The best Celtics team in franchise history
Upon researching and reviewing Celtics news, the C’s won their first championship back in 1957 under the leadership of Boston icon Red Auerbach. The franchise won eight titles in a row at one point, a record that will probably never be broken.
The 17 rings make it quite difficult to pick the greatest Celtics team in franchise history, but the 1985-86 Celtics team made a great case. Head coach K.C. Jones’ group was coming off a season that saw them lose to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1985 Finals, so Larry Bird and Co. were motivated to redeem themselves once the ’85-86 season began.
The Celtics started the season an impressive 17-3. They didn’t lose their fifth game of the campaign until December, when the Chicago Bulls got the best of Boston, 116-108.
Bird won the 1985-86 regular-season MVP award. “Larry Legend” averaged 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 81 games. The Celtics had the eighth-best offense in the NBA and the third-best defense. Boston averaged 114.1 points per game while giving up only 104.7.
Bird’s “Robin” on the team was none other than fellow Hall of Famer Kevin McHale. The walking low-post bucket put up 21.3 points and 8.1 rebounds during the regular season and made life easier for Bird when he got double-teamed.
Overall, the Celtics had five Hall of Famers on the 1985-86 roster, although the version Boston had of Bill Walton wasn’t the early Portland Trail Blazers’ Bill Walton. The Celtics had Bird, McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Walton. Danny Ainge and Rick Carlisle were on this team as well.
Boston finished the regular season at 67-15. The 67 wins are the second-most by a Celtics team in franchise history. With the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, Bird and the Celtics were ready to atone for their blunder in the ’85 Finals.
The 1986 playoffs began with the Celtics taking on the Bulls. Boston won in three games to sweep Chicago. Back then, the first round of the postseason was a best of five series. Boston was able to prevail despite Michael Jordan dropping 63 points in Game 2. Bird and McHale both averaged 28.3 points to lead the Cs to the second round.
Another Hall of Famer stood in Bird’s way to capture his third NBA championship. Dominique Wilkins and the Atlanta Hawks were the Celtics’ second-round opponent. Wilkins put up 24.0 points per game in the series, but the Celtics won in a gentleman’s sweep (4-1). Bird averaged 27.2 points in the five-game series while shooting 52.9 percent from the field.
The Celtics were now in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks were a confident group heading into the series, but they were HUGE underdogs. The series was never close. Boston won in four games, with Bird averaging 25.3 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Boston’s magical season was almost complete. The last thing the team had to do was defeat Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. Easier said than done obviously since Olajuwon was the best center in the game at the time.
The 1986 Finals couldn’t have started better for the Celtics, though. They won Games 1 and 2 at home in blowout fashion to take a 2-0 series lead. Boston almost took a commanding 3-0 lead by winning Game 3 in Houston. The Rockets managed to win by just two points, but the Celtics knew they had the Rockets right where they wanted them.
Game 4 was close throughout. Both teams were playing tense because they knew what was at stake. If the Celtics won, the series was pretty much over since no team had ever come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the Finals. However, if the Rockets prevailed, the series would be tied at 2-2, with the pressure falling back on Boston.
Behind 22 points apiece from Parish and Johnson and another 21 from Bird, the Celtics won Game 4 to take that aforementioned 3-1 series lead. Boston could taste the championship at this point, but there still was work to be done since the Rockets weren’t going to go down quietly.
Houston won Game 5 at home. This was back when the NBA Finals used to be a 2-3-2 format. The Celtics now had a golden opportunity to win the ring at home in front of their ruckus crowd and Bird wasn’t going to let this chance go to waste. He and McHale both scored 29 points in Game 6 to help Boston win the championship.
Bird won Finals MVP after averaging 24.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 9.5 assists. It was Bird’s third and final NBA title and it may be his favorite considering what happened in the previous season.