The Timeout that Nearly Broke a NBA Finals
In this moment of NBA history, we have to go all the way back to the 1976 NBA Finals. More specifically, Game 5 of the series. This game features the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns with the series tied at two games apiece. This moment happened at the end of the second overtime. John Havlicek scored what many thought was the game-winning shot, but the ball went through the net with two seconds left. After the chaos of the crowd was calmed, the Suns were awarded one second and a timeout, but there was a problem. The Suns didn’t have any timeouts left, and they were assessed a technical foul. That timeout would be a key ingredient to one of the greatest controversies in NBA history.
What led up to it
The final twenty seconds of the second overtime were the most notable from this game because of what happened during this sequence of time. the Boston Celtics were up 109-106 with the Phoenix Suns taking possession after their last timeout. The Suns’ Dick Van Arsdale hit a jumper in the corner which cut the lead to one. Jim Ard tried to inbound the ball to John Havlicek, but it was stolen by the Suns’ Paul Westphal. After stealing the ball, he passed it to Arsdale to prevent it from going out of bounds. Arsdale then passed it to Curtis Perry who went for the shot to put Phoenix in the lead, but missed it. Trying to get the rebound, Havlicek accidentally tipped it back to Perry. He then ended nailed a jumper giving Phoenix a one-point lead.
Havlicek’s shot with the chaos
After Perry’s went in, The Celtics called a timeout with five seconds left. Their plan was to get a quick basket from either John Havlicek or Jo Jo White. After the timeout, Don Nelson inbounded it to Havlicek and he hit a bank shot at what seemed to be the end of the game. Fans were already storming the court and the Celtics players were heading back to the locker room. With the celebration going on, both the announcers and the referees decided that there was still time left on the clock. The game wasn’t over. Police and security had to get the crowd off the court and tried to calm the storm.
After the authorities try to maintain order in the Boston Garden, the referees put one second back on the clock. With time left, the Suns wanted to take a timeout but they didn’t have any left. The rules say that if you call a timeout and don’t have any left, that’s a technical foul. Surprisingly, the Suns accepted the technical foul to get the extra timeout. The reason they did this was that back then, the team that caused the technical foul still retained possession of the ball. The Suns knew that it was better to draw up a play and go for the tie than to try to rush for a game-winning shot. After the timeout, the Suns’ Gar Heard took the inbound pass and nailed a game-tying buzzer-beater.
This moment is without a doubt very controversial, but it’s almost forgotten because Boston would end up winning Game 5 along with the NBA championship. This call would actually change the rules to where the opposing team takes the technical foul shot and they also get the ball back. It’s crazy to think what would’ve happened if the Suns had won this game. They probably would’ve won the series because they would’ve had homecourt advantage up three games to two. It’s definitely a crazy moment in history and it’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten.