Season Review: 1953-54
Take a look back at the 1953-54 season in which the Minneapolis Lakers emerged as NBA champions.
A curious rule was put in place in another attempt to cut down on the excessive fouls which was draining the excitement from the game. Each player was limited to two fouls per quarter; if he committed a third, he would have to be removed for the remainder of that quarter. The number of fouls decreased to 51 per game, but late-game free-throw shooting contests remained the rule.
Indianapolis folded, leaving the Western Division with only four teams, three of which would make the playoffs. Neil Johnston averaged a league-leading 24.4 points, and Bob Cousy finished second at 19.2 points and led the league in assists with 7.2 per game. George Mikan, now 30, was playing fewer minutes as the Lakers tried to save him for the playoffs. He still averaged 18.1 points and 14.3 rebounds per game.
The playoffs began with an awkward round-robin format, with the top three teams in each division playing each other to see which two would advance. New York’s string of Finals appearances ended as Syracuse came out of the East, while Minneapolis again won the West.
John Kundla never received much credit for leading Minneapolis to five NBA titles in six years. Many said that any coach with Mikan, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen and the rest would win titles without much work. Red Auerbach doesn’t buy it.
“I’ve seen a lot of great teams, at least on paper, that won nothing,” Auerbach said. “Sure Kundla had a great team, but he did great things with them.”
In what would prove to be the last championship for the Lakers in Minneapolis, the Lakers took a hard-fought Game 7, 87-80. The Lakers’ title victory marked the first championship three-peat in NBA history.
Eastern Division round-robin standings
New York (0-4)
Western Division round-robin standings
Fort Wayne (0-4)
Eastern Division finals
Syracuse defeated Boston (2-0)
Western Division finals
Minneapolis defeated Rochester (2-1)
Minneapolis defeated Syracuse (4-3)
Points — Neil Johnston, Philadelphia Warriors (24.4)
Assists — Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics (7.2)
Rebounds — Harry Gallatin, New York Knicks (15.2)
FG% — Ed Macauley, Boston Celtics (48.6)
FT% — Bill Sharman, Boston Celtics (84.4)
Rookie of the Year — Ray Felix, Baltimore Bullets
All-Star Game MVP — Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics