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Cowens hustle play deserves full credit

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  May 25, 2010 03:27 PM

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I'm guessing a majority of people reading this were not even alive on the night of May 10, 1974, and I doubt more than a handful of you were in attendance at the Boston Garden for Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

But just about every one of you have now seen the video of Dave Cowens scrambling after that loose ball, finally securing it like a recovered fumble, because it is that play to which the great effort of Rajon Rondo in Game 3 of this ongoing series with the Orlando Magic is being compared.

There is a huge difference, and it takes nothing away from Rondo's magnificent combination of hustle and athleticism that resulted in a basket for the Celtics. The difference is that Rondo's play was symbolic, whereas Cowens' play was crucial.

The basket by Rondo increased the Boston lead from 17 to 19. The great play by Cowens came with the score tied and just under a minute to go in the fourth quarter of an elimination game in the Finals.

The Cowens play also represented a superior achievement, because what took place was a 6-foot-8-inch center switching out on the legendary Oscar Robertson and then poke-checking the ball away from the Hall of Fame guard. Cowens may be the only center in history who could have made that play. He then went after the ball, stumbling to the floor and then crawling after the ball until he secured it. What he did was cause a 24-second violation that gave Boston the basketball with the scored tied at 86-86.

The Celtics did not score, and they would lose at the buzzer in double OT on the famous 17-foot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hook, necessitating a trip to Milwaukee where they won their third road game of the series to wrap up championship No. 12. Cowens scored 17 in the first half to put his team in position for victory.

Each play tells us a lot about the man who made it. What a pair they would have made. I just want to make sure Dave Cowens gets full credit. That play should run on a continuous video on top of his tombstone the day he is laid to rest. Rondo, I suspect, will dazzle us with far more significant plays than the one he made on Jason Williams before he concludes his career.

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