The Celtics could not win again at home in the fifth game despite bursting away to a 14-0 lead. Boston Garden was a madhouse right up to the 111-103 final, but the Knicks tuned it out. "A lot of teams would have started running like crazy to catch up," Lucas said. "It is to this team's credit that we just kept calmly playing our game."
It also helped that the Knicks were not among strangers. Since the children of New York attend the colleges of Boston—and basketball tickets there can be purchased right from the box office instead of from scoundrels on the street—the Knicks have a home-away-from-home in the Hub. There were battles over banners, debris was thrown and even bands of transient New York students roamed Causeway Street, chanting that awful hometown cry of DEE-fense! DEE-fense!
New York took charge in the third quarter when Dave DeBusschere made 18 points. Lucas kept Cowens busy on the high post, the Knick guards cleared through and then DeBusschere alternately drove or, if given room, fired his bomb. He had scored only three points in the whole first half, and New York needed his offense because the backcourt was off. Frazier admitted to "missing my rhythm" and passed off many clear shots before finally getting enough confidence to try a few jumpers down the stretch. Then little Dean Meminger came in with a stirring floor game in the last couple of minutes to keep the victory safe. And once again New York got just exactly what it needed.
The Knicks come up primed for the finals. DeBusschere was merely magnificent in every department against Boston, and he and Frazier are among the best two or three in the league at their positions, on both offense and defense. Monroe played one masterful game, the fourth, and showed enough in the others to suggest he is getting better all along. Bradley was as hot on offense as he was industrious on defense, dogging Havlicek. Lucas played confidently and with authority even in those games when his shooting was off. He is positively effusive off the court, a guy who relaxes by working up magic acts. Mental legerdemain has always been his specialty, and currently he is memorizing large sections of the Manhattan telephone book, column by column. (Quickly now, Mr. Lucas, what's the 19th listing down on the first column, page 435?)
"This is the most gratifying season ever," Lucas says, grinning boyishly. "You cannot imagine what a thrill it was, somewhere along the middle of the season, when I realized that the other guys had accepted me at center. Nobody said anything, but suddenly I could feel by osmosis that they believed in me, that they thought, 'Hey, maybe we can win with this guy.' "
Still, as sharp and balanced as the Knicks are now, perhaps calling the 19th listing down, first column, page 435, just before they take on the Lakers would not be a bad idea. That's Dial-a-Prayer.