The retirement of Wilt Chamberlain from the NBA after more than 31,000 points and 23,000 rebounds signaled a change in the league. The old guard was gone, or on its way out. Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere and Jerry Lucas were playing their last seasons for New York, while Jerry West in LA and Oscar Robertson in Milwaukee were also in their final seasons.

Dave Cowens helped bring the NBA Championship back to Boston in 1974.

The beneficiary proved to be Boston, which had come of age with a mix of veterans and young stars. John Havlicek was still good for 22.6 ppg, and Dave Cowens hauled in 15.7 rebounds per game and baffled opposing centers with his quickness and fiery determination. Tom Heinsohn had nurtured the group as head coach for five years, and Red Auerbach was still making the key acquisitions to build another contender. The Celtics won 56 games, 12 less than the previous year but still the best in the East, and romped past Buffalo and the aging Knicks to reach the Finals for the first time since 1969. In the West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won his third MVP award after averaging 27 points and 14.5 rebounds in leading Milwaukee to a league-high 59 victories. The Bucks toppled the aging Lakers in five games and swept overmatched Chicago to reach the Finals.

The matchup of Cowens and Abdul-Jabbar headlined the series, and each man helped his team to wins as the teams split six games, including a pair of overtime Milwaukee victories. But in Game 7, the Celtics altered their strategy and double- and triple-teamed Abdul-Jabbar, and Cowens, thus freed on defense, scored 28 points and helped Boston to a 102-87 win.

HAVLICEK CONTINUES TO PRODUCE A DECADE LATER
John Havlicek was 34 by the time the Celtics reached the 1974 NBA Finals, but he seemed to be the same man who had helped Boston win six NBA titles during the 1960s. A link to the Cousy/Russell Celtics, "Hondo" was still the main man for the Celtics a decade later.

"When things are swinging easy, we all get in the flow of it," explained Paul Silas. "And sometimes then it almost looks like we ignore John. But when things don't go well, we look to him all the time to make the tough play. We do this instinctively because he has usually been the guy who's turned bad moments into good ones for us."