The Lost Finals MVP: 1965
Russell tramples Jerry West, obscures Sam Jones
Imagine for a moment being Sam Jones in the 1965 playoffs.
In Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Division Finals, you scored 37 points in a 110-109 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Then in the NBA Finals, your Boston Celtics crush the Los Angeles Lakers in five games as you average 28 PPG, .470 FG%, and .879 FT% in the series.
And nobody even considers for a second you should be the Finals MVP.
See, when you consider things from that perspective, Bill Russell was kind of an asshole.
What kind of friend shows you up by averaging 17.8 PPG, 25.0 RPG, and 5.8 APG. On 70.2% shooting from the field.
Bill Russell that’s who.
At least Sam Jones got another title in this deal, but the poor Los Angeles Lakers didn’t stand a chance in this series since Elgin Baylor was hurt. Oh sure, Jerry West played his heart out, but he was just delaying the inevitable… and not by very much…
The Celtics’ average margin of victory was 21 points in this series. Coincidentally, the Lakers’ only victory was by 21 points in Game 3.
Good job Jerry. Instead of a sweep, you lost in five games.
The only close contest of the series was Game 2, which Boston won by six points.
West was a madman scoring 45 points on 17-38 FGs and 11-12 FTs. He also had good scoring help from Rudy LaRusso (17 points, 7-11 FGs) and Dick Barnett (26 points, 11-19 FGs).
Unfortunately, Russell posted 23 points on 10-11 FGs. And had 25 rebounds. And dished 10 assists. Mr. Russell was not letting this game get away. So said Jerry West himself:
“But this was Russell’s night. He played a beautiful basketball game, passing, blocking shots, rebounding, shooting. There aren’t many times when he doesn’t play exceptionally well.”
West wasn’t predicting that the Lakers will rebound and make this a long series, but he felt the team wasn’t humiliated.
“They have an awful lot of firepower and pour it at you,” said West. “Yet we can win if we play a very sound game. They make you make so many errors, usually, but tonight I thought we played well—and only that Russell broke us down.”
Some smart ass, according to the Boston Globe, asked West why he didn’t attack the basket more often.
“You take the shot when you have it with Russell,” West said. “You don’t try to get any closer or the whole picture changes fast with him around.”
There you have it!
Another Lost Finals MVP for Russell and another Finals loss for Jerry West.
Who would you start between Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul Jabbar? Kareem was my choice, with Russell coming off the bench to intensify the defense. But Russell's playoff performances make me reconsider.