With an NBA-most 17 championship banners hanging in the rafters at TD Garden, the Boston Celtics have accomplished more than most other sports organizations could ever dream of. The Celtics playoffs history is simply amazing.
From Bill Russell to Paul Pierce, there have been a number of stars who achieved postseason success while donning the iconic green and white. Considering the Celtics’ playoffs history, choosing just a few out of many iconic moments is no simple endeavor. There are numerous noteworthy moments that did not make the cut.
Here are some of the signature moments in Boston Celtics playoffs history.
Celtics demolish Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals
Boston’s 17th title came at the expense of their longtime rival, the Los Angeles Lakers. LA was led by regular season MVP Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, who was acquired prior to the NBA trade deadline that year. After a back-and-forth first five games which saw the Celtics leading the series 3-2, Boston had an opportunity to close out the Lakers on their own home court, and they did so in spectacular fashion.
The C’s collectively slowed down the dynamic duo of Bryant (22 points on 7-for-22 shooting) and Gasol (11 points and eight rebounds) in Game 6, while the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett all scored 17-plus points. Boston flat-out demolished the Lakers, earning a 131-92 victory and the 2008 Larry O’Brien Trophy.
It was Paul Pierce, the longest tenured Celtic on the roster, who was named Finals MVP. For the series, he averaged 21.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 38.8 minutes per game. Pierce’s ability to lead his team to a ring was what forever cemented his place in Celtics playoffs lore. Earlier in his career, he was thought of as someone who was not a winning talent. But, now an NBA champion, Pierce is revered as a Boston legend, and those who witnessed Game 6 will not soon forget the masterful performance put on by both The Truth and his ball club.
Boston defeats the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the 1986 NBA Finals
The 1986 Celtics are believed to be one of the greatest teams in the history of basketball. They finished the regular season with a home record of 40-1 (tied for the best ever) and owned a superbly talented frontcourt in Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, all of whom are Hall of Famers. Boston cruised their way to the NBA Finals where they faced off against the Houston Rockets, anchored by the Twin Towers of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson.
Following a Game 5 96-111 loss in Houston thanks to a 32-point, 14-rebound showing from Olajuwon, Boston had a chance to end the Rockets’ title hopes in the Boston Garden, and they took advantage of their opportunity. Bird, as per usual, rose to the occasion in his team’s most important game of the season. He tallied a triple double of 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists in the championship-clinching triumph for the Celtics. McHale scored 29, and current C’s general manager Danny Ainge chipped in 19 points in the 114-97 Boston win.
The Game 6 victory was a storybook ending to a historically dominant campaign for the green. Unsurprisingly, it was Bird who took home Finals MVP honors, as the then 29-year-old averaged a near triple double for the entirety of the championship series (24 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.5 assists).
Bill Russell and the C’s steal Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals on the road versus the Lakers
It only makes sense that the winningest player in professional sports capped off his Celtics career with a ring. Russell won 11 titles during his 13 seasons in the NBA, and his last one may be his most memorable. Boston was certainly the underdog in this matchup, as some of their best players such as Russell, Sam Jones and Tom Sanders were in their 30s and approaching retirement.
The Lakers were stacked with all-time greats, including Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor. Not only that, but LA had home-court advantage and started the series guns blazing, taking a commanding 2-0 lead.
Boston rallied back though, taking Games 3,4 and 6 at home, forcing a seventh and final game in Los Angeles. Game 7 was a back-and-forth slugfest between two squads that clearly did not care for one another, considering how often they faced off in the Finals in recent years. The Celtics led by just three at halftime, but after outscoring the Lakers 32-20 in the third qaurter, Boston took a comfortable 15 point lead heading into the final frame. LA was at home though, and as expected, they made a late-game rally. Los Angeles outperformed the C’s in the fourth quarter 30-17, meaning they ended up only losing by two points, 106-108.
In the final outing of his career, Russell enjoyed a magnificent all-around performance. He suited up for all 48 minutes and grabbed 21 rebounds and dished out six assists. Russell only scored six points, but he had a major impact on the outcome of Game 7 regardless thanks to his defense, facilitating and rebounding.
Boston’s Game 7 victory was the perfect conclusion to the Bill Russell dynasty, which led to the Celtics becoming the widely respected franchise that they are today.