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Lakers Top Hawks, Take 3-2 Series Lead

Apr. 8, 1963 - The Lakers emerged from their 2-game slump last night with a vengeance, and the largest basketball crowd in L.A. Sports Arena history — 15,212 — roared its approval as the home team systematically chopped up the St. Louis Hawks. In taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Western Division playoff series with a lopsided 123-96 victory, the Lakers resembled the machine that ripped through all opposition a couple of months ago. Elgin Baylor, regaining his shooting eye after a lapse, and Jerry West led the way, but it was a sparkling performance by rookie Gene Wiley, playing with his broken right hand in a half cast, which started the Lakers on the right road. Wiley, in his first playoff game, blocked three shots and made two rebounds in the opening minutes. Lean Gene seemed to ignite the spark, and the Lakers were off and running. By the middle of the third quarter, the fired-up Lakers were 25 points in front. At this stage, with Bob Pettit apparently exhausted and Cliff Hagan nursing a dislocated thumb on his left hand, St. Louis Coach Harry Gallatin surrendered. “We just got beat,” said Pettit as he dressed slowly after the game. “We were humiliated. I had a brutal night. I haven't had many worse ones. I had real good shots. I couldn't hit them. I was bad. We were bad.” Said Gallatin: “There is a tremendous advantage to the home court, no question about it. You’re more relaxed at home, and you play better. The fans are behind you, and you know it. It’s hard to lose a game like this one. It's humiliating, yes, but we can bounce back. When a player such as Baylor [37 points and 13 rebounds] is as hot as he was in this one, no defense in the world is going to stop him. He's not always going to be that hot. Pettit isn't always going to be that cold. This thing can turn around. We're far from beat.”


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