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On This Date in Sports April 24, 1963: High Five For Celtics

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The Boston Celtics edge the Los Angeles Lakers 112-109 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the Los Angeles Sports Arena to claim their fifth straight NBA Championship. It is also the sixth championship in seven years for Boston. In the clincher, the Celtics got a game-high 22 points from Tommy Heinsohn, while Tom Sanders, John Havlicek, and Bob Cousey, in his final NBA game, scored 18 points apiece.

The Boston Celtics, coached by Red Auerbach, were the dominant team in the NBA. For a 13-year period, they had a sustained period of excellence that will likely never be matched. First winning the NBA Championship in 1957, the Celtics would lose in the NBA Finals in 1958 and then not lose another postseason series until the Eastern Division Finals in 1967. They then won two more championships in 1968 and 1969, for 11 titles in 13 years.

While the Celtics dominated the East, the Los Angeles Lakers were becoming a powerhouse in the West, as they met Boston in the NBA Finals seven times in 11 seasons, becoming the biggest rivalry in the NBA. The 1963 NBA Finals was the third meeting between the Celtics and Lakers and the second since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.

Coming off a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in overtime in the 1962 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers, coached by Fred Schaus, posted a record of 53-27, the best record in the Western Division, while the Boston Celtics had the best record at 58-22. Both teams had their difficulties in the Division Finals, needing to win a seventh game. In the Western Finals, the home team won all seven games, with the Lakers beating the St. Louis Hawks 115-100. The Celtics, meanwhile, fought back from early deficits to beat the Cincinnati Royals 142-131 in Game 7 at the Boston Garden.

The NBA Finals began with a thriller as the Celtics edged the Lakers 117-114, as Sam Jones scored 29 points for the Celtics to spoil a game-high 33-point game from Elgin Baylor. Jones again led the Celtics in scoring in Game 2, with 27 points, as the Celtics beat the Lakers 113-106 to take a 2-0 lead to Los Angeles. Game 3 was all Los Angeles as they recorded a 119-99 win thanks to the 1-2 punch of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, who scored 42 and 38 points, respectively.

 The Celtics struck back in Game 4, winning 108-105 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead as Tommy Heinsohn had a game-high 35 points. With a chance to close out the series at home, the Celtics were stunned by the Lakers 126-119 in Game 5, as Baylor had 43 points and West had 32 points. However, the Celtics would silence any chance the Lakers had of coming back by closing the series in Los Angeles in Game 6, as the Celtics demonstrated the excellent team ball with four players scoring 18 points or more to win the game 112-109. Sam Jones, Tommy Heinsohn, and Bill Russell each averaged more than 20 points per game in the finals, with Russell dominating the glass with 26 rebounds per game.