Bill Russell’s Massive Double-Double the Difference in Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals: Boston Celtics Championship History Moment No. 6
The Boston Celtics looked to clinch their fourth straight championship on April 18, 1962, against the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that would later become their bitter rival. It also featured some of the NBA’s biggest stars in Boston’s Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn, and Bob Cousy, along with LA’s Elgin Baylor and Jerry West.
The Lakers had a golden opportunity to clinch the title two nights earlier at home, but Boston extended the series to a seventh game with a 119-105 victory. Game 7 in Boston was an overtime nail-biter, and Russell was the star that shined brightest.
In honor of the Boston Celtics’ 17 championships, we’re highlighting 17 signature moments, both good and bad, that took the Celtics from a woeful 22-38 BAA debut in 1946-47 to the current iteration of the longtime powerhouse franchise that’s now coming off an NBA Finals appearance. The 17-part series on the Celtics’ championship history will run through the summer and take us to the beginning of the 2022-23 NBA season, one Boston hopes ends with Banner No. 18.
Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics had been to the NBA Finals five straight years
The Celtics were in the middle of their dynasty which began with their first championship in 1957. From 1957 to 1969, the Celtics played in the NBA Finals. During the 1957-58 season, the Celtics failed to repeat, falling to the St. Louis Hawks in six games in the ’58 Finals. The Celtics then won the next three championships and were looking for their fourth straight when they faced the Lakers for the 1962 title.
Homecourt advantage didn’t mean a whole lot in this series. The Celtics were the higher seed, but the Lakers came into the Boston Garden and won Game 2 behind 40 points from Jerry West and 36 from Elgin Baylor. The Lakers held a 2-1 series lead after narrowly winning Game 3 back home, 117-115.
The Celtics reclaimed homecourt advantage with a 115-103 win in LA in Game 4. The balanced Celtics had six players reach double figures in scoring, led by Russell, who had 21 points. He also pulled down 22 rebounds.
Back in Boston for Game 5, it became the Elgin Baylor Show. The 6-foot-5 Baylor attempted 46 shots in the game, connecting on 22 of them. He also made 17 of 19 free throws, finishing with 61 points in a 126-121 Lakers win. Baylor added 22 rebounds.
The Lakers looked to clinch the series back home in Game 6, but Sam Jones’ 35 points led all scorers as the Celtics sent the series back to Boston with a 119-105 win. The Celtics outscored the Lakers 34-16 in the third quarter to pull away.
Game 7 was a winner-take-all matchup, and Russell was ready.
Russell outshined Baylor on the biggest stage
Baylor had been the star of the series through six games. In Game 7, he brought his ‘A’ game, but Russell was unstoppable.
It was a game where nerves likely took over. Nobody but West shot well for the Lakers. Baylor went for 41 points, but he misfired on 27 of his 40 field-goal attempts. West went 14-for-30 and finished with 35 points.
Luckily for LA, Boston was just as off target. Cousy went 3-for-13. Jones was 12-for-31. Heinsohn made three of 13 shots. Frank Ramsey and Tom “Satch” Sanders combined to go 7-for-18. It was Russell who took charge.
Not normally known for his offensive prowess, Russell made eight of 18 shots from the floor and went 14-for-17 from the free-throw line. He led all Boston scorers with 30 points. In typical fashion, Russell made his mark on defense. He cleaned up the glass, racking up 40 rebounds.
The Lakers had a golden opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation. With the game tied 100-100, LA’s Frank Selvy missed a wide-open shot with five seconds remaining. Boston outscored the Lakers 10-7 in overtime and pulled out a 110-107 victory for their fourth consecutive championship.
The Celtics were the deeper team. Baylor and West combined for 76 of the Lakers’ 107 points. The Celtics were able to spread things out more on offense, but it was Russell who came up big when it counted most.
Boston went on to win four more consecutive championships after that, giving them eight straight.