This futile nonexchange was exceeded in the fourth game when the inept non-play of both teams canceled both out. While the shooting was beastly, the ball handling was merely terrible. There were 50 turnovers and the 89-88 score represented the lowest total of points in the last 337 playoff games, going back to 1958. With the playoff tied at two apiece, however, this game was the fulcrum on which the whole series turned, and it was concluded with the most dramatic winning playoff shot since 1950, when Bob Harrison of the Minneapolis Lakers sank a long one from midcourt to beat Syracuse.
Los Angeles had the ball out of bounds with 15 seconds left and an 88-87 lead, since it had made the only basket in the last 4:05. Hold on to the ball and go home with a 3-1 lead was the obvious strategy. Bryant promptly stole the inbounds pass, and after Jones missed a jump shot and Boston retained the ball the Celtics called time-out with seven seconds left.
In the huddle, Havlicek and Siegfried were on Russell. "There's just enough time for it," Havlicek said. Russell nodded and told Tom Sanders to take his place. He wanted five good foul shooters in the game. In the Laker broadcast booth Hot Rod Hundley, who had played against all five Celtics in the game, said: "Neither one of them has scored a basket this quarter, but still, it's got to go to Sam or Havlicek." In the huddle, Russell said, "O.K., Sam."
In 1960 Ohio State beat Indiana 96-95 with a last-second shot by Siegfried after a pass from Havlicek. "The play took exactly 13 seconds in college," Havlicek said. During the New York series, a reluctant Russell was prevailed upon to put in that old Buckeye last-second play. The Celtics practiced it one day, with a visitor named K. C. Jones standing on the sidelines and ticking off the time. The Celtics found they could get the shot off in six or seven seconds, but, of course, they were not positive since they had never tried it in a game.
Bryant threw the ball in to Havlicek and moved to set a pick near the left of the key. Nelson positioned himself to Bryant's right, and Howell broke high and set on his left, making it a triple pick. Havlicek passed to Jones, cutting to his right. Stumbling badly, Jones managed to dribble right off Howell's flank. "It's a good pick," he thought, because West had run into Howell and was forced to get at Jones from behind.
Three seconds left, 18 feet out and off balance, Jones went up off his left foot. He was turning in, toward the basket, but was forced to fall away from it. On the bench Russell, discouraged, muttered a curse. Jones let the ball go.
Egan and Baylor raised their left arms on defense and, out of the corner of his eye, Nelson could see Chamberlain's hand overhanging his shoulder and the whole scene. Nelson was to move on the pick-and-roll if there was time for that. There was not. He saw Jones' shot clear Chamberlain's hand, and then he turned for the rebound.
The ball was high but short. Havlicek thought: "Just make the rim anyway." The basket at that end was a different one this game, set "extremely tight," so Havlicek told himself "anything can happen if it gets to the rim." It did. Tommy Heinsohn, the Boston TV announcer, saw that the shot hit the rim "absolutely exactly" in the middle of the ball. Chamberlain had turned back to the basket, and Nelson could not get by him. He knew at that moment that any rebound—and the game—would go to Chamberlain.
The ball jerked up again to the rear of the basket. In disbelief, almost behind Jones, West watched as the ball hit the back rim and then dove down into the cords. "The Lord's will," West said. Heinsohn said: "If it had hit just this much one way or the other off center, it would have bounced out too far, back or forward." Howell jumped in delight, but Jones just stared, stunned. Chamberlain went over to the padded backboard supports and grabbed one of them in anguish.
"I thought to shoot it with high arc and plenty of backspin," Jones explained carefully afterward, "so if it didn't go in Russell would have a chance for the rebound." Russell, of course, was not in the game.