In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Boston Celtics win their third straight NBA Championship and their fourth title in five years. The Celtics take down the St. Louis Hawks in five games, winning the finale in Boston 121-112. It is also the fourth time in five years that the Hawks and Celtics met in the NBA Finals. The Celtics won three of those meetings, losing in 1958. The Celtics would go on to win eight consecutive titles, while the Hawks have not been to the NBA Finals since.
It was the era of Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. In 13 seasons, the Celtics won 11 championships and played in the NBA Finals 12 times. The dynasty was just beginning in 1961, as the Celtics entered the season, winning three of the last four championships, including two straight. The Celtics and Hawks had a great rivalry at the time. In 1957, Boston won the NBA Finals in seven games. St. Louis rebounded to take the 1958 NBA Finals in six games. After the Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1959 NBA Finals, the Celtis again won a seven-game battle against the Hawks in 1960.
The Celtics had the best record in the NBA, at 57-22, while the Hawks coached by Paul Seymour finished atop the Western Division at 51-28. In the Western Division Finals, the Hawks battled back from down 3-2 to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, who were in their first season in California after moving from Minneapolis. The Celtics, meanwhile, cruised past the Syracuse Nationals in five games.
In the NBA Finals, the Celtics made a statement in Game 1, crushing the Hawks 129-95 at Boston Garden. Cliff Hagan led all scorers with 33 points in a losing effort, while Boston had seven players score in double digits, led by Tom Heinsohn, who had 26 points, while Bill Russell dominated the glass with 31 rebounds. Game 2 was closer, as the Hawks got big games from Hagan and Bob Pettit. Hagan again led all scorers with 40 points, while Pettit added 30. However, the rest of the team struggled. Meanwhile, the Celtics had five players over 20, led by Bob Cousy with 26. This was not including Bill Russell, who scored had five points with 28 boards.
As the series shifted to St. Louis for Game 3, the Hawks got back in the series with a 124-120 win. Bob Pettit led the way with 31 points, as Cliff Hagan added 26 and Woody Sauldsberry scored 20 points. Pettit scored 40 points in Game 4, but Boston again showed a team is better than the individual as six players scored 12 or more, led by Bob Cousy and Tom Sanders, who each had 22 points.
Game 5 back in Boston saw the Hawks jump out early with 39 points in the first quarter. However, Boston had a 62-61 lead at the half and pulled away with 37 points in the third quarter. The Celtics would win the game 121-112, as Bill Russell had his best game of the series, with 30 points and 38 rebounds.