In fact, things were so bad when the Lakers returned to Los Angeles for the third game that the regular Forum organist. Gaylord Carter, a "Master of the Wurlitzer," and PA man John Ramsey were both out of action. Carter was replaced by an artist named Joe Enos, mastery unspecified; Ramsey, whose Dodger commitment has priority, was replaced by an announcer acquired from San Diego, presumably on waivers.
Largely because of the Bucks' lethargy and partially because of a gimmicky four-man stack offense Mullaney installed to neutralize the Milwaukee double teams and traps that had caused numerous Laker turnovers in the first two games, Los Angeles surprised the Bucks 118-107. It is a measure of Milwaukee's hunger this season that the Bucks were deeply disturbed by the loss, which easily could have been accepted as a fluke. Lew Alcindor's substitute, Dick Cunningham, muttered from between tightened jaws as he walked toward the Milwaukee dressing room, "I guess now we'll have to show these guys like we did San Francisco."
In the opening playoff round, the Warriors had beaten the Bucks in one game, only to have Milwaukee come back and bury them by 50 points in the next. The winning Buck margins in their third and fourth victories over Los Angeles were not so extravagant, but they did win by 23 and 18 points. The third victory was the more important, not only because it occurred in Los Angeles and stilled any remaining Laker hopes for an upset, but also because it provided a jubilant setting for celebrating Alcindor's birthday. Lew, it turns out, is only 24, even though the publicity that began for him in high school makes it seem that he became a national basketball figure about the same time as George Mikan. Chamberlain outplayed Alcindor in the first three games, but on his birthday Lew took over, scoring 31 points and grabbing 20 rebounds to Wilt's totals of 15 and 16. His performance led the Bucks to a freewheeling 117-94 victory in which the team shot an astonishing 61.9%.
Perhaps because of their formidable strength when the season began, it has gone largely unnoticed that the Bucks improved considerably during the year. Milwaukee's defense is now one of the best in the league and Oscar Robertson's steadying hand has accelerated the maturing process of his young teammates. More important, Robertson has pulled his own game together. The Bucks were merely content with Oscar's play in the first half of the season. At 32, Robertson was lugging around a fleshy midsection and had lost some speed. Before midseason. he rarely displayed his usual assertiveness on offense, apparently preferring to let Lew do it. But during Milwaukee's record 20-game win streak late in the year, it was Oscar's scoring thrusts that led the Bucks to repeated victories.
Robertson was bothered by a slight muscle pull during the opening phases of the playoffs, but by the end of the Los Angeles series he appeared to be near top condition. The Bucks now have the look of a champion. When the real trophies are handed out, including the $16,000 share to each player on the winning team, everything should go to Milwaukee.