1977 NBA Finals

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1977 NBA Finals
Bill Walton and Jack Ramsay.jpeg
Bill Walton and Jack Ramsay holding the 1977 NBA Championship Trophy.
Team Coach Wins
Portland Trail Blazers Jack Ramsay 4
Philadelphia 76ers Gene Shue 2
Dates: May 22 – June 5
MVP: Bill Walton
(Portland Trail Blazers)
Television: CBS (U.S.)
Announcers: Brent Musburger, Rick Barry, and Steve "Snapper" Jones
Referees:
Game 1: John Vanak and Earl Strom
Game 2: Richie Powers and Joe Gushue
Game 3: Darell Garretson and Jake O'Donnell
Game 4: Don Murphy and Manny Sokol
Game 5: Darell Garretson and Earl Strom
Game 6: Jake O'Donnell and Richie Powers
Hall of Famers: 76ers:
Julius Erving (1993)
Trail Blazers:
Bill Walton (1993)
Coaches:
Jack Ramsay (1992)
Eastern Finals: 76ers defeat Rockets, 4-2
Western Finals: Trail Blazers defeat Lakers, 4-0
NBA Finals

The 1977 NBA World Championship Series was the championship round of the 1976-77 NBA season. The Portland Trail Blazers of the Western Conference played against the Philadelphia 76ers of the Eastern Conference, with the 76ers holding home-court advantage. Their four regular season meetings had been split evenly, 2-2, with neither side winning away from home. The series was played under a best-of-seven format, so the first team to win four games would win the series and become the league champions.

The 1976-77 NBA season started with the ABA–NBA merger. Portland had benefited from the resulting ABA dispersal draft as they acquired Spirits of St. Louis power forward Maurice Lucas to partner with Bill Walton, and Philadelphia had signed ABA All-Star and 3-time ABA MVP Julius "Dr. J" Erving, who had taken the New York Nets to the ABA title the previous year. In the 1977 NBA Finals, five of the ten starting players were former ABA players.[1] (Those five starters from the ABA were Julius Erving, Caldwell Jones, George McGinnis, Dave Twardzik and Maurice Lucas.)[1]

While it was no surprise that Philadelphia had made it to the championship series, having posted the best record in the east (50-32, #1), Portland's appearance in the finals was a mild surprise. Portland, a team that was founded only seven years earlier, was not only making its playoff debut with its first winning season (49-33, #3), but it was also making its finals debut as well after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in four close games in the Western Conference Finals.

The series quickly went 2-0 in favor of Philadelphia, but over the next four games, Portland mounted a comeback that has rarely been seen in professional sports.

Background[edit]

The Portland Trail Blazers franchise entered the NBA as an expansion team in 1970, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Buffalo Braves. Like all expansion teams, the Trail Blazers struggled, but in 1974, hope was along the way.

Bill Walton was drafted first overall by the Trail Blazers in the 1974 NBA Draft. The Trail Blazers, though still missing the playoffs, continued to add key pieces, such as Dave Twardzik, Lloyd Neal, Lionel Hollins, and Maurice Lucas. In 1976, Jack Ramsay was hired as head coach, and with a healthy Walton, Portland made the playoffs for the first time in the 1976–77 season, winning 49 games. The 3rd seeded Blazers would defeat the Chicago Bulls in three games, the Denver Nuggets in six games, and then swept the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.

The Philadelphia 76ers made it back to the playoffs in 1976, after missing the previous four years, which included a league-worst nine wins in the 1972–73 season. They acquired former ABA All-Star Julius Erving, late of the New York Nets, in the offseason. The 76ers won 50 games the next season, something they hadn't achieved since 1969. In the playoffs, they defeated the defending champion Boston Celtics in a tough seven-game series, and then advanced to the finals for the first time since 1967 by ousting the Houston Rockets in six games.

Road to the Finals[edit]

Main article: 1977 NBA Playoffs
Portland Trail Blazers (Western Conference Champion) Philadelphia 76ers (Eastern Conference Champion)
# Western Conference
Team W L PCT GB
1 z-Los Angeles Lakers 53 29 .646
2 y-Denver Nuggets 50 32 .610 3
3 x-Portland Trail Blazers 49 33 .598 4
4 x-Golden State Warriors 46 36 .561 7
5 x-Detroit Pistons 44 38 .537 9
6 x-Chicago Bulls 44 38 .537 9
7 Kansas City Kings 40 42 .488 13
7 Seattle SuperSonics 40 42 .488 13
9 Indiana Pacers 36 46 .439 17
10 Phoenix Suns 34 48 .415 19
11 Milwaukee Bucks 30 52 .366 23


3rd seed in the West, 5th best league record

Regular season
# Eastern Conference
Team W L PCT GB
1 z-Philadelphia 76ers 50 32 .610
2 y-Houston Rockets 49 33 .598 1
3 x-Washington Bullets 48 34 .585 2
4 x-Boston Celtics 44 38 .537 6
5 x-San Antonio Spurs 44 38 .537 6
6 x-Cleveland Cavaliers 43 39 .524 7
7 New York Knicks 40 42 .488 10
8 New Orleans Jazz 35 47 .427 15
9 Atlanta Hawks 31 51 .378 19
10 Buffalo Braves 30 52 .366 20
11 New York Nets 22 60 .268 28


1st seed in the East, 2nd best league record

Defeated the (6) Chicago Bulls, 2–1 First Round Earned first-round bye
Defeated the (2) Denver Nuggets, 4–2 Conference Semifinals Defeated the (4) Boston Celtics, 4–3
Defeated the (1) Los Angeles Lakers, 4–0 Conference Finals Defeated the (2) Houston Rockets, 4–2

Regular season series[edit]

Both teams split the four-game series, each won by the home team.

November 5, 1976
Philadelphia 76ers 104, Portland Trail Blazers 146
December 11, 1976
Portland Trail Blazers 107, Philadelphia 76ers 108
March 1, 1977
Philadelphia 76ers 107, Portland Trail Blazers 108
March 27, 1977
Portland Trail Blazers 116, Philadelphia 76ers 128

Playoff rosters[edit]

Series summary[edit]

Game Date Home Team Score Road Team
Game 1 Sun. May 22 Philadelphia 107–101 Portland
Game 2 Thu. May 26 Philadelphia 107–89 Portland
Game 3 Sun. May 29 Portland 129–107 Philadelphia
Game 4 Tue. May 31 Portland 130–98 Philadelphia
Game 5 Fri. June 3 Philadelphia 104–110 Portland
Game 6 Sun. June 5 Portland 109–107 Philadelphia

Trail Blazers win series 4–2

Game 1[edit]

May 22
Portland Trail Blazers 101, Philadelphia 76ers 107
Scoring by quarter: 25-27, 28-28, 25-31, 23-21
Pts: Walton 28
Rebs: Walton 20
Asts: Hollins, Davis 6 each
Pts: Erving 33
Rebs: C. Jones 11
Asts: Collins 6
Philadelphia leads series 1-0
Philadelphia Spectrum
Attendance: 18,276
Referees: Strom, Vanak

Game 1 started with a Dr. J windmill slam dunk off the opening tip, and never got much better for the Blazers, who committed 34 turnovers. Erving scored 33 points and Doug Collins had 30, as the 76ers won 107–101. Walton finished with 28 points and 20 rebounds.

Game 2[edit]

May 26
Portland Trail Blazers 89, Philadelphia 76ers 107
Scoring by quarter: 26-31, 17-30, 21-20, 25-26
Pts: Walton 17
Rebs: -
Asts: -
Pts: Collins 27
Rebs: -
Asts: -
Philadelphia leads series 2-0
Philadelphia Spectrum
Attendance: 18,276
Referees: Strom, Vanak

Game 2 was an easy win for the 76ers at 107–89, who at one point scored 14 points in under 3 minutes. In the final 5 minutes, however, Philadelphia's Darryl Dawkins and Portland's Bob Gross both went up for a rebound and wrestled each other to the floor. Dawkins and Gross squared off and both benches cleared, including the coaches. In the middle of the fray, Maurice Lucas, in an act of team unity and in support of Gross, slapped Dawkins from behind and challenged him. Dawkins and Lucas were ejected, and Doug Collins needed four stitches after he caught a punch from Dawkins that had missed its target. Dawkins and Lucas were each fined $2,500. This brawl is commonly looked upon as the turning point in this series, as the Blazers unified and showed the Sixers that they wouldn't be humiliated.

Game 3[edit]

May 29
Philadelphia 76ers 107, Portland Trail Blazers 129
Scoring by quarter: 21-34, 32-26, 29-27, 25-42
Pts: Erving 28
Rebs: McGinnis 12
Asts: Erving 5
Pts: Lucas 27
Rebs: Walton 18
Asts: Walton 9
Philadelphia leads series 2-1

The series moved to Portland for the next two games, and game 3 got underway following a few tense moments as Lucas approached the Philadelphia bench before the game and offered his hand in friendship to Dawkins and the 76ers. The Blazers offense took charge of the game, and posted a 42-point fourth quarter to win 129–107. The turning point came late in the third when Walton tipped in an alley-oop pass from Bob Gross over Darryl Dawkins, who knocked him to the floor. Dave Twardzik then stole the Sixers' ensuing inbounds pass and found Walton, who was back on his feet, for an alley-oop dunk. Lucas had 27 points and 12 rebounds, and Walton contributed 20 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists.

Game 4[edit]

Philadelphia attempted to use George McGinnis and Caldwell Jones on the inside for Game 4, but Walton had other ideas, going on a shot-blocking frenzy. Portland quickly led the game by 17 points and never looked back, scoring 41 points in the third quarter and winning 130–98, the largest margin of victory in a game 4 in NBA history.

Game 5[edit]

Game 5 returned to Philadelphia with the series tied 2–2. Philadelphia spent much of the first half fouling the Blazers, racking up 22 personal fouls and sending the half-time score into the 40s. The Blazers added another 40 points to their total in the third quarter, and with a little over 8 minutes left in the game, Portland led 91–69. Erving rallied his team late in the fourth, scoring 37 points himself, but ultimately lost 110–104. Portland set numerous rebounding records for its team, 59 (48 defensive, team record) in all which stood until 1985, 24 (20 defensive, another team record) of which belonged to Walton alone, whose team record still stands.

Game 6[edit]

Philadelphia ball.
Five seconds to go...Free will inbound.
Here we go.
The inbound to McGinnis.
Drives, stops, pumps, shoots, short, no good!
AND THE GAME IS OVER! THE GAME IS OVER!

Bill Schonely, Blazers' play-by-play radio announcer
June 5, 1977

Portland, now leading the series 3–2, arrived back home for Game 6 in the middle of the night to a crowd of 5,000 fans waiting at the airport. With just 48 minutes separating the Blazers from their first championship, "Blazermania" had gripped the city. Philadelphia kept the game close throughout the first quarter, but were down by 15 at halftime after the Blazers netted 40 points in the second quarter. Erving tried in vain to force a game 7 for his team, scoring 40 points, but Bill Walton's 20 points, 23 rebounds, 7 assists and 8 blocks kept the game in Portland's hands, as Philadelphia's George McGinnis missed the game-tying jump shot with 4 seconds left sent for a heart-stopping 109–107 Portland win. The crowd stormed onto the court in a frenzy.

Bill Walton was named finals MVP and was called "an inspiration" by the defeated Julius Erving. Maurice Lucas later said of Walton's post-game thrown jersey that was sent into the rushing crowd of fans, "if I had caught the shirt, I would have eaten it. Bill's my hero."

Portland was awarded two trophies for winning the NBA Championship: The Walter A. Brown Trophy, which was kept by the winning team for only a year until the next NBA Finals; and a newly designed trophy later to be known as the Larry O'Brien Trophy which was now to be kept by the winning team with a new one produced at every NBA Finals since. The Walter A. Brown Trophy was retired shortly after this game.

Notes[edit]

Game 6 of the Finals was originally scheduled to start at 10:30 local time on Sunday morning, because CBS wanted to accommodate a golf telecast of the Kemper Open (similar to 1976). Instead the NBA refused and CBS agreed to a noon start in Portland. Despite the fact that this was the Finals' clinching game, CBS cut away from their NBA coverage very quickly after the game ended, skipping the trophy presentation in the Portland locker room to instead televise the golf tournament.

The only known footage of the trophy presentation was of Blazers head coach Dr. Jack Ramsay voicing his opinion about Bill Walton's performance in the NBA Finals.

I've never coached a better player. I've never coached a better competitor. And I've never coached a better person than Bill Walton

Aftermath[edit]

Jack Ramsay celebrating the victory at a parade in Portland.

The Blazers won 58 games in the 1977-78 NBA season, but Bill Walton suffered the first of a series of devastating foot injuries late in the season and was lost for much of the year. Walton won the league's MVP, but the Blazers missed his leadership and savvy, losing in six games of the conference finals to the Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics made the Finals the next two seasons, winning in 1979. The Blazers would not make the finals again until 1990. As for Walton, he forced to sit the 1978-79 season after his request for a trade was denied, citing unethical treatment of player injuries by the Blazers' front office. Walton signed with the Clippers the next season, but only made sporadic appearances for the next six years. His career would be revived in Boston, winning another championship in 1986 while winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

The 1977 Finals was the first of four appearances for Julius Erving. It wasn't until 1983 that the Sixers finally won it all, gradually surrounding the team with team-oriented players such as Moses Malone, Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney, plus key reserves Clint Richardson and Earl Cureton to replace Darryl Dawkins, Caldwell Jones, World B. Free and George McGinnis whose individual showmanship proved detrimental to team success. Dawkins and Jones were with the 76ers through their losses in the 1980 and 1982 NBA Finals, but traded to New Jersey and Houston, respectively following the latter series.

Lionel Hollins, who played with Portland during the 1977 Finals, played for the 76ers in the 1980 and 1982 championship series. He also appeared in the 1993 NBA Finals, this time as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Pluto, Terry (1990). Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association. Simon & Schuster. pp. 435–436. ISBN 978-1-4165-4061-8. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Love, Matt (2007). Red Hot and Rollin': A Retrospection of the Portland Trail Blazers' 1976-77 NBA Championship Season. Pacific City, Oregon: Nestucca Spit Press. ISBN 978-0-9744364-8-7.