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Hawks Take Semifinal Series from Lakers, Now Face Warriors

Mar. 30, 1964 - As a decoration for his outstanding service under fire in tonight’s playoff victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, Len Wilkens of the St. Louis Hawks was awarded in ice pack for his throbbing right ankle. This was the first time all evening a way was found to cool off the little Hawk guard.

The Hawks’ happy dressing room at Kiel Auditorium was full of heroes — Bob Pettit for his 23 points and 20 rebounds, Cliff Hagan for his 29 points and 10 rebounds, Richie Guerin for his 19 points and general fine play, to name a few — but there was little question as to which player rose to his greatest game when it was needed most: Wilkens.

A 30-point performance by Wilkens, equaling the highest total of his four-year NBA career, enabled the Hawks to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 121-108, in the final of their five-game playoff. The Hawks will open a best-of-seven series for the Western Division title against the Warriors in San Francisco Wednesday night.

“That was some game Lenny played, wasn’t it?” asked St. Louis coach Harry Gallatin. “He was throwing the ball in lefthanded, righthanded, underhanded — just about every way possible. I certainly hope he is in top shape for the Warrior series.”

Wilkens, 6-1, was hurt while attempting to tip the ball away from 6-7 Rudy LaRusso in a jump-ball situation.

“When I came down, I landed on somebody’s foot, and my ankle turned,” Len recalled. Play was interrupted while Wilkens underwent treatment, but the former Providence star insisted on staying in the game.

“Everyone played so well that it wouldn’t be right to say that any one player was most responsible for the victory,” said Gallatin. “The club ran, but that wouldn’t have been possible if Pettit and Zelmo Beaty hadn’t been sweeping the boards.”

Fred Schaus, who coached the Lakers to the Western Division championship the two previous seasons, gave the Hawks full credit.

“In my four years in the NBA, I never saw the Hawks play as well as they did tonight,” said Schaus. “Their sustained aggressiveness and their great shooting were just too much. I thought when we tied the Hawks at halftime we were in good shape because I didn’t believe they could shoot as well in the second half. How wrong I was!”

Schaus referred to the defeat as “the dismal end to a dismal season,” adding: “There will be some new faces next year, you can bet on that.”


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