AP WAS THERE: Celtics, Suns push through 3 OTs in NBA Finals

National Sports

The longest game yet at the NBA Finals happens between the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns at the Boston Garden with the series tied at 2 apiece. The Celtics and Suns are tied at 95 after regulation and at 101 after the first overtime. In the second OT, fans ran onto the court at the Boston Garden after John Havlicek banked in a 15-footer. Gar Heard beat the buzzer with a jumper forcing the third OT. Glen McDonald scored six of his eight points to help the Celtics pull out a 128-126 win and a 3-2 series lead before clinching their 13th title in Game 6. The Associated Press is republishing verbatim the story on the triple OT thriller on June 4, 1976.

JoJo White and rarely used Glenn McDonald scored six points each in the third overtime, boosting the Boston Celtics to a nerve-wracking 128-126 victory over the Phoenix Suns Friday night and a 3-2 lead in their National Basketball Association championship series.

The Celtics can clinch their 13th NBA title since 1957 by beating the Suns in Game 6 Sunday at Phoenix. If the Suns win, however, and tie the series, the final game in the best-of-seven nationally-televised series would be Wednesday night in Boston.

The third overtime period in the tense dramatic game, marked by a 22-point Phoenix comeback, began with the score tied 112-112. Then after Phoenix forced ahead 118-116, White tied the score with a field goal.

McDonald, who had played little and scored only two points until then, took a pass from White and dropped in an easy layup and followed with a short jumper for a 122-118 Boston advantage.

After Paul Westphal’s fall-away jumper moved Phoenix to within two points, White, game high scorer with 33 points, popped in a jumper and McDonald followed with two free throws and Boston was in front 126-120.

But the courageous Suns wouldn’t give up the game. Rookie Ricky Sobers came back with a basket for the Suns before Jim Ard, another seldom-used player, sank two free throws for Boston and they turned out to be the difference as Westphal hit the game’s last two baskets.

Dave Cowens scored 26 points for Boston before fouling out with one minute to go in the second overtime period. And John Havlicek had 22 points for the winners.

Westphal and Sobers each scored 25 points for Phoenix and Curtis Perry had 23.

The Suns, who led only once in regulation time, in the last 30 seconds, had rallied from a 42-20 second quarter deficit and tied the score 95-95 at end of regulation time.

The first overtime ended 101-101, and the second extra session ended at 112-112 when Phoenix’ Gar Heard hit a jumper at the final buzzer.

The second overtime was perhaps the most dramatic of all. Boston led 109-106 with 15 seconds to go. But the Suns’ Dick Van Arsdale looped in a long jumper and after the Suns stole Boston’s inbounds pass, Perry connected on a field goal with five seconds to go for a 110-109 Phoenix advantage.

Then Havlicek hit a driving shot with one second to go and the raucous crowd of 15,320 poured on to the court, thinking the game was over and the Celtics had won. But one second still remained on the clock, as Phoenix had called a timeout after Havlicek’s basket.

Referee Richie Powers was punched by one of the fans and police had to clear the floor before the final second could be played.

Then White sank a free throw on a technical foul assessed against the Suns for too many timeouts.

Phoenix had one more chance and made the most of it, on Heard’s field goal.

The Celtics began the game as if they would completely devastate the Suns.

With the 36-year-old Havlicek, who was suffering from a muscle tear injury in his left foot, starting his first game of the series, the Celtics went to the fast break, which they had not done much in the previous four games.

The Celtics built the lead to 22 points early in the second quarter before the Suns started their long comeback. Phoenix tied the game for the first time at 68-68 midway through the third period, but the Suns could not get the lead until Perry hit one of two free throws with 23 seconds to go in regulation time.

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