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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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West Hits 53 in Lakers' Triumph, April 24, 1969



April 24, 1969, Sports Jerry West scored 53 points to lead the Lakers past the Celtics, 120-118, in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It's hard to imagine any one player on a team with West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain scoring that many points in a single game. It's even more difficult to comprehend a game where the winning team needed all those 53 points to squeak by.

West had been double-teamed in the Western Division finals against the Atlanta Hawks but was the benefit of man-to-man coverage in Game 1. West ate it up. He hit 21 of 41 shots (remember, no three-pointers) and added 11 of 13 free throws.

"It was an incredible game, really a classic," West told The Times' Mal Florence. "There weren't many turnovers or bad spots. ... As for me, it was just one of those nights where everything happened to work."

This was the seventh time West had scored 50 or more points. His teammate, Baylor, held the playoff scoring record at that point with 61 against the Celtics in 1962.

Bill Russell, the Celtics' player-coach, didn't seem too worried. "When we score 118 points it usually is enough for us to win," he said. "We aren't going to panic or get upset because we lost by two points."

--Keith Thursby

 
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