According to My Top Sportsbooks, the chances are slim that the Eastern Michigan Eagles will not be able to participate in the annual spectacle that is March Madnesss this season. However, George Gervin, Eastern Michigan’s greatest basketball export, helped lead a springtime scoring exhibition of such magnitude that even the present-day offensive superpowers like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets would have to respect.
On March 6, 1982, the Midwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs and the Central-leading Milwaukee Bucks squared off in a second-half tilt featuring two teams jockeying for position in the playoff standings. Sure, jostling for a better seed is important, and I bet guys like Gervin and Bob Lanier raised an eyebrow a bit more when they knew they were facing a quality team. However, I guarantee that if you told them that their respective teams would combine to score 337 points, they would’ve guffawed loudly in your face.
What transpired in the HemisFair Arena in San Antonio was a 171-166 Spurs victory over the Bucks in a triple-overtime classic.
Before we go any further, let’s just laugh at some of the insane takeaways of this box score.
- Before Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook shocked the world by going for 50 and 40 in a game, Gervin (50 points, including 24 points in the three overtime periods) and Mike Mitchell (45 points) did it on 38/59 shooting. You guys, that's 64.4%.
- The Bucks' two leading scorers were Brian Winters (42 points, including making 13 straight shots at one point) and Junior Bridgeman (31 points). They both came off the bench to do so, and shot 63.8% on 30/47 shooting. This is insane.
- The Spurs had two players get double-digit assists, Johnny Moore went for 16 and Mike Bratz went for 12, respectively.
- The Spurs shot 58.6% from the field and won. The Bucks shot 61.3% and lost. The two teams combined to make just four threes but made up for it with 75 free throw attempts (61 made).
- If the shooting statistics and scoring exploits aren’t enough proof that defense was clearly optional in this game, the Spurs (14) and Bucks (11) combined for just 25 turnovers in 63 minutes of action. For comparison’s sake, Westbrook has turned the ball over 10 or more times in a game on five occasions this season.
Since I wasn’t born when this game transpired, here are some notable quotables from those who lived the experience back in 1982.
Brian Winters: 42 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists (per Spurs.com) -- I remember looking at the box score afterwards and seeing guys made a tremendous amount of shots. It was one of those wild shoot-out affairs. Guys were making shots from everywhere. It was a highly entertaining game, and unfortunately we lost.
Stan Albeck, Spurs coach: Guy whose defense gave up 166 points and somehow got the win (per The Chicago Tribune) -- This is one game that these guys will cherish for the rest of their careers. This is what pro basketball is supposed to be about.
George Gervin: 50 points, coolest guy on earth (per The Chicago Tribune) -- This has to be the most exciting game that I’ve ever played in, everybody on both teams was outstanding.
What's fascinating about the scoring outburst is that the all-time record only lasted another season and a half, as the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets put on another awesome display of
defensive putridity offensive excellence that birthed 390 points in three overtimes with the Pistons coming out victorious, 186-184. Unfortunately, there's no video footage of these exploits from 35 years ago. So we'll show you the Pistons-Nuggets classic instead, just replace George Gervin for Isiah Thomas and Brian Winters for Kiki Vandeweghe.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”