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Hawks Take 2-1 Edge over Warriors in NBA Western Final

Apr. 6, 1964 - What do you think the St. Louis Hawks’ chances would be against the San Francisco Warriors if the Hawks used a center, a 6-5 forward, and three guards? No chance at all? Don’t bet on it.

Last night at Kiel Auditorium, the Hawks entrusted a three-point lead to just such a lineup in the final quarter of their playoff game against the Warriors. When big Bob Pettit returned to action four minutes later, St. Louis was leading not by three points, but five. The Hawks stayed in front the rest of the way and managed a 113-109 victory in the NBA’s Western Division playoff. The Hawks now have a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series, which will resume Wednesday in St. Louis.

Player substitutions are something that don’t stir up the fans most of the time, but several thousand eyebrows were raised when the public address announcer said, “[Richie] Guerin going in for Pettit.”

Why Guerin?

“Just a hunch, mostly,” said Hawk coach Harry Gallatin afterward. “But I felt that Richie could handle Tom Meschery [6-6 Warrior forward], and I wanted speed. We were pressing them all over the court anyway, so height wasn’t quite so important.”

Gallatin referred to speed frequently in discussing the game witnessed by 10,163 fans.

“All our players ran well in this one,” said Harry. “We tried to keep the pressure on all the time, and I think some of the Warriors may have been a little more tired than us near the end. John Barnhill gave us an important boost in the second quarter. He and [Charley] Vaughn almost broke things open with their all-out press.”

Vaughn was one of the Hawks’ big guns. He sank 10 of 16 field goal tries and had 22 points, his highest total of the season.

San Francisco’s Wilt Chamberlain, playing brilliantly at both ends of the court, had 46 points and 23 rebounds. Zelmo Beaty — usually with the help of at least one teammate — battled relentlessly to keep Wilt away from the basket and had some success. But Chamberlain made all the work seem useless as he caromed jump shots off the backboard and into the net with frustrating ease.

Only at the free throw line did Wilt have trouble. There he missed eight out of 16. The big guy had plenty of company, for despite all the Hawks’ strategy, the Warriors would have won if they had sunk more free throws. They made only 25 of 48.

“This really gets you,” said San Francisco coach Alex Hannum. “In the game we lost to the Hawks last Wednesday we had more field goals (47-42), and in this one we had a 42-39 edge. We also had more free-throw chances. And yet we lose.”

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