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Read Will McDonough’s game story from the night John Havlicek Stole The Ball

John Havlicek | 1940-2019
John Havlicek | 1940-2019 (Video by Anush Elbakyan/Globe Staff)

John Havlicek’s steal in the waning seconds of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Division finals sent the Celtics to their ninth straight NBA Finals. Here is the Globe’s game story from that April 15, 1965, contest, written by Will McDonough:

The Celtics are still Kings.

The dynasty — facing its greatest challenge — was saved when the Boston Club hung on for a last second 110 to 109 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night before a packed house of 13,909 at the Garden.

This victory — the one that made the Celtics Eastern Division Champions for the ninth straight time — was saved by the lightning quick hands of John Havlicek.


The situation:

Philly, trailing by only a point, had the ball out underneath the Celtics basket with four seconds remaining.

Hal Greer, 76ers hero of the series, aimed a pass inbounds to Chet Walker. It never got to him.

Havlicek, who once tried out for end with the Cleveland Browns, intercepted the pass and dribbled out the clock.

Thus, the Celtics go into the finals for the ninth year in succession and will face the Los Angeles Lakers for the title in a best of seven series that opens at Boston Garden Sunday afternoon.

The Celtics nearly ran the 76ers out of the building in the first period, and then watched their 18-point lead fade to a knack named Dave Gambee.

Gambee, a bits and pieces player who doesn’t get off the Philly bench too often, nearly put the Celtics out of business with a great clutch effort.

Gambee came off the bench late in the first period when the Celtics threatened to make a runaway, and turned the game around.

Before the half was over, Gambee had collected 19 points and Philly had a 62 to 61 lead.


The Celts were shook even further when Philly came out and hit two quick baskets to take a five-point lead with the second half 30 seconds old.

Red Auerbach called time at this point and re-grouped his forces. After this the Celtics roared back into the lead.

Havlicek, who was visibly nervous and off his shooting in the first period, exploded. John tossed in 15 points in the third period and the Celtics took an eighth-point, 90-82, lead into the final quarter.

Sam Jones, high man in the game with 37 points, picked up the offense in the fourth quarter and the Celtics held an eight-point lead heading into the final four minutes.

Philly, on a big three-pointer by Walker, narrowed the game to one point, 103 to 104, with three minutes left.

Sam came right back through and hit a jumper from the side.

Then Havlicek and Russell put in foul shots back to back, and the second biggest play of the night was to come in the next few moments.

Philly, again taking the ball out, threw it into the fetching hands of K.C. Jones who hit Tom Sanders with a quick bounce pass and a layup.

The Celts now lead 110 to 103 and appeared to have it wrapped up. All they had to do was give Philly a couple of baskets and then kill the clock.

This they did, but something they never expected happened, and Philly had a shot at stealing the game.


Chamberlain, with an unmolested dunk shot with four seconds left, but Boston’s lead to one point.

Now, all the Celts had to do was get the ball inbounds and hold if for four seconds.

Bill Russell was given the chore to pass the ball in and he goofed. Russell’s attempted pass hit a wire that supports the basket and Philly had the ball.

Now Philly had possession and Greer was picked to toss it in. He tried to get it to Walker, but didn’t put the ball high enough. Havlicek stretched all of his 77 inches and intercepted the pass. Then, all in one motion, he dribbled away from Walker and out of trouble.

The Garden broke loose. Russell, Havlicek, Sam Jones and Auerbach went up on shoulders on the screaming fans. The payoff came when Russell — a potential goat — reached over and nailed Havlicek, the man of the hour, with a big kiss.

The Celtic romance with the N.B.A. was still on.

The Celtics won the crown when Russell controlled Chamberlain. Big Wilt, and the man with enough ability to rule any game, couldn’t this time.

Wilt was wonderful with 32 rebounds and 30 points. But Russell wouldn’t let him have the super effort and once again the championship money has eluded Chamberlain now for the sixth time,

While Russ was blocking and fencing Chamberlain from the basket, Sam Jones and Havlicek were tearing apart Philly’s defense with outside jump shots.

Sam, great under pressure, scored 37 and Havlicek followed with 26 points — more than half the team’s total between them.


Philadelphia deserved great credit. They were nearly burned out of the building under a tremendous first period barrage.

At one point, eight minutes deep into the first period, they trailed by 18 points. Here, coach Dolph Schayes gambled with Gambee.

And Gambee had a few chips of his own to play. He scrapped, scrambled and rebounded his way to 19 points in the last 15 minutes of the half, and Philly was back for another assault.

But the Celtics were ready. Because of foul problems, they chose to slow the game a bit and wait for the good shot.

This they did in the third period, and Havlicek started tossing them in from the corner. From this effort, the Celtics bounced back to open and eight-point lead going into the last quarter.

Here is the story from our print archives. It started on the front page and continued on the sports front page:

Here is more coverage from that day’s paper of Havlicek’s effort: