|Dates:||April 26 - May 7|
(Los Angeles Lakers)
|Eastern Finals:||Knicks defeated Celtics, 4–1|
|Western Finals:||Lakers defeated Bucks, 4–2|
The Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Eastern Conference champion New York Knicks in five games. The Lakers won their first NBA championship since the franchise moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a rematch of the 1970 NBA Finals that the Knicks had won in a full seven-game series.
The Lakers this season had won a then NBA-record 69 regular-season games, including 33 wins in a row -- a record which still stands. The 69 wins would remain a record for the most wins in a season until the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls (who were coached by former Knicks player Phil Jackson) broke it en route to a 72-win season that also resulted in a championship of their own.
The Lakers were led by Wilt Chamberlain, the NBA's top rebounder that season. Guards Gail Goodrich and Jerry West were each among the NBA's top ten scorers that season, spearheading the NBA's top offense at 121 points per game. West also led the NBA in assists. The Lakers as a team led all NBA teams in rebounds and assists that season.
Los Angeles had swept a solid 57-win Chicago Bulls team in the playoffs' opening round, then defeated the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks (record of 63–19) in six games to win the Western Conference. That historic series had matched Chamberlain against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and West against Oscar Robertson. Having defeated tough Milwaukee, the 48-win New York Knicks figured to be an easy formality for the Lakers.
New York was a top defensive team that allowed just 98.2 points per game and made 47% of their shots as a team. They had defeated the 38-win Baltimore Bullets and then upset the 56-win Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference finals.
This was the first of 23 consecutive championship series officiated by Jake O'Donnell. In the previous three seasons, O'Donnell could not work the playoffs due to his duties as an American League umpire. He resigned from umpiring after working the 1971 American League Championship Series to become a full-time NBA official, working through the second round of the 1995 playoffs.
1972 NBA Playoffs
|Los Angeles Lakers (Western Conference Champion)||New York Knicks (Eastern Conference Champion)|
1st Pacific, 1st West, 1st Overall
|Regular season||48–34 (.585)
2nd Atlantic, 3rd East, 6th Overall
|Defeated the (3) Chicago Bulls, 4–0||Conference Semifinals||Defeated the (2) Baltimore Bullets, 4–2|
|Defeated the (2) Milwaukee Bucks, 4–1||Conference Finals||Defeated the (1) Boston Celtics, 4–1|
|Game||Date||Home Team||Result||Away Team|
|Game 1||April 26||Los Angeles||92–114||New York|
|Game 2||April 30)||Los Angeles||106–92||New York|
|Game 3||May 3||New York||96–107||Los Angeles|
|Game 4||May 5||New York||111–116 (OT)||Los Angeles|
|Game 5||May 7||Los Angeles||114–100||New York|
Lakers win series 4–1
Although without Willis Reed because of his knee injury, Jerry Lucas scored 26 points but was only one of several Knicks who was red hot. Bill Bradley hit 11 of 12 shots from the field as New York shot 53 percent for the game. The team took advantage of a nearly perfect first half to jump to a good lead and won easily, 114-92.
Knicks forward Dave DeBusschere hurt his side and didn't play after the first half. Hairston scored 12 points in the second half, and Los Angeles evened the series with a 106-92 win.
DeBusschere attempted to play in the first half and missed all six of his field-goal attempts. He was hurting and elected not to play in the second half. DeBusschere explained :"I didn't feel I was helping the team,". The Lakers danced out to a 22-point lead and took a 2-1 lead in the series with a 107-96 win.
The game went into overtime, but at the end of regulation, Wilt Chamberlain picked up his fifth foul. In 13 NBA seasons, he had never fouled out of a game, a statistic of which he was immensely proud. Immediately speculation started along press row that he would play soft in the overtime. Instead, he came out in a shotblocking fury that propelled the Lakers to a 116-111 win. At three games to one, their lead now seemed insurmountable.
After being tied at halftime, the Lakers won their first NBA Championship in L.A. with a 114-100 victory. Jerry West won his first NBA Championship after of 12 years of waiting, and Wilt Chamberlain scored 24 points and 29 rebounds and he earned his first and only Finals MVP Award.