The Buffalo Braves brought professional basketball to Western New York in 1970 and they wasted no time giving their fans something to cheer about.
On Oct. 14, 1970 — 46 years ago today — the Braves had a splendid debut, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 107-92, at Memorial Auditorium in their first game as a NBA franchise. The rest of the season didn’t go as well for Buffalo, which finished the 1970-71 season 22-60.
Don May led the Braves with a game-high 24 points while teammate Dick Garrett added 20 points. The rest of Buffalo’s point-scorers included: Mike Davis (14), Nate Bowman (12), John Hummer (eight), Herm Gilliam (eight), Em Bryant (seven), Freddie Crawford (six), George Wilson (four) and Bob Kauffman (four).
The Braves spent eight seasons in Buffalo before they were relocated to San Diego and later Los Angeles, where the franchise exists today as the Clippers.
Here is an excerpt from News sports reporter Milt Northrop’s game story that appeared in the Oct. 15, 1970 issue:
Braves play a sparkling game in opening 107-92 NBA victory
The first thing Don May wanted to talk about after the Buffalo Braves’ 107-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in their premiere National Basketball Association game in Memorial Auditorium was the Braves’ defense.
“I thought it was impressive,” said May, the game’s high scorer with 24 points. “When I was with the Knicks our goal was to hold the other team under 100. We considered that a super performance and I think you have to gauge it the same way here.”
The official attendance was 7,129. It looked more like 5,129 and with the Aud’s new acoustical cylinder muffling the crowd’s noise, it sounded like 3,129.
A routine victory
The Braves played as if there were 17,129 in the revamped Aud. Taking charge of the game after the first six minutes, they turned it into a routine victory.
Cleveland led only once in the game, 10-8, but was outscored, 13-1, in the next four minutes and the Braves stayed in front the rest of the way.
“Everybody was a little tight for a while, trying to over-extend themselves,” said captain Dick Garrett, who scored eight of Buffalo’s 29 first-period points and finished the game with 20.