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Huge Crowd Watches Warriors Lose to Celtics in San Francisco

Apr. 24, 1964 - The largest crowd ever to see a basketball game in San Francisco, 14,862, witnessed an outstanding game of the NBA finals at the Cow Palace tonight — but the visitors won. The champion Boston Celtics took a stranglehold on their seventh straight title by defeating the Warriors, 98-95, for a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series.

With flashy Guy Rodgers setting the sizzling pace, the Warriors outscored their favored foes by 15-8 in the final five minutes, but it wasn’t enough.

Bill Russell and his buddies had done their job too well earlier in as sparkling a display of defensive basketball as you are likely to see.

Behind by as much as 10 points in the second period, the Celtics shaved the San Francisco margin to four points at the half and then burst out with a dazzling attack worth 36 points in the third quarter to forge a 12-point margin of their own.

Tom Heinsohn, the rugged Celt from Holy Cross, pumped in 15 of his night’s total of 25 points during that 12-minute splurge that put Boston in the driver’s seat, where they sat comfortably until there were about four minutes remaining.

Then the hustling Warriors made their big move, with Rodgers as the engineer, twice pulling to within one point, with 1:45 left and with 21 seconds remaining.

But when the Celtics brought the ball down court, Gary Phillips committed his sixth foul, and John Havlicek plunked in the two free throws that settled the issue.

Wilt Chamberlain, hitting for 12 of his team’s 20 points in the third quarter, led all scorers with 27 and hauled down 38 rebounds as compared to Russell’s 8 points and 19 rebounds.

Yet, Big Bill played a vital role in the victory, blocking half a dozen shots, frightening his foes out of as many more, and holding Wilt 17 points below his scoring average for the series. Even so, nobody could have asked more from Chamberlain, who swept the defensive board as though he had a net and slapped six Celtic shots away from the basket.

After the game. Russell said he was strongly considering retiring upon conclusion of the current campaign. “The pressure has been too great,” he said. “I’ll never put in another year like this one. I’ve done things this season I’ve never done before. Things like yelling at my teammates and other acts that are not my custom.”

When asked who was applying the pressure, Bill replied: “Nobody puts the pressure on me, only myself. My professional pride makes me worry so much that I averaged two hours of sleep a night since the season began.”

Russell, a former University of San Francisco great who has been in the NBA eight seasons, said he will make up his mind for sure this summer. “If I cannot relax, then I’ll quit,” he said.

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