For the last 35 years, Marty Blake has been identifying top college and international talent as the NBA’s Director of Scouting. A former general manager of the St. Louis and Atlanta Hawks in the 1950s and ’60s, Marty will be sharing thoughts and observations from the road as he crisscrosses the country identifying top collegiate talent throughout the season leading up to the 2006 NBA Draft in June.

Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles

Last week we focused on the Boston-St. Louis Hawks rivalry which was overshadowed in the 1960's by the Celtics and Lakers encounters.

In 1961-62 the Hawks finished out of the playoffs for the first time since the 1954-55 season as injuries to key players and the loss of Lenny Wilkens to the army was too much to overcome. That year, Boston beat Philadelphia in the Eastern Finals four games to three winning the deciding game at home 109-107. It was the only game in the seven game series decided by a single basket.

In the West, the Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons four games to two with the final four games going virtually to the wire.The Lakers won the first three games then the Pistons won the fourth at home 118-117. Detroit then went on a tear winning in Los Angeles 132-125, but the Lakers ended matters four days later in Detroit 123-117. The NBA Finals were a harbinger of things to come.

The two teams split games at Boston with the Celtics winning the opener 122-108. The next day, the Celtics scored 122 points only to see the Lakers win the game 129-122. The scene switched to the West Coast with the Lakers edging the visitors in the third game 117-115 - only to see the Celtics even matters 115-102.

On Saturday, April 14, Los Angeles took a 3-2 lead in the series sending a return to the Boston Garden for the champs, 125-121, setting the stage for a roaring come from behind triumph for the champs. Boston overpowered the Lakers in Los Angeles 119-105 and beat them two nights later in Boston with a squeaky 110-107 overtime win.

A year later, in 62-63, St. Louis made a surprising run at the Lakers. They beat Detroit three out of four then carried the Lakers to the seven game finale. Each team opened the Western Finals by winning their two home games. Los Angeles triumphed on their home court 112-104 and 101-99 while the Hawks won two at home, 125-112 and 124-114.

Los Angeles, back at home, took a 3-2 lead with a 123-100 win and St. Louis won their third home game of this set, 121-113, to even matters.

The Hawks, who did not have much depth, ran out of gas in the finale losing 115-100 out there. The Celtics edged Cincinnati and Oscar Robertson, four games to three to win the Eastern Finals winning a wild scoring seventh game at home 142-131. Check these high scoring games. Cincinnati surprised host Boston in the opening game, 135-132, but with the teams switching courts after each game, the Celts evened mattes in Cincinnati 125-102. Cincinnati won at Boston 121-116 then Boston tied it there 126-110. On Saturday, April 6, Boston edged Cincinnati at home 125-120, but lost the next afternoon there 109-99. The point shattering finale set Eastern Finals records.

The Lakers dropped the first two games of the Finals at Boston then the two teams split the two games in Los Angeles. Down three games to one, the Lakers won at Boston Sunday April 21, then with three days rest, came from behind to down the home team 112-109 for another title.

The 1963-64 NBA playoffs saw some surprises. The rebuilding Hawks, bolstered by the acquisition of Richie Guerin from New York, and the continued improvement of center Zelmo Beaty, knocked off the Lakers in the Western semis 3 games to 2.

San Francisco had won the division by two games and advanced to the Finals by beating the Hawks four games to three. It was Cincinnati vs. Boston in the Eastern Finals but the Celts were not about to let the Royals get the jump on them. They bounced them quickly four games to one with the Royals winning a lone game at home 102-93. San Francisco, even with Wilt, were no match for the Celtics and were dispatched four games to one. It was Boston again making it seven titles in a row and eight of the last nine. They were to make it eight in succession the next year. Philadelphia, with Chamberlain back on board, beat Cincinnati three games to one and then extended Boston to the full seven games.

The surprising Baltimore Bullets, with future Hall of Famers Walt Bellamy and Bailey Howell on board, beat St. Louis three of four then lost to the Lakers in six. The Lakers, without a post man to counter Bill Russell, fell by the wayside quickly 4 games to one.

It was the same old same old the next year 1965-66. Boston beat the stubborn Royals in five and then ran all over Philadelphia - also in five.

St. Louis, with the addition of Joe Caldwell and Rod Thorn, shut out Baltimore in three, but then ran up against their old nemesis, Los Angeles, and lost in seven.

The series produced some of the highest scores in years. The Lakers tallied 831 points for 118.8 ppg mark with the Hawks scored 801 for a mark of 114.5 ppg. In the Finals, won as usual by Boston in seven, the Celtics scored a total of 827 points (116.7 ppg) while the Lakers tallied 808 points (115.4 ppg). The final games saw Boston pull out a 95-93 win for their 10th straight triumph (and 11 wins in 12 tries). Both teams took 1966-67 season off. Boston lost to an upstart Philadelphia team after beating a New York Knicks team that was getting closer to respectability with Bellamy and Willis Reed. Philadelphia had bested Cincinnati in four. The 76ers, with a potent front line of Wilt, Billy Cunningham and Lucious Jackson, took Boston in five. In the Western Division, San Francisco blanked Los Angeles 3-0 and then beat the Hawks in six. Philadelphia won the crown that year beating San Francisco four games to two, as record point totals were scored. The 76ers scored 747 points in six games for a 124.5 ppg mark, while the Warriors tallied 695 in six for 115.9 ppg.

The Los Angeles-Boston battles continued in 1967-68 after a year hiatus. In the East, Philadelphia beat New York four games to two as did Boston over Detroit. And, in one of the classic battles of the decade, Boston defeated the 76ers in the finale of a seven game series in the City of Brotherly Love, 100-96. In the West, the Hawks lost to San Francisco in six while Los Angeles quickly beat Chicago in five. Then the Lakers, with six players in double figures and with Elgin Baylor and Jerry West combining for 52.3 points during the regular season, shut out the Warriors in four. But the lack of a center again hurt the Lakers and they lost in six. Boston won the finals two games 120-117 and 124-109.

The finale of this vaunted series was to end a year later, in 1968-69. In the East, New York, with seven players averaging double figures (Willis Reed 21.1ppg, Dick Barnett 176.ppg, Walt Frazier 17.5 ppg, Bill Bradley 12.4 ppg, Cazzie Russell 18.2ppg, Dave DeBusschere 16.4 ppg and Walt Bellamy 15.2 ppg) swept Baltimore in four while Boston stormed over Philadelphia in five. Boston then beat New York in six to reach the Finals.

The West went the usual way. The Lakers knocked over San Francisco (Wilt had now moved over from Philadelphia) then beat the Hawks (who had moved to Atlanta and who had beaten San Diego in six), in a five-game set. The Finals, with Boston winning again four games to three, was the end of this exciting rivalry.

The Lakers, with the home court advantage, won the first two games - 120-118 and 118-112. Boston edged the Lakers 111-105 and 89-88 at home to even matters at 2-2. The Lakers went ahead 3-2 with a 117-104 win at home and the Boston repeated at home two days later 99-90.

The final game (won by Boston 108-106) was a fitting climax to a great rivalry.The next year saw the start of another great slugfest between the Lakers and the up and coming New York Knicks - a series that saw one of the most heroic of all events - the play of Willis Reed in the final game.

But let's wait until next week.