Baltimore Bullets: Once Upon a Time in Madison Square Garden, 1971

[One of the greatest moments in the history of the NBA franchise that is now the Washington Wizards took place in Madison Square Garden on the night of April 19, 1971. The then-Baltimore Bullets were locked in an intense seven-game Eastern Division championship series with their bitter rivals, the defending world-champion New York Knicks.  As Joe O’Day of the New York Daily News memorialized the moment:

“Time and tide wait for no man, not even a championship team. Time ticked away on the Knicks at exactly 9:45 PM last night at the Garden, a high tide from Chesapeake Bay—the Bullets washed the Knicks castle in the sand out to sea.”

What follows are accounts of the game and the fateful play made by the late-great Wes Unseld. Let’s start with Bill Tanton, who was sports editor for the Baltimore Evening Sun. His wonderful story on April 20, 1971 ran under the headline, “Bullets and Shue Deserved to Win.”]

New York—It was a beautiful spring evening in Manhattan, and Gene Shue jumped in a cab in front of the New York Hilton to go to Madison Square Garden for what—either way—was going to be the biggest night of his coaching career. 

“Let us out at Times Square, driver,” said the crew-cut, 39-year-old Bullet coach. “We’ll walk the last eight blocks to the Garden.”

It was six o’clock, an hour and a half before game time for the seventh and final battle of the Knick-Bullet series, and Shue seemed to find a sense of exhilaration in strolling down Seventh Avenue. “I love the people you come into contact with in this town,” said Shue, who, in truth, simply loves life. 

“This afternoon,” Gene said, “an old lady walked up behind me on the street and said, ‘Shame on you, a nice-looking young man like you with that hair. That’s the worst-looking haircut I ever saw!’”

Now there was another woman screaming at the lanky Bullet coach. This one was young, barely out of her teens, and she was wearing hot pants. A man across 42nd street was hollering at her, and she was calling out to the nearest male, Gene Shue, for support. “Sir,” said the girl in the hot pants, “would you please walk across this street with me?”

Chivalrous soul that he is, Gene walked her across the street and the pest went away. 

“Oh, my,” Gene said, fairly blushing as he looked down at the younger lady’s legs. “Wouldn’t this look nice if my wife came by in a cab now and saw me crossing the street with this?”

On the way to the Garden, some of the people gathered outside recognized Gene. “Good luck tonight, Gene,” they said, not because they like Shue, but because they had bets down on the Bullets with three points. 

Inside, Gene wanted a cup of coffee, but the concession stands were not yet open. He considered going into the press room, which was open, decided against it because he didn’t especially like to mingle with the New York writers just before a game. Then he changed his mind again. 

“Let’s go in there and get a cup of coffee,” he said enthusiastically. “It might help change our luck in this place.”

The Bullets needed a change of luck in the Garden. In three years, they had won one playoff game here, none this year. Prior to last night, the Bullets had dropped all three games in New York in this series to the Knicks, even though they had swamped the Knicks all three games in Baltimore. 

Maybe it wasn’t because, for the first time ever, he changed his pregame routine and went into the press room for coffee, but Shue got his change of luck. 

From the start, it went according to plan. Gus Johnson went to the dressing room 15 minutes before game time for painkilling shots in his knees. A little later, Gus was the last Bullet out to the bench, shaking his head as he walked, bouncy-toed, across the Garden floor. But Shue knew that the shots had done the trick. Gus would be able to play 24 minutes, score 8 points and get 9 rebounds. 

The Bullets tailed at halftime, 47-43, and already Shue was soaked with perspiration. He was up and down the sidelines, calling plays (“Gold! Gold! Gold, Earl!”). And at every time out, when his team gathered around him, he exhorted his players to play better defense. At one point, a New York writer at the press table saw Gene clench his fist and heard him shout angrily, “Defense!”

“Who’s he chewing out?” the writer asked. But this was no chewing out. It was simply the pep-talking of a coach who knew that he and his team had something very big within their grasp. 

Struggle for Both Clubs 

The third quarter was a critical one for the Bullets. Freddie Carter, who so many times throughout these playoffs has given the Bullets a big lift, saw an opening and drove to the hoop, stuffing a shot that put the Bullets ahead, 48-47. 

When the quarter ended, the Bullets had gained nine points, from a four-point halftime deficit to a 73-68 lead. Now the Bullets were 12 minutes away from winning the series. 

Nearly 20,000 fans implored, “Go, Knicks, go.” But the Bullets—and Shue—were not about to let the defending NBA champions out from under. 

In the final frantic minutes, New York was, at one point, able to grab the lead on a shot by Dick Barnett, who looks as if he is going to fall apart every time he shoots, but who led the Knicks last night with 26 points. 

But Baltimore field goals by Earl Monroe, Jack Marin, and, finally, Fred Carter, put the Bullets back on top, 93-91, with 11 seconds to play. The Knicks called time out. “Look,” Shue said while the Garden rocked with the cheers of the Knick fans, “we worked damn hard to get here. Now let’s work hard for 11 more seconds on defense.”

Shue assigned the 6-foot-7 Jack Marin to guard Barnett, who was going to throw the ball inbounds, and the Bullets guarded Walt Frazier so closely that the Knicks could not get off the shot they wanted, and the New York season ended with Bill Bradley’s shot falling short. 

The Bullets had won, 93-91. They were champions of the Eastern Division and now they were in the finals against Milwaukee, the first time the modern-day Bullets have ever reached the playoff finals. 

Three dozen reporters and broadcasters mobbed Gene Shue in a room away from the dressing room where the jubilant Bullets were celebrating. “It was a tough struggle for both clubs,” Gene said, and it was obvious that he was spent, physically and emotionally. 

“What do you think about the matchups with Milwaukee?” someone asked the Bullet coach, but Gene begged off. He could not even think of Milwaukee at this moment, and the reporters understood. This series had been that tough, had taken this much out of everyone.

The Bullet team that went into the playoffs crippled, that lost its first game to Philadelphia—and at the Civic Center—and then, after beating the 76ers in seven games, went on to lose the first two games of the New York series, had now beaten the Knicks in seven. 

It was a good thing they had. The Bullets outplayed New York in six of the seven games. It would have been a tragedy if New York had won the series. The Bullets and Gene Shue deserved it all the way.   

The magical moment after Bradley missed. Unseld (41) stands with arms raised.

[“Baltimore is Baltimore,” as the old-timers used to say, “but New York is a cigar.” Here is an edited version of two sophisticated New York sources: Joe O’Day’s story about the game in the New York Daily News and writer Louis Sabin’s account in the paperback Basketball Stars of 1973. I’ve combined bits and pieces from both sources to help the narrative and a few wire service quotes from Unseld and Bradley at the end.]

It’s the seventh—the deciding—game of the Eastern Division playoffs of 1971. The scene of the action is Madison Square Garden, packed with row upon row of screaming New York fans, its swelling roar of 19,588 voices demanding that the Knicks do something. 

Then, Baltimore’s Freddie (Mad Dog) Carter notched his only fourth-period basket with 1:08 to play to put his team up, 93-89. But the Knicks still had not run out of miracles. There was time for one more. Walt Frazier got his only basket of the fourth period, a clutch shot with 1:07 showing on the world’s slowest clock. Baltimore 93, New York 91.

Mad Dog Carter missed a shot with 44 seconds left, and Frazier got the rebound—and the Knicks were back in business. But the Bullets closed New York’s shop as Dave DeBusschere missed his shot with 34 seconds to play, and Carter came down with the rebound.

But the Bullets could not run out the clock. New York would get one more  chance . . . if only they could hold the Bullets without a score. They did, Gus Johnson rushing his shot with four seconds to go on the 24-second clock and 14 in the game. He missed. Frazier rebounded with 11 seconds in the game. 

Coach Red Holzman calls time out and plans the moves that will save his team from disaster in the next 11 ticks of the time clock. Holzman tells guard Dick Barnett to throw the ball inbounds to Frazier. Solid center Willis Reed will then set a solid pick, and Frazier will drive around Reed in a dash to the basket. 

Opposing the muscular 6-foot-9 Reed is equally muscular Wes Unseld, 245 pounds but, at 6-foot-7, two critical inches shorter than the New York center. Reed figures to neutralize Unseld, and Frazier figures to have a clear path to the hoop. 

Dick Barnett flips the ball to Frazier, and Reed moves into position—a rock-solid pick. Or so it seems. Unseld moves close to Reed, and the two giants lean this way and that. They’re still swaying like massive trees as the seconds tick by, and Frazier makes his move, slashing past them with a basketball.  And suddenly, Unseld separates from Reed and slides his bulk into Frazier’s path.

The New York guard knows he can’t take the ball in any farther. And he can’t risk a shot against Wes, who stands four inches taller than he. So, Frazier whips the ball to Bill Bradley, one of the best clutch-shooters in the game. Bradley, stationed in the far left-hand corner of the forecourt, is free. Bill dribbles left, stops, jumps, and shoots. 

But, startingly, Unseld is waving a huge hand in Bradley’s face. The Bullet center shifted from Frazier with the pass, reaching Bradley almost as quickly as the ball. Still, Bradley gets off the shot. And Unseld leaps high, extends his right arm even higher to get a piece of the ball. . . . Gus Johnson comes down with the rebound. There were only three seconds left, and Gus simply raises the ball over his head as time run out on the Knicks’ reign. 

“We thought Reed or Frazier would get the ball,” Unseld said. “When Reed stepped away from the basket, I moved over to Bradley. I got a piece of the ball (Bradley’s shot),” he said in the din of the Bullet locker room. As he talked his father Charles and brother George looked on with deep admiration. 

“I saw Frazier was in trouble, so I moved over,” Bradley reflected in the Knicks locker room. “I knew there wasn’t any time left for a pass or a reverse, so I just jumped up for the shot. He (Unseld) got it right out of my hand. 

Long after the game, Jerry Sachs, executive vice president of the Bullets, sat watching a film of the contest. When the last frame had been shown, he smiled and said, “We just had to look at the films to make sure there wasn’t some mistake. It was that fantastic. Unseld took three men on one play—Willis, Frazier, and then Bradley. I’ve seen this guy make so many great defensive plays that it’s hard to say anyone was the best, but considering what it meant to our club, I can’t think of a play that was bigger.”

[About 10 years ago, I interviewed Jerry Sachs for my book, Shake and Bake. Though this Game seven fell outside the realm of our conversation about Baltimore later trading for Archie Clark, Sachs just wanted to share this prized memory with me from his courtside vantage point.]

I joined [Bullets owner] Abe Pollin in 1970 and was there for the 1971 season. That year, the Bullets beat Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. It was a very physical series, so we weren’t in great shape against the Knicks. But we took the series to a game seven in Madison Square Garden. I think the score was 93-91. 

In any event, the Knicks had the ball out with just seconds to play. The Garden was absolutely raucous. We couldn’t really hear ourselves think. The play that they worked got the ball into the corner to Bill Bradley to take his patented jump shot. Wes Unseld switched off of two previous players and got to Bradley just as he released the ball. His fingertips skimmed the ball. It was as though the air had been let out of a balloon, and shot fell short. WE WON! The feeling was unbelievable. 

I remember Abe said, ‘Let’s take everybody out tonight.’ I think it was Jim Karvellas, our play-by-play announcer, who suggested that we go to a certain club. I’ve forgotten the name, but Jim knew New York. We all went out on the town and were so absolutely excited. I don’t remember what time we all got to bed. It was a magical moment.

Jack Marin (middle) is thronged by fans at Friendship International.

[Then the magical moment touched down the next day at Baltimore’s Friendship International Airport when the Bullets returned home. As reported by the Baltimore Evening Sun’s Stuart Taylor, Jr., “Bullets Mobbed at the Airport.”]

“We’re number one!” was the familiar Baltimore chant of some 500 whooping, shouting, autograph-hunting fans at Friendship International Airport as they greeted the victorious Bullets emerging from their plane this morning. 

The Bullets, who clinched the Eastern Conference basketball championship last night with a win over the world-champion New York Knicks, were mobbed when they walked off the jetliner into the bright sunlight. With a flight to Milwaukee tonight and a game against the Bucks tomorrow facing them [in the NBA Finals], they had little time for cigars, champagne, and horseplay.

“It was just wonderful. All the players were just brilliant,” was Coach Gene Shue’s comment on last night’s game as he stood on the runway. “That crowd (in Madison Square Garden) was unbelievable,” he said. 

“There were times there in the first half when we could have been blown out of the game, but the players just hung together,” Shue said. 

The players, grinning widely and sporting mod jackets and bell-bottom pants, spoke briefly to the press and posed for pictures on the runway before running the gauntlet of impatient idolators waiting in the terminal. 

The fans, dressed in everything from lavender pants and body shirts to business suits and carrying placards proclaiming “Wow! Bring on the Bucks,” mobbed Earl Monroe, Jack Marin, Wes Unseld, and company as they made their way through the lobby.   

“I don’t think the Bucks gonna win one,” declared 19-year-old Tony Smith. “I don’t think Lew Alcindor can handle Wes Unseld, and Earl Monroe is too much for Oscar Robertson.”

“Wes got too much stuff for him (Alcindor). He’s too skinny,” added Jerry Creek, 17, who skipped work to meet the plane. 

Barbara Livov, a 19-year-old Community College of Baltimore student who watched last night’s game on television, said, “I almost had a heart attack. I was going crazy jumping around the room.”

Kevin Loughery celebrates

[In the January 1978 issue of Basketball Digest, NBA great Kevin Loughery was asked to name his most-memorable game. Loughery, who teamed in Baltimore’s backcourt with Earl Monroe and Freddie Carter during the 1970-71 season, selected this magical game.]

The strange thing about the most-memorable game in my pro career is that I didn’t play very well. In fact, I scored only four points. But I never came away from any game feeling better than I did when I was with the Baltimore Bullets in 1971, the seventh game of the NBA’s Eastern Division playoff series at Madison Square Garden. 

We’d been coming in there and getting our butts beaten regularly. They’d knocked us out of the playoffs the year before and went on to win their first NBA title. New York, keeping in mind the Mets and the Jets, seemed to have a hex on Baltimore teams, like the Orioles and Colts, at that time. And it was no different when the Knicks and Bullets played basketball. It was no different, that is, until the night of Monday, April 19, 1971. That’s when the Knicks’ number was up, as far as we were concerned. 

In the first six games of the series, we’d won all three games on our home court at Baltimore’s Civic Center, and the Knicks won all three games at the Garden. We knew before the series began that we’d have to win at least one game in New York if we were going to take it. 

In a way, it was a miracle we were able to hang in there to get to a seventh game, and to win that seventh game by 93-91, well, it was just too much. We’d overcome so much adversity as a team to get that far, and even though most of us were experiencing some sort of physical pain, we felt so good all over. When you win and you win the seventh game—and at two-point game in New York—it’s really something. I’m from New York, I completed my college career there at St. John’s, and we beat ‘em in New York in front of my family. Super. 

It had been a difficult season for me, from start to finish, but it ended on the highest note of my career. I had lost my starting backcourt job at the outset of the year to Freddie Carter. I mangled my ankle and heel during the season. Just when I got back my touch and my job, and things were going well, toward the end of the season, Wally Jones of the Philadelphia 76ers inadvertently stepped on my instep. 

The pain lasted all through the playoffs. With shots of xylocaine, though, I was able to play. In fact, the only time it didn’t hurt was when I was playing. Toward the end of the playoff series with the Knicks, I couldn’t walk right when I wasn’t playing. Even today, I sometimes feel pain in that ankle. 

There was no way you could feel sorry for yourself on the Bullets team that year. Gus Johnson was tortured by a damaged left knee. During the playoffs, Wes Unseld was treated daily for a puffed ankle. Earl Monroe had chronic knee trouble and his ribs ached from a recent injury. Even Bob Ferry, my former roommate on the Bullets who was coach Gene Shue’s assistant, had mononucleosis. 

In short, we were in bad shape. Our trainer’s room looked like an emergency ward. So many of our key guys were getting their knees drained, and taking xylocaine shots. It was a mess, a bloody mess. 

And to be fair, the Knicks had some problems of their own. Their main man, Willis Reed, wasn’t right, either. An old knee injury restricted his mobility and his sprained right shoulder wrecked his rebounding and shooting. He was a ghost of his great self. He played defense and set picks, contributing as best he could. 

The only two healthy players we relied on a lot were Jack Marin, who never missed a game in those days, and John Tresvant. The reserves who got any playing time were Dorie Murrey, Gary Zeller, and George Johnson. Eddie Miles missed the whole thing with a knee injury. 

We were undermanned, to say the least. Yet, even though we lost the first two games of the series in New York, they were close contests. We won the third game, played in Baltimore, even though Gus and I were unable to play. Earl was unreal, putting on a dazzling solo show that he sustained throughout the entire series. One sportswriter called him the Greatest Show on Earth that week. 

We won the fourth game, 101-80, on our home court. I suited up, and was used only to give a tactical foul. Earl, Fred, Wes, John, and Jack all played more than 42 minutes in that game. They were an “iron-man” outfit. 

For the fifth game, it was back to New York, and Walt Frazier flipped in 28 to lead the Knicks to an 89-84 victory. 

Gus returned to action for the sixth game. It was the first time in two weeks that he’d played, and he made a real contribution to the victory. We both played 19 minutes, and we both scored 10 points in that one. Earl was the high scorer with 27, as we beat the Knicks 113-96 to send the series into one last game—at the Garden. 

Gus couldn’t bend his knee without injections of xylocaine, and I couldn’t walk properly without the same. We both got our injections before the seventh game. It seemed worth it. 

We used a two-platoon system for that game. And we played at a slower tempo than we had during the regular season. We were known as a free-wheeling, free-shooting club, and I had as much responsibility for that label as anyone on our team. But we had to help each other more in the playoffs, and it paid off. 

This was a great group of guys. People thought there was dissension on the team, for some reason or another, but I never played with a happier team. Those were good days. None was better than that night we finally won it. That was, indeed, the game I’ll never forget. 

We refused to let the Knicks break it open after they had gotten seven-point leads in the first half at 29-22 and 45-38. Earl the Pearl sure wouldn’t. Ray Scott used to say, “God couldn’t go one-on-one with Earl,” and Scott sure knew what he was talking about, based on the one playoff series.

When it got down to the final quarter, it was Earl’s seven points in that period that kept us ahead, except for one brief moment. It was a field goal by Monroe and a rebound basket by Marin with 1:48 to play that put us ahead for good at 91-88. Carter put in a basket with 1:08 to play that put us ahead 93-89. 

Then Frazier made one a few seconds later. Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks and Carter then traded missed shots. Johnson was called for traveling, and New York had the ball with 11 seconds to go. Bill Bradley’s desperation, off-balance shot from the corner fell short. That was it. We felt on top of the world. 

Monroe finished with 26. Marin had 20. Reed, despite all his personal miseries, scored 24, and Dick Barnett had 26. New York Post columnist Larry Merchant, I remember, called it, “one of the best basketball games a basketball city has a right to have.”

It was special, that’s for sure. 

Gene Shue surrounded by fans and media at Friendship International.

[Ditto NBA great Gene Shue, who coached the Bullets to victory that night. When Basketball Digest asked him in April 1979 to choose his most-memorable game, he reflected back to the night of April 19, 1971.]

In my long association with the National Basketball Association (I started a 10-year career as a player in 1954 and I have coached every season—or part of every season—since 1966), there is no question about the game I consider my most memorable. It occurred during the time I coached the Baltimore Bullets, from the 1966-67 season through the 1972-73 season. 

During that span we had built an intense rivalry with the New York Knicks. Our regular-season games against the Knicks generally were very emotional, but our playoff meetings against them were even more dramatic. 

In the playoffs, though, the Knicks always found a way to beat us  . . . or almost always. 

Our first postseason confrontation against the Knicks came in 1969. We had finished first in the Eastern Division during the regular season with a 57-25 record, the best mark in the league and three games ahead of the third-place Knicks. But in the Eastern Division semifinal playoffs, the Knicks wiped us out 4-0. 

The following year, after New York wound up first in the East and we were third, we again met in the divisional semifinal playoffs—and again the Knicks won, this time 4-3. That was especially heartbreaking because it was the season the Knicks went on to win their first NBA title—and we had come so close to beating them. 

Then, in 1971, the first year of the league’s four-division arrangement, the Knicks won the Atlantic Division title with a 52-30 record, and we took the Central Division championship with a 42-40 mark. 

In the opening round of the playoffs—actually the Eastern Conference semifinals—we eliminated Philadelphia 4-3 and New York beat Atlanta 4-1. That set up another playoff battle between the Bullets and the Knicks—for the Eastern Conference title. 

Since the Knicks had the better regular-season record, the first two games of the series were played in New York. And the Knicks, a very tough team to beat at Madison Square Garden, won both those games—112-111 and 107-88. In the first game, however, there were some questionable calls that cost us a victory, and the second game was much closer than the score indicated. There also were some mechanical problems with the 24-second clock that bothered us. 

Actually, though, we really had no right being on the same court with the Knicks. That was a year after their championship season, and they still had some great player like Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, and Bill Bradley. Meanwhile, we were plagued with numerous injuries. Gus Johnson was hurting and Kevin Loughery was playing with a foot injury. 

However, when we went back to Baltimore for Games Three and Four, we felt we could win—win those games and the series. And we did. 

At home, we destroyed the Knicks, winning the third game, 114-88, and the fourth game, 101-80. The series was tied. Then it was back to New York, and we lost another close game, 89-84. Still, we weren’t down, and we weren’t out. Again, we returned home—and again we blew the Knicks out, this time 113-96. 

Now it was time for the seventh-and-decisive game, and it was scheduled for Monday night, April 19, 1971—one day after he played Game Six.

After the sixth game, played Sunday afternoon and nationally televised, the Bullets players and coaches gathered at a Baltimore hotel for a team dinner Sunday night. The players were happy for having extended the series, and they were anxious to play the game the following night. They felt that since they had outplayed the Knicks so much at home and had come so close to beating them in Madison Square Garden, they could win the final game in New York. 

We left the next day for New York and, as expected, the Garden was filled to its capacity of 19,500 for the game. The crowd was really alive. At times, there was so much noise you couldn’t hear, and it was hard to call plays. 

The game turned into a tough, tense, classic defensive struggle. 

In the first quarter, Reed and Bradley hit a few shots from outside, and the Knicks led at the end of the period, 21-19. Dick Barnett joined Reed and Bradley in scoring for New York in the second period, and the Knicks were in front, 47-43, at halftime.  

Barnett really hurt us in that quarter, accounting for 11-straight New York points in less than 2 ½ minutes late in the period. But the shooting of Earl Monroe kept us close, even though we missed some easy shots. 

Then, in the third period, we took control of both boards, getting some second and third chances to score, and we capitalized on those opportunities. The Knicks’ shooting, meanwhile, dropped off and, at the end of the quarter, the Bullets were ahead, 73-68. Wes Unseld was particularly effective for us underneath, throwing his weight around, getting the ball and putting it back up. 

We clung tenaciously to the lead in the fourth period, until less than three minutes remained. Then Barnett snaked his way through the lane for a driving layup, putting New York ahead, 88-87. But Monroe got the basket right back for us, on a one-hander from the key. 

After the Knicks lost the ball on an offensive foul by Barnett, Jack Marin grabbed the rebound of a missed shot by Monroe and laid it back in for a 91-88 Baltimore lead. The Knicks got one point back when Reed converted one of two free-throw attempts. But then, with just over a minute left, we got what turned out to be the biggest basket of the game—Freddie Carter hitting a jumper from about 20 feet out on the right side above the foul line. 

I don’t remember what play we had called, but Carter got open. And as the ball went cleanly through the basket, Freddie leapt way up in the air, as if that shot had ended the game. It didn’t. There still was over a minute remaining, but we lead 93-89. 

The Knicks got those two points back very quickly when Frazier connected from the left of the key. We then came down and held the ball for as long as possible. Carter missed, then Frazier rebounded and fired the ball upcourt to DeBusschere, but his lone one-hander from the corner missed. 

We retrieved the rebound and again took our time before shooting. This time, it was Gus Johnson who missed for the left baseline, and again Frazier rebounded. 

New York took its last timeout with 11 seconds left. We anticipated that the Knicks would call for Bradley, a play they had often used and a play that often had been successful. And we were right. With three seconds to go, Frazier dumped a pass off to Bradley for the shot in the corner, but Unseld tipped the ball on a jump switch. The ball did not hit the rim or the backboard, and Johnson grabbed it underneath the basket as the game ended. 

We finally had beaten the Knicks—93-91. What an incredible experience! There was about as much excitement in that game as you could possibly ask for and the excitement continued afterward, because we really went out and celebrated that night. We had, at last, ended our frustration against the New York Knicks.

We went to sleep very late that night, perhaps about five o’clock in the morning. And about an hour later, I was up with my wife recreating the game. I remember I kept repeating to her, “It was 93-91.” I guess I still couldn’t believe we had won. 

Later that day, Tuesday, we came home to an excited gathering at the airport, packed our things quickly, and were off to Milwaukee, where we arrived about 9 or 10 that night, so we could be ready to play the opening game against the Bucks Wednesday night. 

That was insane, because the players still were in New York—or, at least, their heads were, reliving that victory over the Knicks. As it turned out, the Bucks beat us in four-straight games in the championship series, and the next three years in the Eastern Conference semifinals (the teams haven’t met in the playoffs since then). But I’ll always have that seventh game of the 1971 series against New York to cherish. 

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