- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
With Los Angeles leading 133-132, the Bucks began closing in on West as he brought the ball over the 10-second line. Trapped against the sideline by Robertson and Jabbar, West tried to reverse his direction and cross over his dribble. The ball squirted away from him and was hopping rapidly toward the backcourt—where it automatically would have become the Bucks' property—when it hit Sokol, who was trailing the play and was unable to jump clear of the ball's path. Rebounding off the referee's thigh, the ball bounced directly back to West, who was again challenged by Jabbar. This time the big Milwaukee center batted the ball from West's hands, and Jerry narrowly outraced him to it. "It was like he was eight feet tall," West said, an observation that is not too far from wrong.
Before the third game, both teams staged secret practice sessions in the Milwaukee Arena. The Bucks worked out in characteristic near-silence, Costello guiding his tightly organized drills with little exchange of amenities or information with his players. The Lakers, who practice more than any other pro team, were looser. Neither West nor Chamberlain (who arrived in one of his custom-made pinstriped blue suits and walked through the patterns in his stockinged feet), participated fully in the drills. Even on strategy questions Sharman consulted with his players, who often made suggestions that were readily accepted.
After the game plans were set, the Lakers split into groups of twos and threes for their competitive shooting drills—conducted with plenty of cheating, laughter, ribaldry and lower forms of gamesmanship. At one point West bet Goodrich $100,000 (a substantial chunk of the two-year, $600,000 contract Jerry reportedly has approved for the coming seasons) that Gail could not make eight six-foot jump shots in a row. Goodrich easily made 10; collecting his winnings will be considerably more difficult. Wilt, long a great outside shooter in practice—he made 28 of 29 free throws this day—then defeated Goodrich in two of three games of shooting corner shots for $5 apiece.
The next night Chamberlain took only three shots in the entire game as Goodrich (30 points) and McMillian (27) again led the Laker offense. And again the Bucks lost a slim lead in the closing minutes. But it was Chamberlain who turned the game to the Lakers' favor. Chamberlain's tactic of overplaying Jabbar to his left had not been effective in the first 18 minutes of play; the Buck center had scored 17 points. Wilt's intent was to prevent Abdul-Jabbar from swinging leftward for his deadly hook shot, but Kareem had reacted by rolling to his right for short jumpers and several easy layups. But from 5:13 of the second period until 5:38 of the third, Wilt held Jabbar scoreless and blocked five of his shots, including a dunk and a layup in which Jabbar crashed into Wilt, knocking Chamberlain to the court in pain.
Meanwhile, McMillian scored 15 points as Los Angeles surged from three points behind to six ahead. Then Abdul-Jabbar, fooling Wilt with head fakes and flashy ball handling, scored four consecutive baskets, bringing the Bucks to a 72-72 tie. In the fourth quarter Chamberlain regained his mastery, holding Kareem without a field goal in the final 11:10. In all, Abdul-Jabbar scored 33 points and outrebounded Wilt, but Chamberlain had forced him to take 37 shots to hit his total.
Several minutes after the game was over some of the Bucks were seen scampering from the arena still wearing their warmup suits, perhaps to escape the press, but also perhaps to avoid another bombing. During the evening a caller had informed arena officials that a bomb was inside, due to go off about 10 minutes after the game. Unlike the Lakers, it never went off.
Then came Sunday afternoon. And out came the Bucks, breathing fire, belching smoke, spitting venom and acting generally mean. Milwaukee broke to an 11-0 lead, and the Lakers never again came closer than five points as they lost 114-88.
It was a simple brute win—no comedy. All three of the Buck starting frontcourt men outrebounded Chamberlain ( Milwaukee finished with a 75-43 advantage on the boards), and Kareem showed Wilt every move from a behind-the-back dribble to outside jump shots to a rare left-handed hook. He scored 31 points to celebrate his 25th birthday.
But more important than Jabbar's superiority over Wilt—which is never unexpected—was the performance of his Buck teammates. Robertson again stymied West, who scored on only nine of 23 shots and, more surprisingly, turned in a sloppy floor game. "I'm tired of shooting, I'm tired of doing everything," West had complained earlier. "I'm supposed to score, and then I'm supposed to defend against the other team's high-scoring guard. I played too many minutes again this year. When there are 17,000 people in The Forum, for example, I have to play 40 minutes whether the game is close or not."
Slender Bob Dandridge outmuscled McMillian, scoring 24 points, pulling in 15 rebounds and holding the bigger man to 18 points. Although he was the only Laker regular shooting accurately, McMillian only took four shots in the second half as Dandridge, with ample help from Jabbar, screened him from the ball. Still, McMillian was occasionally left wide open while other Lakers were taking difficult shots.