Kareem was a monster this season, this very well might have been the best statistical season ever on a 60+ win team (or on any team). On top of that he also anchored the best defense in the league (opponents shot 42% against them in a league average of 45.5%, and a league best 40.5% in the playoffs). He was also the only player in league history to average 32+ ppg on 55+%, and he did it against an incredible field of centers (maybe the deepest field ever?). Wilt, Lanier, Cowens, Thurmond, Bellamy, Unseld, Hayes, Elmore Smith (shot blocking beast).
Here are his averages against some of the elite centers of the league during the season:
His five matchups with Cowens, he got:
30/13 (call it an off night)
45/25 (Celtics said pre-game their plan was the "to just hold Jabbar under 50", and I guess they succeeded)
Averages: 44.8 ppg, 18 rpg, 4-5 apg, 57.1 FG%
His five matchups with Wilt in the regular season:
Averages: 40.2 ppg, 15.2 rpg, 5 apg, 51 FG% (Oscar didn't play in most of these games)
In February of that year, he put together a crazy stretch of games. Dropped 45 pts on the Suns, then gave Wilt 40/18/4 in the following game and the next night dropped 41 pts on Hayes. He then had a "dissapointing" 31/20/3 but came back on track with 53/14/8 vs. Cavs in the next game. Couple of games later, he gave Cowens 51/17/7 and then later on in the week scored 53 against the Sixers. A couple of days after this, he gave the Bulls 44/18 and then the Suns 44/20/11 after that. Insanity...
In the playoffs here are the stats for Wilt vs. Kareem:
Wilt - 10.8 ppg, 19.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 45.2 FG%, 44 FT% (probably about a 6-7 block average)
Kareem - 33.7 ppg, 17.5 rpg, 4.8 apg on 45.7 FG%, 84 FT% (probably about 4-5 block average)
Other notes on the series:
- Aggregate stats do hide the fact that Wilt forced Kareem into several poor shooting games. Kareem's shooting by the game was: 14/26, 18/31, 15/37, 14/33, 13/33, 16/37. Kareem averaged 33 FGA in the series, which is an outrageous amount to take against an elite defensive center like Wilt (I doubt anyone has shot over 50% in a 6-7 game playoff series where they averaged 30+ shots, especially against a defensive powerhouse).
- Part of the reason for Kareem's high volume of shots was because Oscar was injured in the series (he only played 5 minutes in the elimination game 6), and part of the reason was Kareem's desire to put up 40 on Wilt every single night (some nights he'd succeed, and some nights he'd shoot poorly). Given how close the series ended up being, this may have been a different series with a healthy Oscar.
- Wilt and West took over in the fourth quarter of game 6 to close out the Bucks. West had 14 pts I believe, Wilt had 9 (off dunks and tip-ins) but his defense on Kareem in that stretch was the real game-changer.
- Kareem played with tendinitis on his "skyhook leg" during the series. He rarely wrapped up his leg, but did so during the series, and judging from the little footage we have of the series, he doesn't have to typical lift on his skyhook:
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- A forgotten hero for the Lakers in this series was Jim McMillian, who had 42 pts in the must win game 2 to lead Lakers to a one point win. Lakers lose that game? They go down 0-2 and go to Milwaukee for next 2 games.
- There was some controversy regarding refereeing. In game 2 (Lakers won by one point), the official missed an over and back on the last play of the game, and then the ball hit the official when it was about to go off on West after Kareem knocked it loose. Bucks stated they were "robbed", and there was a huge discrepancy throughout the series in FTA that several newspapers have pointed to. Lakers won every close game, a couple apparently due to favorable refereeing while the Bucks two wins were in blowouts. Bucks actually outscored the Lakers over the series. I do think Wilt was probably intentionally fouled in the series which adds to the FTA discrepancy.
- It seems as though everybody shot poorly in this series. Here were the shooting percentages of everyone after 5 games: