever see this playing on NBA TV or ESPN, do yourself a favor and tune in.
The series was knotted at 2 games each going into game 5. They were playing at Boston Garden. The Celtics got off to a big lead which ballooned to 22 at one point, but they couldn't keep it and the Suns chipped away at the lead in the second half. Former Celtic Paul Westphal hit a couple of dramatic shots to tie the game at 95 as time was running out at the end of regulation.
The first overtime went back and forth, and the score was tied at 101 with three seconds left in the first overtime. John Havlicek took an inbounds pass and dribbled to the right baseline before attempting a game-winning shot. The clock appeared not to start until Havlicek stopped dribbling. Paul Silas grabbed a loose ball and signaled for timeout when the Celtics were out of time outs. That should have been a technical foul. Except Referee Richie Powers either ignored him or chose not to grant the time out. On to Overtime #2.
Again, the second overtime went back and forth. Down the stretch, Paul Westphal made a big steal, Curtis Perry hit a clutch jumper, and the Suns led by one with five seconds left. John Havlicek took an inbounds pass and sank a 15-foot leaner at the buzzer for a one-point win. Fans rushed onto the court. many of the Celtics headed to the locker room. But referee Richie Powers ordered a second put back on the game clock. They had to clear all the fans off the court and bring the players back out of the locker room to play one second of basketball.
It appeared to be a formality because what could the Suns possibly do in one second? When order was restored, Westphal ran to Powers and called timeout. But, the Suns didn't have any so, a technical free throw was awarded to the Celtics. Jo Jo White made the free throw to give Boston a two-point lead. But Westphal's timeout allowed the Suns to inbound the ball at midcourt. Garfield Heard got the ball and hit a turnaround jumper from about 18 feet. The game was tied again and there would be an unprecedented third overtime.
In the third overtime, the Celtics were led by Glenn McDonald, a seldom used reserve, who had one shining moment in the spotlight in this game. Most of the starters had fouled out of the game and everyone was exhausted. Enter Glenn McDonald who scored six points in that period to put the Celtics up a basket. The final score after 63 minutes of play was Celtics 128, Suns 126.
did you know glen mcdonald one of the many heroes of this game also played in one of the greatest game in philippine basketball(PBA)....it was in 1980..he was playing for the U/Tex wranglers in a best of 5 championship vs one of the most dominant and popular team(Toyota)....Toyota had in its lineup...The Big J(jaworski the most popular player in philippine basketball...ever)francis arnaiz(pba version of mr.clutch)fernandez(4 time mvp)...but can only play one import at a time(andrew fields and bruce sky king)...U/tex however were allowed to play 2 imports simultaneously...glen mcdonald's partner was 6'8 aaron james.along with local superstar bogs adornado(3x mvp)....the series went to full distance(game 5).... it was a close game and several lead changes going into the last two minutes...when finally arnaiz scored back to back baskets giving toyota a 4 point lead time down to 16 seconds...U/tex called time out and when the play resumed aaron james scored on a quick 2 time down to 11 seconds...toyota called time-out and inbounded in mid-court...but the pressure was on toyota... glen mcdonald stole the ball and was fouled with 2 seconds remaining....the araneta coliseum was jampacked and you could clearly hear the boos from the toyota fans....but mcdonald had the nerves to steel calmly sank the 2 free throws to send the game into OT...and eventually won the series....going back to this game(suns vs celtics)...i remember watching this with my dad...and this game was what made me a celtic fan.
Thank you for the account of that game. I was unaware of it. I know McDonald only played 9 more NBA games after this one but didn't follow his career after that. I can see why a game like this could make you a fan. So much heart shown. It was the 1969 Finals that made me a Celtics fan.
Thanks again for the account of that game in the Philippines. I love things like that!