Excessive fouling was still a big problem, and several rules changes relating to the last few minutes of a game had failed to bring adequate relief. Coaches liked playing the percentages of hoping for a miss of at least one of two free throws while their own team scored a two-point basket. Fouls rose to 58 per game, and teams set records for free throw attempts.
Some things didn’t change, however, like the dominance of big men.
Neil Johnston, a 6-foot-8 hook-shooting center, won the first of his three straight league scoring titles, while last year’s champion, Paul Arizin, spent the first of two years in the military.
Boston was coming of age with the exciting backcourt of Bob Cousy and sweet-shooting Bill Sharman, but they couldn’t get by the Knicks, who had a host of good players that played together to overcome their height deficiencies.
It was a breakout of sorts for Cousy, who in his third season in the league led the NBA with 7.7 assists a game and scored 50 points in a four-overtime, series-clinching playoff win over Syracuse, a win that included an NBA-record 30 free throws. Donald E. “Monk” Meineke, a 6-foot-7 post player with the Fort Wayne Pistons, won the Rookie of the Year title, the first time an individual postseason award of any kind was given
Another league first happened, too: both regular-season division winners, New York and Minneapolis, advanced to the NBA Finals.
New York had learned from past experience that it would not be easy to beat Minneapolis without the homecourt advantage. But with the 2-3-2 format in place, New York figured it could win if it could somehow take one of the first two games in Minneapolis. The Knicks got their win in Game 1, 96-88, and seemed poised to take control.
But George Mikan, who had played in New York many times while in college, and the Lakers had other ideas. The Lakers won Game 2 at home and took all three in New York, two in convincing fashion. That put to rest the homecourt advantage — at least for this series.
Eastern Division semifinals
Boston defeated Syracuse (2-0)
New York defeated Baltimore (2-0)
Western Division semifinals
Fort Wayne defeated Rochester (2-1)
Minneapolis defeeated Indianapolis (2-0)
Eastern Division finals
New York defeated Boston (3-1)
Western Division finals
Minneapolis defeated Fort Wayne (3-2)
Minneapolis defeated New York (4-1)
Points — Neil Johnston, Philadelphia Warriors (22.3)
Assists — Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics (7.7)
Rebounds — George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers (14.4)
FG% — Ed Macauley, Boston Celtics & Neil Johnston, Philadelphia Warriors (45.2)
FT% — Bill Sharman, Boston Celtics (85.0)
Rookie of the Year — Monk Meineke, Ft. Wayne Pistons
All-Star Game MVP — George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers