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By Cort Reynolds

Of the NBA-record 17 championship teams the fabled Boston Celtic franchise has fielded, which is the very best of the best? To figure that puzzle out, I put together a fictional tournament of Celtic champions using the eye test, much reading and research, poring over Youtube clips on the older teams, and statistical analysis to come up with which legendary Celtic title squad I think is the cream of the crop. The results are below.

Championship year team (season record, playoff record, head coach, average points a game for and against)
PLAY-IN SERIES:

1959 Celtics (52-20, 8-3, Red Auerbach, 116.4-109.9 ppg) Starters: B. Sharman (20.4 ppg, 93.2 FT%), B. Cousy (20 ppg, 8.6 apg), T. Heinsohn (18.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg), B. Russell 16.7 ppg, 23 rpg), J. Loscutoff (8.3 ppg, 7 rpg). 6th man: F. Ramsey 15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Key reserves: S. Jones (10.7 ppg), G. Conley.
vs.
1957 Celtics (44-28, 7-3, Red Auerbach, 105.5 ppg-100.2 ppg) Starters: B. Cousy (20.6 ppg, 7.5 apg), B. Sharman (21.1 ppg, 90.5 FT%), B. Russell (14.7 ppg, 19.6 rpg), T. Heinsohn (16.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg), J. Loscutoff (10.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg). 6th man: F. Ramsey (11.9 ppg). Key reserves: J. Nichols (8.2 ppg), A. Risen (8 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
Result: 1959 Celtics 4, 1957 Celtics 3
Analysis: Theses two teams had essentially the same lineups, but the '59 Celts were more experienced, more confident and deeper with Sam Jones leading the bench.

ROUND OF 16:
1986 Celtics (67-15 season, 15-3 playoff, head coach KC Jones, 114.1-104.7 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (25.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 6.8 apg, 89.6 FT%, 42.3% 3's), K. McHale (21.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 57.4 FG%), R. Parish (16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg), D. Ainge (10.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 90.4 FT%), D. Johnson (15.6 ppg, 5.8 apg). 6th man: B. Walton (7.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Key reserves: S. Wedman (8 ppg), J. Sichting (6.5 ppg, 92.4 FT%).
vs.
1959 Celtics (52-20, 8-3, Red Auerbach, 116.4-109.9 ppg) Starters: B. Sharman (20.4 ppg, 93.2 FT%), B. Cousy (20 ppg, 8.6 apg), T. Heinsohn (18.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg), B. Russell 16.7 ppg, 23 rpg), J. Loscutoff (8.3 ppg, 7 rpg). 6th man: F. Ramsey 15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Key reserves: S. Jones (10.7 ppg), G. Conley. 
Result: 1986 Celtics 4, 1959 Celtics 2
Analysis: The 1986 Celtics had it all: great shooting and offense, great rebounding, fine defense, great passing, excellent depth, great size; all they lacked was foot speed. Bill Walton was the 6th Man of the Year on arguably the deepest front line of talent in NBA history. McHale overmatched Loscutoff badly and with Bird in his prime, even Russell and Cousy were no match.



1963 Celtics (58-22, 8-5, Red Auerbach, 118.8-111.6 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (19.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg), B. Cousy (13.2 ppg, 6.8 apg), B. Russell 16.8 ppg, 23.6 rpg, T. Heinsohn (18.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), T. Sanders (10.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg). 6th man: J. Havlicek (14.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Key reserves: F. Ramsey (10.9 ppg), KC Jones (7.2 ppg), C. Lovellette (6.5 ppg).
vs.
1962 Celtics (60-20, 8-6, Red Auerbach, 121.1-111.8 ppg) Starters: T. Heinsohn (22.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg), B. Russell (18.9 ppg, 23.6 rpg), T. Sanders (11.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg), B. Cousy (15.7 ppg, 7.8 apg), S. Jones (18.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg). 6th man: F. Ramsey (15.3 ppg). Key reserves: KC Jones (9.2 ppg), J Loscutoff (5.3 ppg). Result: 1963 Celtics 4, 1962 Celtics 3
Analysis: John Havlicek, a rookie on the 1963 Celtic champs, said of the 16 Boston squads he graced that the '63 team was the most talented one he ever played on, due to eight Hall of Famers on the roster. There isn't much difference between the teams, besides Hondo, and the word of arguably the game's most understated superstar is enough for me, especially because of the better depth of the 1963 squad.



1974 Celtics (56-26, 12-6, Tom Heinsohn, 109-105.1 ppg) Starters: D. Cowens (19 ppg, 15.7 rpg), P. Silas (11.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg), J. Havlicek (22.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg), JJ White (18.1 ppg, 5.5 apg), D. Chaney (10.4 ppg). 6th man: D. Nelson (11.5 ppg). Key reserves: P. Westphal (7.2 ppg), S. Kuberski (5.1 ppg).
vs.
1960 Celtics (59-16, 8-5, Red Auerbach, 124.5-116.2 ppg) Starters: T. Heinsohn (21.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg), B. Cousy (19.4 ppg, 9.5 apg), B. Sharman (19.3 ppg, 86.6 FT%), B. Russell (18.2 ppg, 24 rpg), F. Ramsey (15.3 ppg). 6th man: S. Jones (11.9 ppg). Key reserves: G. Conley (6.7 ppg), KC Jones (6.3 ppg).
Result: 1974 Celtics 4, 1960 Celtics 3
Analysis: With the big three of Havlicek, Cowens and White at its peak, the quickest team in Celtic history had everything but great depth and size. There isn't much to choose from between these title teams, but the all-around clutch greatness of 1974 Finals MVP Havlicek makes the difference as southpaw centers Cowens and Russell negate each other.



2008 Celtics (66-16, 16-10, Glenn Rivers, 100.5-90.3 ppg) Starters: K. Garnett (18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg), P. Pierce (19.6 ppg), K. Perkins (6.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg), R. Allen (17.4 ppg, 90.7 FT%, 39.7% 3's), R. Rondo (10.6, 5.1 apg). 6th man: J. Posey (7 ppg). Key reserves: T. Allen (6.6 ppg), E. House (7.5 ppg), S. Cassell (7.6 ppg), L. Powe (7.9 ppg), G. Davis (4.5 ppg).
vs.
1961 Celtics (57-22, 8-2, Red Auerbach, 119.7-114.1 ppg) Starters: B. Russell (16.9 ppg, 23.9 rpg), T. Heinsohn (21.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg), B. Cousy (18.1 ppg, 7.7 apg), B. Sharman (16 ppg, 92.1 FT%), G. Conley (6.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg). 6th man: F. Ramsey (15.1 ppg). Key reserves: S. Jones (15 ppg), KC Jones (7.6 ppg), T. Sanders (5.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Result: 2008 Celtics 4, 1961 Celtics 3
Analysis: The 2008 Celtics boasted a deep bench and very strong defense, as did the '61 Celts. The biggest weakness on the '61 C's came at big forward, and Garnett took advantage there. Russell held a similarly big edge at center, but the overall better athleticism of the 2008 Celtics makes the slightest of differences.



1984 Celtics (62-20, 15-8, KC Jones, 112.1-105.6 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (24.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 6.6 apg, 88.8 FT%), C. Maxwell 11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg 53.2 FG%), R. Parish (19 ppg, 10.7 rpg), D. Johnson (13.2 ppg, 4.2 apg), G. Henderson (11.6 ppg, 3.8 apg). 6th man: K. McHale (18.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 55.6 FG%). Key reserves: S. Wedman (4.8 ppg), D. Ainge (5.4 ppg), Q. Buckner (4.1 ppg), ML Carr.
vs.
1964 Celtics (59-21, 8-2, Red Auerbach, 113-105.1 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (19.4 ppg), T. Heinsohn (16.5 ppg), B. Russell (15 ppg, 24.7 rpg), T. Sanders (11.4 ppg), KC Jones (8.2 ppg). 6th man: J. Havlicek (19.9 ppg). Key reserves: F. Ramsey (8.6 ppg). W. Naulls (9.8 ppg).
Result: 1984 Celtics 4, 1964 Celtics 3
Analysis: Both teams featured great front lines and sixth men, but league and Finals MVP Bird could not be matched. McHale and Maxwell also had the edge over Satch Sanders. The '84 Celtics ran a brutal gauntlet to the title, beating the arch-rival Knicks and Lakers in seven grueling games each, and were a great offensive-rebounding squad - especially when they went with the big lineup of Bird essentially playing guard along with Parish, McHale, Maxwell and DJ. The 1984 Celtics were incredibly driven after coming off two non-title seasons in the loaded NBA of the early 1980s, and they beat LA in perhaps the best championship series in league history by pounding the offensive glass. Boston also willed its way to two overtime barnburners and another seventh game epic at home to give Larry his long-awaited title over nemesis Earvin Johnson.




1976 Celtics (54-28, 12-6, Tom Heinsohn, 106.2-103.9 ppg) Starters: D. Cowens (19 ppg, 16 rpg, 4.2 apg), P. Silas (10.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg), J. Havlicek (17 ppg, 3.7 apg), C. Scott (17.6 ppg, 4.2 apg), JJ White (18.9 ppg, 5.4 apg). 6th man: D. Nelson (6.4 ppg). Key reserves: S. Kuberski (5.4 ppg), K. Stacom (5.3 ppg), G. McDonald (5.6 ppg).
vs.
1965 Celtics (62-18, 8-4, Red Auerbach, 112.8-104.4 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (25.9 ppg), B. Russell (14.1 ppg, 24.1 rpg), T. Heinsohn (13.6 ppg), T. Sanders (11.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg), KC Jones (8.3 ppg). 6th man: J. Havlicek (18.3 ppg). Key reserves: W. Naulls (10.5 ppg). R. Bonham (7.4 ppg), L. Siegfried (6.3 ppg). Result: 1965 Celtics 4, 1976 Celtics 3
Analysis: The slightly aging, short-benched '76 Celtics somewhat wheezed their way to the title behind Cowens, White and guile as a 36-year old Hondo was slowed by a foot injury. Boston struggled to beat a 42-40 Sun team in the Finals, led by ex-Celtic Paul Westphal, breaking the back of upstart Phoenix by outlasting them in the epic triple overtime game five at the Garden. The '65 Celtics also featured a small forward in Heinsohn enduring the final season of his career at 31, but they made up for it with supersub Hondo leading a superior bench. Sam Jones had his greatest season stat-wise in 1965 and with Russell also near his peak, they nudge past a balanced, wily but depth-challenged bicentennial Celt squad. The uber-aggressive Cowens also was frequently in foul trouble and had no adequate backup.

Em Bryant & Wilt


1968 Celtics (54-28, 12-7, Bill Russell, 116.1-112 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (21.3 ppg), J. Havlicek (20.7 ppg), B. Howell (19.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg), B. Russell (12.5 ppg, 18.6 rpg), L. Siegfried (12.2 ppg, 86.8 FT%). 6th man: T. Sanders (10.2 ppg). Key reserves: D. Nelson (10 ppg, W. Embry (6.3 ppg).
vs.
1969 Celtics (48-34, 12-6, Bill Russell, 111-105.4 ppg) Starters: J. Havlicek (21.6 ppg, 7 rpg, 5.4 apg), B. Howell (19.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg), S. Jones (16.3 ppg), L. Siegfried (14.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 86.4 FT%), B. Russell (9.9 ppg, 19.3 rpg). 6th man: D. Nelson (11.6 ppg). Key reserves: T. Sanders (11.2 ppg, 7 rpg), Em Bryant (5.7 ppg).
Result: 1968 Celtics 4, 1969 Celtics 3
Analysis: The big difference between these back-to-back Boston champs was just another year in age. The 1969 Celts limped to the fourth and last spot of the East playoffs in the final campaign for Russell and Sam Jones. Yet they found a way to come back from deficits of 0-2 and 2-3 to upset the favored Lakers on the road in a classic game seven (108-106) despite having one of the worst records ever for a champion team. The 1968 Celtics came from 1-3 down to upset the defending champion 76ers in the East Finals, then took out LA in six. Russell averaged just 9.9 ppg in his last season and the slightly younger Celtics edge the last Boston consecutive champs.



1981 Celtics (62-20, 12-5, Bill Fitch, 109.9-104 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (21.2 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 5.5 apg), C. Maxwell (15.2 ppg, 58.8 FG%), R. Parish (18.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg), C. Ford (8.9 ppg), N. Archibald (13.8 ppg, 7.7 apg). 6th man: K. McHale 10 ppg). Key reserves: ML Carr (6 ppg), G. Henderson (7.8 ppg), R. Robey (9 ppg).
vs.
1966 Celtics (54-26, 11-6, Red Auerbach, 112.7-107.8 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (23.5 ppg), B. Russell (12.9 ppg, 22.8 rpg), T. Sanders (12.6 ppg), W. Naulls (10.7 ppg), KC Jones (8.6 ppg, 6.3 apg). 6th man: J Havlicek (18.8 ppg). Key reserves: D. Nelson (10.2 ppg), M. Counts (8.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
Result: 1981 Celtics 4, 1966 Celtics 3
Analysis: Second-year great Bird saw the greatest frontline in NBA history completed with the trade for Robert Parish and drafting of Kevin McHale (along with underrated 1981 Finals MVP Cedric Maxwell) after the pre-season retirement of injured Dave Cowens helped straighten out an overloaded frontcourt. McHale led a strong bench and the penetration of Archibald led this fast-breaking Celtic team to a tough win over a strong but slightly aging Celtic squad playing for Red Auerbach in his final season as coach. The 1981 Celtic forwards of Bird, Maxwell and McHale dominate Sanders, Naulls, Nelson and young swingman Havlicek.





QUARTERFINALS
1986 Celtics (67-15, 15-3, KC Jones, 114.1-104.7 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (25.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 6.8 apg, 89.6 FT%, 42.3% 3's), K. McHale (21.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 57.4 FG%), R. Parish (16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg), D. Ainge (10.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 90.4 FT%), D. Johnson (15.6 ppg, 5.8 apg). 6th man: B. Walton (7.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Key reserves: S. Wedman (8 ppg), J. Sichting (6.5 ppg, 92.4 FT%).
vs.
1981 Celtics (62-20, 12-5, Bill Fitch, 109.9-104 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (21.2 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 5.5 apg), C. Maxwell (15.2 ppg, 58.8 FG%), R. Parish (18.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg), C. Ford (8.9 ppg), N. Archibald (13.8 ppg, 7.7 apg). 6th man: K. McHale 10 ppg). Key reserves: ML Carr (6 ppg), G. Henderson (7.8 ppg), R. Robey (9 ppg).
Result: 1986 Celtics 4, 1981 Celtics 2
Analysis: The '86 Celtics were improved over the '81 version by experience, a slightly better bench, the best forward tandem ever in Bird and McHale at their peaks, and a superior backcourt of DJ and Ainge. Chris Ford and Archibald were solid players but both were in their early 30s by 1981 and just past their peak, and were no match for the bigger and more athletic 1986 guards. Although Parish was better in '81 than '86, Walton more than evened up that advantage plus the Larry Bird and Kevin McHale versions in 1986 were also better than their 1981 selves. Perhaps if Cowens and Pete Maravich had not retired in pre-season and if they had signed future European legend Nick Galis to improve the guard situation, the 1981 Celtics rank much higher in the pantheon of Boston title teams. But they didn't. Then again, the 1987 Celtics would probably have been the greatest team ever with a healthy Walton and Wedman, and the addition of super rookie Len Bias.

This should've happened...sigh


1963 Celtics (58-22, 8-5, Red Auerbach, 118.8-111.6 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (19.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg), B. Cousy (13.2 ppg, 6.8 apg), B. Russell 16.8 ppg, 23.6 rpg, T. Heinsohn (18.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), T. Sanders (10.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg). 6th man: J. Havlicek (14.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Key reserves: F. Ramsey (10.9 ppg), KC Jones (7.2 ppg), C. Lovellette (6.5 ppg).
vs.
1968 Celtics (54-28, 12-7, Bill Russell, 116.1-112 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (21.3 ppg), J. Havlicek (20.7 ppg), B. Howell (19.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg), B. Russell (12.5 ppg, 18.6 rpg), L. Siegfried (12.2 ppg, 86.8 FT%). 6th man: T. Sanders (10.2 ppg). Key reserves: D. Nelson (10 ppg, W. Embry (6.3 ppg).
Result: 1963 Celtics 4, 1968 Celtics 2
Analysis: The 1963 Celtics possessed better guards, greater depth and more youth across the board, and those keys spelled the difference.


1974 Celtics (56-26, 12-6, Tom Heinsohn, 109-105.1 ppg) Starters: D. Cowens (19 ppg, 15.7 rpg), P. Silas (11.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg), J. Havlicek (22.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg), JJ White (18.1 ppg, 5.5 apg), D. Chaney (10.4 ppg). 6th man: D. Nelson (11.5 ppg). Key reserves: P. Westphal (7.2 ppg), S. Kuberski (5.1 ppg).
vs.
1965 Celtics (62-18, 8-4, Red Auerbach, 112.8-104.4 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (25.9 ppg), B. Russell (14.1 ppg, 24.1 rpg), T. Heinsohn (13.6 ppg), T. Sanders (11.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg), KC Jones (8.3 ppg). 6th man: J. Havlicek (18.3 ppg). Key reserves: W. Naulls (10.5 ppg). R. Bonham (7.4 ppg), L. Siegfried (6.3 ppg).
Result: 1974 Celtics 4, 1965 Celtics 3
Analysis: The 1974 Celtics were the quickest team in franchise annals, and boasted four all-defense performers and a balanced offense. A very smart team, they also boasted five future NBA head coaches (Nelson, Cowens, Silas, Westphal, Chaney) and one of the game's smartest players ever in the supremely athletic Havlicek. Five past or future All-Stars dotted the roster and they took down a strong Bucks team in the Finals, winning game seven on the road as Cowens outplayed Jabbar and second-year man Westphal played a key role off the bench. He scored 12 big points in place of foul-plagued Don Chaney, and helped harass all-time great Oscar Robertson into a 2-for-13 shooting night in his final NBA game. The '65 Celtics also were very heady and featured four future NBA head coaches (Russell, Heinsohn, Sanders, KC). But an at the end-of-his-prime Havlicek clearly outplays Heinsohn in his final season, Jo Jo White and Sam Jones negate one another as do Cowens and Russell, Silas and Sanders, and defensive aces Chaney and KC. Hondo was determined to win his (and the franchise's) first title without Russell, and would not be denied in '74 - especially with the sting of losing in 1973 still painful. Despite posting the best-ever Celtic regular season mark at 68-14 as Cowens was named league MVP, Boston came up just short in an epic seven-game East Finals to the eventual champion rival Knicks due to a severe shoulder injury suffered by Hondo in game three.





1984 Celtics (62-20, 15-8, KC Jones, 112.1-105.6 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (24.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 6.6 apg, 88.8 FT%), C. Maxwell 11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg 53.2 FG%), R. Parish (19 ppg, 10.7 rpg), D. Johnson (13.2 ppg, 4.2 apg), G. Henderson (11.6 ppg, 3.8 apg). 6th man: K. McHale (18.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 55.6 FG%). Key reserves: S. Wedman (4.8 ppg), D. Ainge (5.4 ppg), Q. Buckner (4.1 ppg), ML Carr.
vs.
2008 Celtics (66-16, 16-10, Glenn Rivers, 100.5-90.3 ppg) Starters: K. Garnett (18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg), P. Pierce (19.6 ppg), K. Perkins (6.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg), R. Allen (17.4 ppg, 90.7 FT%, 39.7% 3's), R. Rondo (10.6, 5.1 apg). 6th man: J. Posey (7. ppg). Key reserves: T. Allen (6.6 ppg), E. House (7.5 ppg), S. Cassell (7.6 ppg), L. Powe (7.9 ppg), G. Davis (4.5 ppg). \
Result: 1984 Celtics 4, 2008 Celtics 3
Analysis: Superior shooting, halfcourt offense, passing and rebounding make the difference for the 1984 Celtics. DJ shuts down Allen, Ainge and Henderson outplay a very young shooting-challenged Rondo, Parish dominates Perkins and Bird outplays Pierce, while Maxwell and McHale battle Garnett to at least a draw. The 2008 Celtics struggled to get to the third round of the playoffs, winning their first two series in 7 each time before finding their groove, but nothing came easily for this team on offense. Especially against a tough defensive team like the '84 Celtics, who featured four strong defensive guards and a similarly tough frontcourt.


SEMIFINALS


1986 Celtics (67-15, 15-3, KC Jones, 114.1-104.7 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (25.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 6.8 apg, 89.6 FT%, 42.3% 3's), K. McHale (21.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 57.4 FG%), R. Parish (16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg), D. Ainge (10.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 90.4 FT%), D. Johnson (15.6 ppg, 5.8 apg). 6th man: B. Walton (7.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Key reserves: S. Wedman (8 ppg), J. Sichting (6.5 ppg, 92.4 FT%).
vs.
1984 Celtics (62-20, 15-8, KC Jones, 112.1-105.6 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (24.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 6.6 apg, 88.8 FT%), C. Maxwell 11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg 53.2 FG%), R. Parish (19 ppg, 10.7 rpg), D. Johnson (13.2 ppg, 4.2 apg), G. Henderson (11.6 ppg, 3.8 apg). 6th man: K. McHale (18.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 55.6 FG%). Key reserves: S. Wedman (4.8 ppg), D. Ainge (5.4 ppg), Q. Buckner (4.1 ppg), ML Carr.
Result: 1986 Celtics 4, 1984 Celtics 2
Analysis: Erratic shooting by the 1984 Celtic backcourt was the glaring weakness for this team, and the '86 squad took advantage with better guard play. Walton teamed with Parish to give Boston perhaps the greatest one-two punch ever at center and the duo of Bird and McHale was at its peak (buttressed by the underrated sniping of Scott Wedman off the bench too), thus this team would not be beaten. Arguably the smartest team ever, they may have been the best passing Celtic team as well. Bird and Walton spurred this unselfishness as the two best passers ever at their positions, with the possible exception of Arvydas Sabonis at center. Ainge and Sichting were a big backcourt offensive upgrade over Henderson and Buckner. 1963 Celtics (58-22, 8-5, Red Auerbach, 118.8-111.6 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (19.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg), B. Cousy (13.2 ppg, 6.8 apg), B. Russell 16.8 ppg, 23.6 rpg, T. Heinsohn (18.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), T. Sanders (10.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg). 6th man: J. Havlicek (14.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Key reserves: F. Ramsey (10.9 ppg), KC Jones (7.2 ppg), C. Lovellette (6.5 ppg). vs. 1974 Celtics (56-26, 12-6, Tom Heinsohn, 109-105.1 ppg) Starters: D. Cowens (19 ppg, 15.7 rpg), P. Silas (11.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg), J. Havlicek (22.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg), JJ White (18.1 ppg, 5.5 apg), D. Chaney (10.4 ppg). 6th man: D. Nelson (11.5 ppg). Key reserves: P. Westphal (7.2 ppg), S. Kuberski (5.1 ppg). Result: 1963 Celtics 4, 1974 Celtics 3 Analysis: The superior depth of the 1963 Celtics is the biggest edge they have on the 1974 Celts, one of the most underrated of title teams. The 1970s Boston title teams get lost sometimes between the Russell and Bird eras. The Russell/Cousy-led 1963 team had more scorers and guys who could beat you. Don Chaney was a weak-shooting but strong defensive guard opposing defenses could sag off of from the '74 squad. The passing wizardry and creativity of Cousy, even in his final year, were unmatched until the 1980s, with the possible exception of Pete Maravich and Ernie DiGregorio. With his incredible intensity and unbridled aggression, Cowens had a tendency to get in foul trouble often, and the 1974 Celtics did not have a good replacement for him at center, or would be forced to go small perhaps with Silas at center and Nelson and Hondo at forwards. This would clearly cost them agiainst the cagey Bostonians of Russell and company. There isn't much difference between these juggernaut champions, but the depth and winning know-how of the '63 Celtics, who captured their sixth crown in seven years, puts them over the top.

CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS


1986 Celtics (67-15, 15-3, KC Jones, 114.1-104.7 ppg) Starters: L. Bird (25.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 6.8 apg, 89.6 FT%, 42.3% 3's), K. McHale (21.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 57.4 FG%), R. Parish (16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg), D. Ainge (10.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 90.4 FT%), D. Johnson (15.6 ppg, 5.8 apg). 6th man: B. Walton (7.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Key reserves: S. Wedman (8 ppg), J. Sichting (6.5 ppg, 92.4 FT%).
vs.
1963 Celtics (58-22, 8-5, Red Auerbach, 118.8-111.6 ppg) Starters: S. Jones (19.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg), B. Cousy (13.2 ppg, 6.8 apg), B. Russell 16.8 ppg, 23.6 rpg, T. Heinsohn (18.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), T. Sanders (10.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg). 6th man: J. Havlicek (14.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Key reserves: F. Ramsey (10.9 ppg), KC Jones (7.2 ppg), C. Lovellette (6.5 ppg).
Result: 1986 Celtics 4, 1963 Celtics 3
Analysis: The 1986 Celtics are very arguably the greatest team of all-time, boasting probably the best starting five in NBA annals. Led by the greatest frontcourt ever headlined by third-time MVP Bird and McHale at their zenith, a strong bench led by Walton and Wedman, and a tall, very solid backcourt, this team just would not be beaten. Probably the smartest and best-passing Celtic team - which is saying A LOT given the litany of intelligent, unselfish passing Boston champion squads - this team more than made up for its lone weakness (lack of foot speed) by passing the ball exceptionally well and unselfishly, taking its cue from superstar Bird and the ever-enthusiastic Walton. Because a well-thrown, crisp pass is still faster than anyone can run. Four of the five starters became NBA head coaches (along with reserve guards Rick Carlisle and Sam Vincent while Sichting was a long-time assistant), and Bird, McHale and Ainge also enjoyed very successful GM tenures. This team was also chock full of superb clutch players, led in that regard by Larry Legend and DJ. Featuring five Hall of Famers at or near their primes, a record three NBA Finals MVPs (Bird, Walton and DJ), an entire starting five of All-Stars, two bench All-Stars and a team determined to regain its lost title, this team rampaged through a NON-expansion diluted league to 67 wins despite getting every opponent's best shot each night due in part to "green-is envy", and ended up just two wins short of the league mark at the time set by the 1972 Lakers.

The 1963 Celtics were loaded too, but several of their Hall of Famers were at or nearing the end of their career - Cousy, Ramsey, Lovellette and Heinsohn - or at their very start, like rookie Hondo. Sanders was offensively-challenged and no match inside for McHale, even with Satch's fine defensive skills, and Bird would clearly dominate an aging, smaller Heinsohn. DJ, possibly the best defensive guard ever, could menace Sam Jones and Parish would not get embarrassed by Russell in the one position the 1963 Celts have an edge at.



The '63 Celts had great winning know-how and pedigree, but they were not big enough to handle the huge 1986 Celtic frontline of the 7-0 Parish, a long-armed 6-10 McHale, 6-9 Bird and 7-1 Walton, and probably not fast enough to take advantage of the only '86 Celtic weak point. The '86 Celtics shot 50.8% from the field (2nd in the NBA) and 79.8 percent from the foul line (also 2nd), enjoyed a five-rebound advantage per game (1st in NBA), and blocked 6.5 shots a game (1st in NBA). They outscored their opposition by a whopping margin of just under 10 points a game, and were the best halfcourt offensive team since the early 1970s Knicks, and better than anyone since. Six of their top seven players also made the all-defense first or second team at some point in their careers.

Those Larry-led Celtics rolled through the playoffs with a 15-3 mark, compared with an 8-5 post-season mark by the '63 C's, who were pushed to seven games in the eastern finals by Cincinnati. The '63 Celt outfit outscored its opposition in an eight-team league by 7.2 ppg, shot 42.7% from the field and 72.4% from the foul line. Although they were great, they weren't as good shooting, defensively, passing, or rebounding as the champs that followed them 23 years later.  As great a winner as Russell was, he was not a good shooter (44% FG and 56% career FT shooter) and his era Celtics only had to be better than seven or nine teams, plus had to win usually only two series to capture a title. Only in the last three of his title runs (1966-68-69) did Boston have to win as many as three series to take the crown.


Over the first eight Russell championships his teams only had to win two series and a total of eight games, except for 1957, when they only had to win seven over two series. Cousy never shot over 40 percent from the field in any season of his legendary career, and in 1963 had slowed down at nearly 35 in his last season. Havlicek was a fine rookie but not nearly the player he would later become. Ramsey, KC Jones and Lovellette were all effective but over 30 and DJ, the consummate backcourt defender, would be able to contain the sharpshooting Sam Jones.



The 1980s Celtics routinely had to battle through a loaded East past championship-caliber rivals Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Deroit just to get to the Finals. In 1984 and '86 they had to win 15 grueling games over four series to earn the title in a league with three times as many teams as most of the Russell-era clubs. With Bird at the height of his all-around powers during his third straight MVP regular season (and second Finals MVP) over that unmatched 1984-86 span, Larry would lead a deep, massively talented squad of skilled and smart, highly-determined players that took on his great intangibles to form a club the likes of which the league has never seen, before or since.



Celtic Champions All-tournament First Team C-Bill Russell F-Larry Bird F-John Havlicek G-Dennis Johnson G-Bob Cousy 6th man-Dave Cowens Second Team C-Robert Parish F-Kevin McHale F-Tom Heinsohn G-Sam Jones G-Jo Jo White 6th man-Bill Sharman Tournament MVP-Larry Bird Upcoming: the all-time tournament of the best non-championship Celtic teams.

tb727 10/02/2013 07:47:00 PM Edit
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