Los Angeles Lakers Hall-of-Famer Jerry West was one of the first superstars in NBA history, and he demonstrated the full extent of his talents on April 5, 1962. The man known as “Mr. Clutch” showed why as he scored 52 points to lead the Lakers to victory.
The Lakers needed all 52 of those points, too, as they only won by three to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals. West also had nine assists in the contest, meaning he had a hand in at least 70 of the Lakers’ 118 points.
Los Angeles’ next two highest scorers, Dick Barnett and Rudy LaRusso, only combined for 44 points in the game. When adding the nine points managed by Jim King, those three manage to outscore West, but only by one.
Don Ohl, Gus Johnson and Walt Bellamy of the Bullets did their best to stave off West’s onslaught, scoring 30, 27 and 24 points, respectively, but it wasn’t enough to stop the future NBA logo as Los Angeles took what appeared to be a decisive lead in the series.
However, the Bullets battled back, winning the next two hard-fought, close games by nine total points before the Lakers won the next two by 10 points total.
Given how close all of the games in the series were, West’s points were not just a game-changer, but a series-altering performance that allowed the Lakers to win the series and advance to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics and star big man Bill Russell.