With Wilt Chamberlain retiring before the start of the 1973-74 season, the old guard of the NBA seemed to be on the way out. Not only was Chamberlain done, but New York's core of Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere and Jerry Lucas were in their last season as were Jerry West in L.A. and Oscar Robertson in Milwaukee.
Fueled by the sting from a disappointing showing in the 1973 Eastern Conference finals, Dave Cowens and the Boston Celtics added a new championship to their 1960s title bonanza in 1973-74. Tom Heinsohn had nurtured the group as coach for five years, and Red Auerbach was still making the key acquisitions to build another contender. Though they won 14 fewer games than they did in 1972-73, the Celtics used a core of Cowens, John Havlicek and Paul Silas to romp past Buffalo and the aging Knicks to reach The Finals for the first time since 1969.
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 Bob Cousy/Bill Russell-era 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."
After six games with the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-led Milwaukee Bucks -- including two that went into overtime -- the series was tied at 3-3. In Game 7, the Celtics double- and triple-teamed Abdul-Jabbar. Cowens, freed from having to focus on defending the big man alone, scored 28 to lead the Celtics to a 102-87 win. Havilcek took home Finals MVP honors thanks to some clutch shots throughout the series, especially in Game 5.
Eastern Conference semifinals
Boston defeated Buffalo (4-2)
New York defeated Capital (4-3)
Western Conference semifinals
Milwaukee defeated Los Angeles (4-1)
Chicago defeated Detroit (4-3)
Eastern Conference finals
Boston defeated New York (4-1)
Western Conference finals
Milwaukee defeated Chicago (4-0)
Boston defeated Milwaukee (4-3)
Points -- Bob McAdoo, Buffalo Braves (30.6)
Assists -- Ernie DiGregorio, Buffalo Braves (8.2)
Rebounds -- Elvin Haynes, Capital Bullets (18.1)
Steals -- Larry Steele, Porland Trail Blazers (2.68)
Blocks -- Elmore Smith, L.A. Lakers (4.85)
FG% -- Bob McAdoo, Buffalo Braves (54.7)
FT% -- Ernie DiGregorio, Buffalo Braves (90.2)
Most Valuable Player -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks
Rookie of the Year -- Ernie DiGregorio, Buffalo Braves
Coach of the Year -- Ray Scott, Detroit Pistons
All-Star Game MVP -- Bob Lanier, Detroit Pistons
Finals MVP -- John Havlicek, Boston Celtics