Philly Sports Classics for DECEMBER 2013 on CSN and TCN Philadelphia!
From May 23, 1982: NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Game 7 – 76ERS @ Celtics at Boston Garden
The 1982 Eastern Conference series, which the Sixers led three games to one, is now knotted at three. History is not on the Sixers' side, especially in Boston. The fans didn't believe they could win. A member of the media went so far as to question why the Sixers were going to Boston at all, figuring doom was predestined. And even their own general manager doubted them. And then there was history. In nine previous Game 7s on their parquet floor, the Celtics had lost just once (to the eventual NBA champion Knicks in 1973). And when it came to the Sixers winning the seventh game in Boston, they were 0-3. In NBA history, four times a team had lost a series after being up, 3-1. Two of those teams were the Sixers, and both times they lost to the Celtics. History was not an ally.
So, how did a team that was blown out in Game 1 by 40 points and lost a possible clincher at home in Game 6 come back and beat the Celtics, 120-106, in a Game 7 in Boston?
"Not many people expected us to win this game," forward Steve Mix said that Sunday afternoon. "What we're saying now is 'to hell with you' to the people that thought we couldn't. That can include fans at the Spectrum, fans around the country, writers, broadcasters, whoever. You all know who you are. If it applies, you're included. If it doesn't, it's nice to have you with us. We felt all along that we had the talent and capability of getting this far, but after a while we thought we were the only ones who believed that."
General manager Pat Williams said, "If we had lost [to Boston], we would have been so far below ground, I don't know how we would have pulled ourselves back up."
The Sixers led at the half, 52-49, and scored the first six points of the third quarter. The Celtics rallied to within 64-62, but the Sixers weren't about to let up. Andrew Toney hit a jumper, Maurice Cheeks hit a pull-up jumper and little-used forward Mike Bantom had a putback. The Sixers led, 70-62, and never looked back. “If we went in to the game thinking we were going to fold, then we shouldn't have even shown up," Toney would say later. Toney lived up to his nickname, the Boston Strangler. He torched the Celtics' guards for 34 points (14-for-23 from the field) and fueled the second-half demolition.
"What we've done is avoid history that would have been made at our own expense," said Julius Erving, who scored 20 of his 29 points after halftime. "I care so much for the people on this team . . . it would have been awfully difficult to lose another series, 4-3. I don't know how I'd have dealt with the next 8 months, or even next season." Behind Erving and Toney, the Sixers cruised into the NBA Finals, where they would meet the Los Angeles Lakers. The Boston fans showed their class in the waning moments of the game when they began chanting, "Beat LA! Beat LA!" It was a perfect sendoff for the Sixers.
Coach Billy Cunningham had joined the Sixers in 1965, right after "Havlicek Stole the Ball.'' He was nursing a broken wrist when the Celtics recovered from a 3-1 deficit in 1968. And in 1981, as a coach, his team had lost another 3-1 lead to Boston. He wanted to win this one badly.
After the game, Cunningham, who had many sleepless nights over the 1981 defeat, addressed the media and showed his competitive side. "I'm going to be real quick," he said. "I only have two things to say. No. 1, I want to thank the Celtics fans for the way they responded at the end [with the chants], because that was a real show of class. No. 2, I'm ecstatic for the 12 guys and the coaches, and that's it. Everybody buried us. Period. Goodbye. That's it for me, babe. I've had enough of you guys." And he walked out.
- Tuesday, 12/10 at 7:00pm (TCN)
- Wed, 12/25 @ 8:00pm (CSN)
- Wed, 12/26 at 7:00pm (TCN)
- Sat, 12/28 @ 6:30pm (CSN)