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The Greatest NBA Game Ever? The Boston Celtics vs. the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals, 1976

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Regarded by NBA fans around the world as one of the most exciting and memorable games in the promotion’s history, the NBA Finals of 1976 saw the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns fight head-to-head in a clash of epic proportions.

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With as much tension, drama, and back-and-forthas you’d ever want to see in an NBA Final (and then some), the game ended with the Celtics victorious, beating the Suns 128-126 after a record-breaking three rounds of overtime. But what exactly were the events that made this game so memorable? Read on to find out!

Background – the Legendary Boston Celtics, the Up-and-coming Phoenix Suns, and the NBA in 1976 

For the sake of context, let’s delve into the stories of the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns, as well as the state of the NBA in 1976 more generally.

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The Boston Celtics

As one of the most dominant basketball teams in North America, the Celtics have definitely left their mark on the history of basketball. They were one of the first teams to join the NBA, signing up to compete in the promotion just three years after it was founded in 1946.

Towards the end of the 1950s, the Celtics had become a force to be reckoned with, thanks in large part to their mastermind head coach, Red Auerbach. Centre Bill Russell’s acquisition was, likewise, a turning point for the team, and they won their first NBA final in 1957.

Between the 1960s and 1970s, the Celtics had lengthy periods of total dominance, being easily one of the best-performing and most successful teams in the history of the NBA at that stage. By 1976, thanks to the trio of centre Dave Cowens, point guard Jo Jo White, and forward John Havlicek, the Celtics looked to be well on their way to securing yet another NBA Final win.

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The Phoenix Suns

Founded just 10 years prior to their history-making performance in the 1976 NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns seemed, on paper, to be unlikely candidates for giving the titanic Boston Celtics the amount of trouble as they did.

When the Suns were first established, they were little more than an expansion team. Their early years in the NBA were, to be frank, unimpressive, and there seemed to be little hope that the Suns would go very far in the NBA anytime soon.

However, things started to change for the team in 1975 when they acquired a number of key players, including Paul Westphal, Alvan Adams, and Ricky Sobers. For the first time, the Suns were having increasing success on the court, and, as we know, eventually went on to play against the Celtics in the NBA’s 1976 Finals, which was easily their greatest achievement in the promotion to date.

The State of the NBA in 1976

1976 was an interesting year for the US’ National Basketball Association. Several of the promotion’s best-loved players, including Jerry Sloan, Pat Riley, and Don Nelson would make the 1975-1976 season their last. A number of teams also faced major relocations to different home stadiums, and it was also the last season before the historic merger between the ABA and NBA.

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Interestingly, a number of NBA teams in 1976 alsohad serious issues winning games played on the road. Partway through the season, the Seattle SuperSonics had won 28 home games, but lost 8 away games. The Portland Trailblazers were another affected team, who were, at one stage, unbeaten in 12 home games, but unable to win a single of their 5 away games.

This also had something of an impact on the betting line for the 1975-1976 NBA season. The difficulty teams on the road had with winning games contributed to a larger-than-usual point spread and inflation in betting lines, which was a difficult situation for bookies and bettors alike to navigate.

Naturally, NBA betting is far from being simple in the first place. To have any real success, bettors will generally need to have a deep understanding of the sport of basketball, as well as being able to accurately predict the performance of both individual players and whole teams in the promotion.

Both historically and currently, pre-game and live betting have been popular among NBA speculators. Basketball can often be a chaotic and unpredictable sport to follow, so it’s often a real challenge to have much success betting on it. However, working using a sportsbook that gives bettors access to the best NBA lines can make a world of difference.

A Historic Game – The Celtics’ and Suns’ Triple-Overtime Clash

On June 4th, 1976, the stage was set for what would turn out to be one of the most memorable and intense games ever played in the history of the NBA. It was Game 5 of the NBA Finals, with the Celtics and Suns tied 2-2 at that point in the series.

Game 5 ended up being incredibly competitiveand had to go a record-breaking three overtimes to determine the winner. One of its most controversial moments came during the first overtime, when the Celtics’ Paul Silas attempted to call timeout.

By this point, the Celtics actually had no timeouts left, and, as such, this should have been seen as a technical foul. Referee Richie Powers is believed to have noticed Silas’ gesture but ignored it; had Powers chosen to assess this as a foul, the Suns would have been awarded a free throw. At the time, the two teams were tied 95-95, so a free throw here could have easily resulted in the Suns winning the game.

In the second overtime, the Celtics scored a narrow lead with seconds left on the clock. In response, Suns player Paul Westphal deliberately called a timeout when he knew his team had none left; this resulted in a technical foul being awarded to the Celtics. However, the Suns capitalised on this to strategically make a number of plays that ended with Gar Heard scoring right on the buzzer, bringing the score to a tie once again. This meant that a historic third overtime was needed to determine the winning team.

With key players from both teams having been fouled out of the game by this point, a largely unknown Celtics reserve player named Glenn McDonald seized the moment during the third overtime. He was able to score six points, which led to the Celtics narrowly winning over the Suns 128-126. The Celtics would subsequently win Game 6 of the Finals 87-80, securing what was, at that time, the team’s 13th NBA championship.



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