Quantcast



The all-time tournament of the best NON-TITLE Celtic teams
By Cort Reynolds
Although the Boston Celtic franchise has won a league-best 17 championships during 51 playoff appearances over its 67 seasons, they have also fielded as many title-caliber teams who narrowly lost out due to injury, bad calls or bad breaks, or by facing another fine team that was playing a bit better.

Of the top 17 non-championship Celtic teams included in this unique tournament, four lost in the championship series round (1958-85-87-2010), eight were eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals
(1967-72-73-75-80-82-88-2002) and five were defeated in the eastern semifinals (1977-83-91-92-2009).
Eight of these 17 teams were defending champions who failed to repeat (1958-67-75-77-82-85-87-2009), with injuries playing a key role in five of those post-season defeats. However, four of those resilient non-repeating squads managed to recapture the crown the very next year (1959-68-76-86).

Six of the teams in the tournament lost to the club that won the NBA Finals, including the only four Celtic teams who have come up short in the 21 championship series appearances Boston has earned.
Nine fell to the team who eventually won the East crown (1967-72-73-75-77-80-82-2002-09), and seven of those losses came in the conference finals, with 1977 and 2009 the lone exceptions.
Of the 17 teams in this tourney, only the Celtic clubs of 1983 (Bucks), 1991 (Pistons) and 1992 (Cavaliers) were eliminated by a squad that did NOT at least advance to the NBA Finals. All three of those defeats came in the conference semifinals to the eventual East runner-up.

Larry Bird, who led Boston to three NBA titles and five very near-misses, starred on a record eight Celtic non-title teams in this tourney. Frontline mates Robert Parish and Kevin McHale played on seven of those
with Larry Legend, while Dave Cowens, John Havlicek and Danny Ainge competed on five teams in the field.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT of BEST CELTIC NON-CHAMPIONS
Year and Team (Season record, playoff record, head coach, average points per game by Boston and opposition, series score and team who eliminated them, with round)

PLAY-IN series:
2002 Celtics (49-33, 9-7, Jim O'Brien, 96.4-94.1 ppg, lost to eventual runner-up New Jersey Nets 4-2 in East Finals)
Starters: P. Pierce (26.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.2 apg), A. Walker (22.1 ppg, 8.8
rpg, 5 apg), K. Anderson (9.6 ppg, 5.3 apg), T. Battie (6.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg),
J. Johnson (6.3 ppg).
6th man: R. Rogers (10.7 ppg). Key reserves: T. Delk (7.4 ppg), E.
Williams (6.4 ppg), V. Potapenko (4.6 ppg), W. McCarty (3.8 ppg), E.
Strickland (7.7 ppg).
vs.
1977 Celtics (44-38, 5-4, Tom Heinsohn, 104.5-106.5 ppg, lost 4-3 to
eventual NBA runner-up Philadelphia in East semifinals)
Starters: D. Cowens (16.4 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 5 apg), J. Havlicek (17.7 ppg,
5.1 apg), S. Wicks (15.1 ppg, 10 rpg), JJ White (19.6 ppg, 6 apg), C.
Scott (18.2 ppg, 4.6 apg).
6th man: C. Rowe (10.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg). Key reserves: T. Boswell (6.4 ppg),
K. Stacom (5.1 ppg).

Analysis: In what some might term an upset due to the minor disparity between their regular season records, this tough battle ended up with the 1977 Celtics knocking out the 2002 edition in six tight games.
Only Pierce and Walker were capable of being in the top six rotation of the defending champion '77 Celtics, who were very narrowly eliminated in a rugged series by the explosive, flashy 76ers of Dr. J, Doug Collins and George McGinnis, who later lost in the NBA Finals to Bill Walton and Portland.

The 2002 Celtics relied far too much on the three-pointer in a weak East (they launched a ridiculous 24 treys per game, of which they made 35.9%), and were woefully overmatched at the center and guard positions by Cowens and White.  A late 20's Paul Pierce was arguably as good or better than clutch veteran
John Havlicek, who turned 37 late in the 1977 regular season, his penultimate campaign. Yet Hondo still was a heady, clutch and versatile swingman not to be underestimated after making his 12th consecutive
All-Star team.

The long-range bombing Celts were eliminated by the 2002 New Jersey Nets of Jason Kidd, Keith Van Horn and Kenyon Martin in the East finals in six. NJ was arguably one of the worst NBA finalists ever, and the Nets were swept easily by the Lakers.


The 2002 Celtics also competed in a mediocre East amid an expansion-weakened league. Meanwhile, the 1977 Celtics toiled in a much more competitive 22-club league strengthened by the first season of the
NBA/ABA merger, as well as the dispersal of many fine ABA players from teams not absorbed into the NBA (including Artis Gilmore, Moses Malone, Ron Boone, Maurice Lucas, Marvin Barnes and Louie Dampier).

Only one team during that unpredictable 1976-77 season won more than 50
games - the eventual West runner-up Lakers, coached by Jerry West with 53
- and 12 clubs won between 43 and 50 games in arguably the most-balanced,
intriguing campaign of modern league annals. Just one team, the newly
Erving-less New York Nets, won less than 30 games.


The physically-healthy Cowens missed 30 games (Boston went 15-15 in the
games without him) due to a burnout-induced, unpaid 68-day sabbatical
where he famously drove a cab briefly, sold Christmas pine trees back home in Kentucky and took a road trip to Florida.

Better fundamentals and shot selection, veteran guile/savvy and the superior starting five of the '77 Celtics would pull them through, as they were bolstered by the mid-January return of Cowens. For even though Dave may not have been quite the same after his return, the fiery redhead was far better than Tony Battie.
Cowens post-script: Rejuvenated the next year, Big Red showed off his unique versatility by becoming the first player in NBA history (and one of only four still to this day) to lead his team in all five major
statistical categories over a season: points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and steals.

Result: 1977 Celtics 4, 2002 Celtics 2
Series MVP: Dave Cowens








ROUND of 16
1973 Celtics (68-14, 7-6, Tom Heinsohn, 112.7-104.5 ppg, lost 4-3 in East Finals to eventual champion New York Knicks)
Starters: D. Cowens (20.5 ppg, 16.2 rpg, 4.1 apg), J. Havlicek (23.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.6 apg), P. Silas (13.3 ppg, 13 rpg), JJ White (19.7 ppg, 6.1 apg), D. Chaney (13.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
6th man: D. Nelson (10.8 ppg). Key reserves: S. Kuberski (4.4 ppg), P. Westphal (4.1 ppg).
vs.
2009 Celtics (62-20, 7-7, Glenn Rivers, 100.9-93.4 ppg, lost 4-3 in East semis to eventual NBA Finals runner-up Orlando)
Starters: P. Pierce (20.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.6 apg), K. Garnett (15.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg), R. Allen (18.2 ppg, 95.2 FT%, 40.9 3's%), R. Rondo (11.9 ppg, 8.2 apg), K. Perkins (8.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg).
6th man: G. Davis (7 ppg, 4 rpg). Key reserves: E. House (8.5 ppg, 44.4% 3's), T. Allen (7.8 ppg), L. Powe (7.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg).

Analysis: The driven juggernaut known as the '73 Celtics still owns the best single-season record in the history of the storied franchise. With perpetual-motion Havlicek still in his prime and a young, energetic Dave
Cowens named the league MVP, the 2009 Celtics were not a match for their forebears.

Their top player (Pierce) was not as good as a peak Hondo, an all-defense perennial pick who arguably was the best all-around player in the NBA of the early 1970s, along with Jerry West and Walt Frazier.
The 2009 version boasted a deeper bench but the '73 Celts had a big edge at center with perennial All-Star and reigning league MVP Dave Cowens over Kendrick Perkins.

The '09 Celtics rolled to a fine but deceptive record in a very weak East, where just five of 15 teams finished above the break-even mark. They were the only team over .500 in a terrible Atlantic Division. The NBA of that era was bloated and diluted by 30 teams, compared to 17 in 1973.  Garnett missed 25 regular season games and the playoffs with a knee injury, and without him the Celtics had strong character but not enough
game. They were knocked out of the playoffs (after an epic seven-game series vs. Chicago) by the eventual runner-up Magic, who featured just one star player in center Dwight Howard.



The '73 Celtics, on the other hand, were eliminated in seven thrilling games by rival New York, a great team that won the title, but only when Hondo was slowed considerably by a serious injury to his right shoulder in
game three of the conference finals. Defensive ace Don Chaney could contain the one-dimensional Ray Allen, and Jo Jo White was far better offensively than the shooting-challenged Rajon Rondo.

Paul Silas was a workhorse on the boards and on defense at power forward, and sixth man Don Nelson was very solid while future superstar Paul Westphal provided quality depth off the bench as a rookie guard.
The '09 Celtics boasted a deeper bench, but no one of outstanding quality. Those Celtics, even at their best, were often a struggle on offense. The 1973 Celtics were extremely quick, fast and better shooters, as well as
superior rebounding-wise, and would outrun their opponent.
Result: 1973 Celtics 4, 2009 Celtics 2
Series MVP: Dave Cowens



ROUND of 16
1987 Celtics (59-23, 13-10, KC Jones, 112.6-106 ppg, lost 4-2 to LA Lakers in NBA Finals)
Starters: L. Bird (28.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 7.6 apg, 40% 3's, 52.5 FG%, 91%FT), K. McHale (26.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 60.4 FG%), R. Parish (17.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg), D. Johnson (13.4 ppg, 7.5 apg), D. Ainge (14.8 ppg, 5.6 apg). 6th man: J. Sichting (5.7 ppg). Key reserves: F. Roberts (5.5 ppg), D. Daye (3.9 ppg), S. Vincent (3.7 ppg), B. Walton (2.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg in 10 games).
vs.
1977 Celtics (44-38, 5-4, Tom Heinsohn, 104.5-106.5 ppg, lost 4-3 to eventual runner-up Philadelphia in East semis)
Starters: D. Cowens (16.4 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 5 apg), J. Havlicek (17.7 ppg, 5.1 apg), S. Wicks (15.1 ppg, 10 rpg), JJ White (19.6 ppg, 6 apg), C. Scott (18.2 ppg, 4.6 apg). 6th man: C. Rowe (10.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg). Key reserves: T. Boswell (6.4 ppg), K. Stacom (5.1 ppg).

Analysis: The 1987 Celtics are better or even at every position except center, and with Bird and McHale still in their prime, the aging '77 Celtics are overmatched. Their lone advantage comes in foot speed, while
the '87 Celts have a big size advantage. The backcourts and short benches play even, and it would be very hard for a 37-year old Hondo, despite all his guile and gifts, to match up with a 6-9 Bird at his peak. And McHale would likely have his way with Sidney Wicks. Cowens could take Parish out on the floor and run poast him/outhustle him, but Boston could counter by playing McHale at center too with the athletic Roberts at the other forward to give '87 Boston more speed. I see DJ and JoJo cancelling each other out, as well as Ainge and Scott. The gutsy '77 Celtics would compete to the end but come up short, literally and figuratively.
Result: 1987 Celtics 4, 1977 Celtics 1
Series MVP: Larry Bird



ROUND of 16
1967 Celtics (60-21, 4-5, Bill Russell, 119.3-111.3 ppg, lost 4-1 to eventual champion 76ers in East Finals)
Starters: J. Havlicek (21.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.4 apg), B. Howell (20 ppg, 8.4 rpg), B. Russell (13.3 ppg, 21 rpg), S. Jones (22.1 ppg, 3 apg, 85.7FT%), L. Siegfried (14.1 ppg, 84.7 FT%).
6th man: T. Sanders (10.2 ppg). Key reserves: D. Nelson (7.5 ppg), KC Jones (6.2 ppg).
vs.
1958 Celtics (49-23, 6-5, Red Auerbach, 109.9 ppg-104.4, lost 4-2 to St. Louis in NBA Finals)
Starters: B. Russell (16.6 ppg, 22.7 rpg), T. Heinsohn (17.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg), B. Sharman (22.3 ppg, 89.3 FT%, B. Cousy (18 ppg, 7.1 apg), L. Tsiropolous (7.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
6th man: F. Ramsey (16.5 ppg). Key reserves: A. Risen (6.1 ppg), J. Nichols 5.8 ppg), J. Loscutoff (4.6 ppg)
Analysis: The '67 Celtics forward tandem has the edge with a young John Havlicek and veteran All-Star Bailey Howell, while the '58 Celts possess a slight backcourt edge. In 1967, Bill Russell was in his 11th season and not as physically gifted, but even smarter than he was in 1958.
Ultimately, the '58 Boston squad would have no answer for budding superstar Hondo at age 27 and he would run Heinsohn, Tsioropolous or Ramsey into the ground.
Result: 1967 Celtics 4, 1958 Celtics 3
Series MVP: John Havlicek



ROUND of 16
1985 Celtics (63-19, 13-8, KC Jones, 114.8-105.1 ppg, lost 4-2 to LA Lakers in NBA Finals)
Starters: L. Bird (28.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 6.6 apg, 88.2 FT%, 42.7% 3's, 52.2 FG%), K. McHale (19.8 ppg, 9 rpg), R. Parish (17.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg), D. Johnson (15.7 ppg, 6.8 apg), D. Ainge (12.9 ppg, 5.3 apg).
6th man: C. Maxwell (11.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Key reserves: S. Wedman (6.4 ppg), Q. Buckner (2.4 ppg), R. Williams (6.4 ppg).
vs.
1992 Celtics (51-31, 6-4, Chris Ford, 106.6-103 ppg, lost to East runner-up Cleveland 4-2 in East Semis)
Starters: R. Lewis (20.8 ppg), L. Bird (20.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 6.8 apg, 45 games), R. Parish (14.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg), K. Gamble (13.5 ppg), J. Bagley (7.2 ppg, 6.6 apg).
6th man: K. McHale (13.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg). Key reserves: D. Brown (11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg), B. Shaw (10.3 ppg, 5.2 apg, 17 games), R. Fox (8 ppg), E. Pinckney (7.6 ppg, 7 rpg).

Analysis: The '85 Celtics were an eyelash and a few injuries away from a repeat title, while the '92 Celtics were a gutsy but aging team in transition as Bird only played about half the season in his final
campaign. McHale and Parish were slowed down in their mid-30s as well and the guards on the '85 team were far superior to the Bagley/Gamble duo.

Reggie Lewis and Dee Brown were talented youngsters on the '92 squad, but lacked the veteran know-how to win at that stage, especially Brown. DJ was at his clutch best in the 1985 FInals for Boston and would dominate the '92 Celt guards. Bird, McHale and Parish in their prime would also have their way with the 1992 Celtic frontline.
Result: 1985 Celtics 4, 1992 Celtics 1
Series MVP: Dennis Johnson




ROUND of 16
1982 Celtics (63-19, 7-5, Bill Fitch, 112-105.6 ppg, lost 4-3 to eventual runner-up 76ers in East Finals)
Starters: L. Bird (22.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 5.8 apg), C. Maxwell (14.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg), R. Parish (19.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg), N. Archibald (12.6 ppg, 8 apg), C.Ford (5.7 ppg).
6th man: K. McHale (13.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Key reserves: G. Henderson (10.2 ppg), ML Carr (8.1 ppg), R. Robey (5.7 ppg), D. Ainge (4.1 ppg).
vs.
1983 Celtics (56-26, 2-5, Bill Fitch, 112.1-106.7 ppg, lost 4-0 to eventual East runner-up Milwaukee in East semis)
Starters: L. Bird (23.6 ppg, 11 rpg, 5.8 apg), C. Maxwell (11.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg), R. Parish (19.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg), N. Archibald (10.5 ppg, 6.2 apg), D. Ainge (9.9 ppg, 3.1 apg).
6th man: K. McHale (14.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Key reserves: G. Henderson (8.2 ppg), Q. Buckner (7.9 pg), S. Wedman (5.2 ppg), R. Robey (4.2 ppg), ML Carr (4.3 ppg).

Analysis: The '83 Celtics had a very talented team, but much of the team had burned out under the driving leadership style of coach Bill Fitch, in his fourth season at the helm. With Bird slowed by the flu, they suffered an embarrassing 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Bucks in the conference semifinals. Fitch under-used McHale, not trusting his happy go lucky exterior. As assistant KC Jones told Kevin, "you're a great player, but he (Fitch) just doesn't know it yet." The 1982 Celtics posted the league's best record for the third straight season after Bird joined the team, and was headed by a repeat title when Nate Archibald separated his shoulder in the eastern finals vs. the rival 76ers. Nate was not the best player on the team, but he may have been the most indispensable as they had no other guard to replace his skill set, especially in penetrating, running the break and hitting the open shot. Thus the NBA and Bird were robbed of a Boston/LA Finals and had to wait two more years for the dream matchup.

There isn't much difference between these back-to-back versions of the Celtics physically, but attitude-wise the '82 Celts played harder and better together. Maxwell was better in 1982 as was an aging Archibald, and
that squad would win narrowly.
Result: 1982 Celtics 4, 1983 Celtics 2
Series MVP: Cedric Maxwell



ROUND of 16
1980 Celtics (61-21, 5-4, Bill Fitch, 113.5-105.7 ppg, lost 4-1 to eventual runner-up 76ers in East Finals)
Starters: L. Bird (21.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.5 apg), C. Maxwell (16.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg), D. Cowens (14.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.1 apg), N. Archibald (14.1 ppg, 8.4 apg), C. Ford (11.2 ppg).
6th man: ML Carr (11.1 ppg). Key reserves: R. Robey (11.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg), P. Maravich (11.5 ppg, 26 games), G. Henderson (6.2 ppg), J. Judkins (5.4 ppg).
vs.
1991 Celtics (56-26, 5-6, Chris Ford, 111.5-105.7 ppg, lost 4-2 in East semis to eventual East runner-up Detroit)
Starters: L. Bird (19.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 7.2 apg, 89.1 FT%), R. Parish (14.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg), R. Lewis (18.7 ppg), K. Gamble (15.6 ppg), B. Shaw (13.8 ppg, 7.6 apg).
6th man: K. McHale (18.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg). Key reserves: D. Brown (8.7 ppg, 4.2 apg), E. Pinckney (5.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg), J. Kleine (3.6 ppg).

Analysis: The 1980 Celtics were a shot in the arm to the league as driven rookie Bird and rejuvenated vets Cowens and Archibald led Boston to the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history (from 29-53 to 61-21) and the best record in the league. Eleven years later, an aging Celtic frontline was bidding for one last run at a ring.
What they lacked in spryness they somewhat made up for with savvy and guile, but the '80 Celts had too much athleticisn, energy and relative youth to contend with. Archibald out-classed the '91 Celtic playmakers
clearly, and the bench of the '80 edition was deep, led by M.L. Carr, Rick Robey and Pete Maravich. With Bird infusing the franchise with incredible drive and Cowens enjoying a fine season in his last year in a Celtic
uniform, the 1980 Celtics could easily have won the championship with a few breaks and more playoff experience.


The '91 Boston squad boasted much more post-season experience, but lacked the talent and athleticism of the far younger '80 Celts, as well as the lead guard play.
Result: 1980 Celtics 4, 1991 Celtics 2
Series MVP: Nate Archibald

ROUND of 16
1975 Celtics (60-22, 6-6, Tom Heinsohn, 106.5-100.8 ppg, lost 4-2 in East Finals to eventual runner-up Washington)
Starters: D. Cowens (20.4 ppg, 14.7 rpg, 4.6 apg), J. Havlicek (19.2 ppg, 5.9 apg), P. Silas (10.6 ppg, 12.5 rpg), JJ White (18.3 ppg, 5.6 apg), D. Chaney (9.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg).
6th man: D. Nelson (14 ppg). Key reserves: P. Westphal (9.8 ppg), K. Stacom (2.8 ppg).
vs.
1972 Celtics (56-26, 5-6, Tom Heinsohn, 115.6-110.8 ppg, lost 4-1 in East Finals to eventual runner-up NY)
Starters: J. Havlicek (27.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 7.5 apg), D. Nelson (13.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg), D. Cowens (18.8 ppg, 15.2 rpg), JJ White (23.1 ppg, 5.3 apg), D. Chaney (11.9 ppg, 5 rpg).
6th man: T. Sanders (6.6 ppg). Key reserves: S. Kuberski (6.3 ppg), A.Williams (5.1 ppg, 4 apg), H. Finkel (3.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg).

Analysis: These two largely forgotten Celtic teams of the underrated early 1970s Boston teams both lost in the conference finals. The '72 Celtics were making their first playoff showing since winning it all three years
earlier, and thus youngsters like Cowens and White were overwhelmed by the playoff savvy and smart Knicks. Three years later, the powerful Bullets took down the defending champion Celtics in a matchup of two teams tied for the NBA's best record at 60-22. Most observers felt the Boston/Bullets winner would roll to the title, but the Warriors and Rick Barry stunned Washington in four straight in the Finals. Red Auerbach noted that the Bullets celebrated too much after eliminating Boston, thinking they had the title already won.

The three biggest things the 1975 Celts had that the '72 version lacked
were: experience, rebounding/defensive ace power forward Paul Silas, who
combined with buddy Cowens to dominate the glass and outwork their
opposition; and the reserve guard play of star in the making Paul
Westphal. In '72 Boston started heady, sweet-shooting 6-6 Don Nelson at
forward with Hondo, who posted a near triple-double season (while also
making the all-defense team) in perhaps his finest campaign. But it was a small tandem and Nelson did not rebound much, leaving Cowens to handle most of the board work.

A key post 1972-season trade brought Silas to Beantown and he helped the Celtics win two banners and
make four more Eastern finals showings in a row with his unselfish, smart and overlooked grunt work. When Boston made the mistake of dealing Silas after winning the title in 1976, the decline began and the Celtics suffered through two non-playoff seasons (and went 105-141 over three) before Bird arrived to revive the tradition.

Even though Hondo was in absolute tip-top form in '72, he still was formidable in '75, and Cowens was even better three years later as well. But the offensive rebounding tandem of Dave and Paul was a big improvement on '72, and even though Nellie was a lot better shooter, Silas also brought improved defense.
Result: 1975 Celtics 4, 1972 Celtics 3
Series MVP: Paul Silas

ROUND of 16
1988 Celtics (57-25, 9-8, KC Jones, 113.6-107.7 ppg, lost 4-2 in East Finals to eventual runner-up Detroit)
Starters: L. Bird (29.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 6.1 apg, 52.7 FG%, 41.4% 3's, 91.6 FT%), K. McHale (22.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg), R. Parish (14.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg), D. Ainge (15.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 87.8 FT%), D. Johnson (12.6 ppg, 7.8 apg).
6th man: F. Roberts (6.1 ppg).  Key reserves: J. Paxson (8.7 ppg), D. Daye (6 ppg), R. Lewis (4.5 ppg), B. Lohaus (4.2 ppg), M. Acres (3.6 ppg), A. Gilmore (3.5 ppg).
vs.
2010 Celtics (50-32, 15-9, Glenn Rivers, 99.2-95.6 ppg, lost 4-3 in NBA
Finals to LA Lakers)
Starters: P. Pierce (18.3 ppg), K. Garnett (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg), R. Allen (16.3 ppg, 91.3 FT%), R. Rondo (13.7 ppg, 9.8 apg), K. Perkins (10.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
6th man: R. Wallace (9 ppg). Key reserves: G. Davis (6.3 ppg), E. House (7.2 ppg), T. Allen (6.1 ppg), M. Daniels (5.6 ppg).

Analysis: In 1988, Larry Bird was still arguably the best player in the world and posted the highest scoring average of his career (and franchise history) in his ninth straight first team All-NBA campaign over as many
seasons. No one on the 2010 Celtics can compare to Larry Legend, or Kevin McHale circa 1988.

Parish would dominate Perkins, and the backcourt of DJ and Ainge is better than Rondo and Allen by a slight but clear margin. The 2010 Celts boasted a better bench but not enough better to make a difference. Overlooked and thought to be too old, they sneaked into the Finals and were an injury to Perkins away from winning an 18th banner.

But the '88 Celtics also came close in a much tougher league and particularly, a more rugged Eastern Conference. Physically beaten up by the down and dirty, deeper and younger bad-boy Pistons, the '88 Celts still were an overtime win from making their fifth NBA championship series appearance in a row, an incredible feat considering how good the top of the East was back then. They were a far superior halfcourt offense and shooting team than the 2010 Celts, who were a bit past their prime but not as skilled as the '88 Bostonians. And those Celtics could play some defense and rebound, too.

Plus they had Larry Bird in his last healthy season before double Achilles surgery, the refuse to lose Larry Legend of the Wilkins shootout in game seven of the conference semifinals vs. Atlanta. Enough said. That Hawks team was very arguably better than any squad the Celtics beat 22 years later in a weaker East to reach the Finals.
Results: 1988 Celtics 4, 2010 Celtics 2
Series MVP: Larry Bird

QUARTERFINALS
1973 Celtics (68-14, 7-6, Tom Heinsohn, 112.7-104.5 ppg, lost 4-3 in East Finals to eventual champion NY)
Starters: D. Cowens (20.5 ppg, 16.2 rpg, 4.1 apg), J. Havlicek (23.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.6 apg), P. Silas (13.3 ppg, 13 rpg), JJ White (19.7 ppg, 6.1 apg), D. Chaney (13.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
6th man: D. Nelson (10.8 ppg). Key reserves: S. Kuberski (4.4 ppg), P.
Westphal (4.1 ppg).
vs.
1988 Celtics (57-25, 9-8, KC Jones, 113.6-107.7 ppg, lost 4-2 in East Finals to eventual runner-up Detroit)
Starters: L. Bird (29.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 6.1 apg, 52.7 FG%, 41.4% 3's, 91.6 FT%), K. McHale (22.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg), R. Parish (14.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg), D. Ainge (15.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 87.8 FT%), D. Johnson (12.6 ppg, 7.8 apg).
6th man: F. Roberts (6.1 ppg). Key reserves: J. Paxson (8.7 ppg), D. Daye (6 ppg), R. Lewis (4.5 ppg), B. Lohaus (4.2 ppg), M. Acres (3.6 ppg), A. Gilmore (3.5 ppg).

Analysis: The 1988 Celtics still retained one of the great starting fives in NBA history, but they were starting to slow down due to age and injury, as well as yearly deep playoff runs that shortened any sort of off-season
recovery time.
The 1973 Celtics also boasted an excellent starting lineup, although not as balanced offensively as the '88 edition. Yet they were younger, healthier and more energetic. League MVP Cowens and superstar Havlicek led the quickest team in franchise history along with sharpshooting Jo Jo White, and all were in their peak phase.


The 1988 Celtics were ravaged by injury and their bench was quite short - Bill Walton missed the entire season and never played again in the NBA, and Scott Wedman retired too due to a heel injury. McHale missed the first quarter of the season after playing the end of the previous season with a broken foot, and never had the same lift or quickness. Parish and DJ were each in their mid-30's while Ainge, the only starter under 30, upped his production and took on a bigger role.

Bird enjoyed his highest-scoring season but the effects of the double Achilles injuries which would sideline him after just six games the following season were starting to show as his normal mobility declined.
The mid-season acquisition of former Portland All-Star guard Jim Paxson in exchange for heady sharpshooter Jerry Sichting was supposed to bolster the notoriously weak bench. Paxson was a poor man's version of John Havlicek: at 6-6 he also moved exceptionally well without the ball, could shoot, was
smart and hailed from Ohio.

But because of back issues, Paxson never did regain his all-star form as the injury affected his shooting, weight and quickness all quite negatively.

Thre 1973 Celtics were a machine bent on recapturing the title for thei first time since 1969 and for the first time without Russell. And they would have accomplished this had Hondo not gotten hurt in the playoffs vs.
eventual champion New York.

Still, these running Celts posted the best record in team history at 68-14 and with the incredible work of Cowens and Silas on the glass, led the NBA in rebounding. Behind Havlicek's all-around brilliance, and the
play of White as well as a strong defense featuring three all-defense team selections (Hondo, Chaney and Cowens), they would beat the aging, beat-up Celtics of '88.
Result: 1973 Celtics 4, 1988 Celtics 2
Series MVP: Dave Cowens

QUARTERFINALS
1987 Celtics (59-23, 13-10, KC Jones, 112.6-106 ppg, lost 4-2 in NBA Finals to LA Lakers)
Starters: L. Bird (28.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 7.6 apg, 40% 3's, 52.5 FG%, 91%FT), K. McHale (26.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 60.4 FG%), R. Parish (17.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg), D. Johnson (13.4 ppg, 7.5 apg), D. Ainge (14.8 ppg, 5.6 apg).
6th man: J. Sichting (5.7 ppg). Key reserves: F. Roberts (5.5 ppg), D. Daye (3.9 ppg), S. Vincent (3.7 ppg), B. Walton (2.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg in 10 games).
vs.
1975 Celtics (60-22, 6-6, Tom Heinsohn, 106.5-100.8 ppg, lost 4-2 in East Finals to eventual runner-up Washington)
Starters: D. Cowens (20.4 ppg, 14.7 rpg, 4.6 apg), J. Havlicek (19.2 ppg, 5.9 apg), P. Silas (10.6 ppg, 12.5 rpg), JJ White (18.3 ppg, 5.6 apg), D. Chaney (9.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg).
6th man: D. Nelson (14 ppg). Key reserves: P. Westphal (9.8 ppg), K. Stacom (2.8 ppg), J. Ard (3.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg).

Analysis:  By 1975 the nucleus of the Boston team that was making its fourth consecutive Eastern finals appearance was wearing down slightly, despite tying for the best record in the NBA at 60-22. With Heinsohn not using his already short bench, the starters who played exceptionally hard in his running system wore down in the playoffs and they fell in six to Washington.
Similarly, the 1987 Celtics had a short bench and coach KC Jones, a teammate of Heinsohn on several title teams, also was wary of using his weakened bench much. However, his driven squad was decimated by injuries and death (Bias), whereas Heinsohn drove his team to the brink.

The battle would be a classic matchup of a smaller, fast team trying to speed up a bigger, better-shooting but slower squad. By pushing the ball constantly, the '75 Celts finished second in the NBA in field goal
attempts and makes. They shot a respectable 45.8% from the floor, good for ninth in the 18-team loop. Even better, they canned 79.1% of their foul shots, third in the NBA.

Even more, they were an exceptional rebounding squad, finishing second in the league in boards while pulling down more than eight caroms a game more than their opponents. Cowens and Silas combined for over 27 rebounds a game, roughly the same amount as the vaunted Hall of Fame frontline of the '87 Celts. But that is slightly misleading.

The Bird/Parish/McHale trio did not have as many rebounds available, especially on the offensive glass, because they shot a league-best 51.7% from the floor. Since they also played at a much slower pace than the '75 club, they took far less shots per game (95.4-85.9), leading to less potential boards. But the '75 team was better on the glass at four of the five positions, except for "small" forward where the 6-9 Bird was a far
better rebounder than 6-5 Hondo (9.2 to 5.9 rpg).



When you boil it down to individual matchups, a 26-year old younger Cowens holds a clear but slight edge over 33-year old Parish; McHale has a very clear edge over Silas; an in his prime Bird is better than a 35-year old Hondo; Ainge is better all-around than Chaney; and White and DJ all but negate each other, with JoJo holding a slight edge mainly because Johnson was about five years older and White was certainly the better shooter.  Neither bench was particularly deep, but with Nelson (14 ppg) and Westphal
(9.8) off the pines while Walton and Wedman were seriously injured almost all year, the '75 club gets the definite edge.

However, it is much harder to speed a team up than slow them down. The quick '75 Celtics were good at pressure defense, but the '87 Celtics had good ballhandling guards and the game's best-ever passing forward in Bird to combat presses.


The '87 Celtics overcame amazing obstacles to get to the Finals and almost won it all; the '75 Celtics were upended in the conference finals by the eventual runner-up Bullets, who were swept by Golden State in a major upset. Teams could slough off the poor-shooting Chaney and Silas, and sag in on Cowens or double White.

Teams also would double the '87 Celtic frontline stars and force DJ and Ainge to beat them from the perimeter. Yet with a huge size advantage on the glass, it seems that that better-shooting squad would also be able to hit the offensive boards and slow down the '75 Celtics further. Becausethey were a better shooting and halfcourt execution team as well as bigger, the '87 Celtics would be able to withstand the speed possessed by the big three of Cowens, Hondo and JoJo.

Plus, that team had no adequate backup for Cowens, who was often in foul trouble. It would be a fine battle, but the Bird-led Celtics would be too big inside, especially with McHale playing at an MVP level most of the
season before he hurt his foot.

Result: 1987 Celtics 4, 1975 Celtics 2
Series MVP: Kevin McHale



QUARTERFINALS
1980 Celtics (61-21, 5-4, Bill Fitch, 113.5-105.7 ppg, lost 4-1 in East Finals to eventual runner-up 76ers)
Starters: L. Bird (21.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.5 apg), C. Maxwell (16.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg), D. Cowens (14.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.1 apg), N. Archibald (14.1 ppg, 8.4 apg), C. Ford (11.2 ppg).
6th man: ML Carr (11.1 ppg). Key reserves: R. Robey (11.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg),
P. Maravich (11.5 ppg, 26 games), G. Henderson (6.2 ppg), J. Judkins (5.4 ppg).
vs.
1967 Celtics (60-21, 4-5, Bill Russell, 119.3-111.3 ppg, lost 4-1 in East Finals to eventual champion 76ers)
Starters: J. Havlicek (21.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.4 apg), B. Howell (20 ppg, 8.4 rpg), B. Russell (13.3 ppg, 21 rpg), S. Jones (22.1 ppg, 3 apg, 85.7FT%), L. Siegfried (14.1 ppg, 84.7 FT%).
6th man: T. Sanders (10.2 ppg). Key reserves: D. Nelson (7.5 ppg), KC Jones (6.2 ppg).

Analysis: The rejuvenated 1980 Celtics were somewhat like a college team with a lot of hustle, team spirit and an exceptionally balanced offense as seven players scored between 11 and 22 ppg. The infusion of energy and talent brought in by wondrous rookie Bird revitalized veteran teammates like Cowens, Ford and Archibald, not to mention the entire NBA.  Contrary to revisionist thinking, the Celtics of Bird's rookie season were more of a running team than a halfcourt squad. With Cowens still the fastest center in the NBA and Archibald pushing the ball all game long,

Bird and Maxwell also ran the floor much better than given credit for, especially when they were young, to give the Celtics a good transition offense. Boston also had a solid halfcourt offense, scoring fifth in the
league, and were good on defense, giving up the sixth-most ppg.  Behind the running game plus the shooting and passing of Bird, they made 49 percent of their field tries, good for seventh in the 23-team league.

With Bird and Ford sniping away, they led the NBA in three-point pct. (38.4%) and were a strong fifth in foul shooting (77.9%).

A good but not great rebounding team, they averaged almost three more
boards per contest than their foes, and were especially good on the offensive glass as Maxwell, Bird and Cowens all hit that end hard, especially Cornbread. Defensively, they allowed opponents to make 47 percent from the field, which was eighth-best in the NBA.

The 1967 Celtics were a very veteran team, with four All-Star starters and over 40 NBA title rings among them. Incredibly, they had won the previous eight championships, although this squad took on a slightly different look with the addition of future Hall of Fame forward Bailey Howell in a trade steal from Baltimore for backup center Mel Counts, which bolstered the frontline considerably.

The hard-nosed Howell wore jersey #18 for Boston and played similarly (yet without as much athleticism) as the man who would later have that number retired by the Celtics, uber-intense redhead Dave Cowens.
But Russell was in his 11th season, the Jones boys were also well into their 30's, and Howell was also 30. Ohio State college teammates Havlicek and Siegfried were in their primes at 26 and 27, respectively, and Satch Sanders was still just 28.

They scored 119.3 points a game, a whopping total by today's standards, but only fourth in the 10-team NBA that season. With Russell in his first season as player-coach, they took fourth in the league in shooting pct. (44.7) and foul shooting (74.8%). Even Russell, a 56 percent career free thrower, shot 61 percent that season.

Behind Russell (21 rebounds a game) and Howell (8.4) they ranked second in the league in boards. Featuring a balanced offense themselves, six players averaged double digits between 10 and 22 ppg.

The matchups are intriguing, with center and forward being the most intriguing. Two intense, athletic and undersized southpaw centers at about the same age faced off in Russell and Cowens. Dave was clearly slowing down in his last full campaign, yet was a much better shooter and offensive player than Russ, who held an edge in rebounding and shot-blocking.



Youthful Bird and Havlicek are almost a wash, with Larry getting the edge due to his superior rebounding and shooting range, as well as passing creativity. Howell gets the slight nod over Maxwell, while Sam Jones has the biggest edge at two guard over the underrated but overmatched and aging Chris Ford.

Crafty Archibald vs. Siegfried/KC Jones is basically a wash, as Nate was a defensive liability but still a fine penetrator who ran the break well and would make the open shot. Both benches were strong, with the foursome of Robey, Carr, Maravich and Henderson slightly better than the quartet of Embry, Sanders, Nelson and KC.

There isn't much difference between these teams, even down to the fact that they won 61 and 60 games and each lost 4-1 in the eastern finals to strong 76er squads. Of course, the 1967 76ers were a greater team than the '80 Philly team, and went on to win it all over the Warriors while the Erving-led Sixers fell to the Lakers, even with Jabbar out with a sprained ankle in game six.


Ultimately, the big edge at off guard with bank-shooting expert Sam Jones and the slight edge of Howell over Max make the difference in favor of the '67 Celtics. Russell and Cowens about negate one another, although the cunning and defensive brilliance of Russ probably is an edge with Cowens slowed at 32 by an occasionally sore foot.

With Bird also being a raw rookie, the championship experience of the '67 Celtics is also a big intangible advantage. They just knew how to win in about any situation, and had been through all the playoff wars for nearly a decade, forging hard steel mettle by taking out all hungry comers who came after their crown, year after year. One of the Achilles heels of the 1980 Celtics was a lack of playoff experience other than Cowens, and it showed in their five-game loss to a 76er team that was not much better than them, if at all.
Result: 1967 Celtics 4, 1980 Celtics 3
Series MVP: Sam Jones

QUARTERFINALS
1985 Celtics (63-19, 13-8, KC Jones, 114.8-105.1 ppg, lost 4-2 in NBA Finals to LA Lakers)
Starters: L. Bird (28.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 6.6 apg, 88.2 FT%, 42.7% 3's, 52.2 FG%), K. McHale (19.8 ppg, 9 rpg), R. Parish (17.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg), D. Johnson (15.7 ppg, 6.8 apg), D. Ainge (12.9 ppg, 5.3 apg).
6th man: C. Maxwell (11.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Key reserves: S. Wedman (6.4 ppg), Q. Buckner (2.4 ppg), R. Williams (6.4 ppg).
vs.
1982 Celtics (63-19, 7-5, Bill Fitch, 112-105.6 ppg, lost 4-3 in East Finals to eventual runner-up 76ers)
Starters: L. Bird (22.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 5.8 apg), C. Maxwell (14.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg), R. Parish (19.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg), N. Archibald (12.6 ppg, 8 apg), C. Ford (5.7 ppg).
6th man: K. McHale (13.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Key reserves: G. Henderson (10.2 ppg), ML Carr (8.1 ppg), R. Robey (5.7 ppg), D. Ainge (4.1 ppg).

Analysis:  Both the '82 and '85 Celtics were poised to repeat as NBA champions after rolling to 63-19 records, best in the league each year. But injuries derailed both clubs, with the '82 Celts (Archibald shoulder)
falling short in seven games to the rival 76ers in the East finals while the '85 version (Maxwell knee, Bird elbow) managed to make it to the championship series before falling in six to the hated Lakers.
The frontlines were basically similar, only in 1985 Maxwell had suffered a knee injury and failed to rehab it properly, which eventually led to his trade to the Clippers for Walton when Auerbach became dissatisfied with his lax work in recovery. Also in 1985, McHale had blossomed into a star starter and Scott Wedman provided excellent depth at forward as a great shooter and heady defender.

The 1985 Celtics also boasted a better backcourt with DJ and Ainge over an aging Archibald and Ford. The '82 Celts bench was a bit longer with McHale still filling the sixth man role impressively while swingman Carr, center Robey and the pesky Henderson provided quality depth. Incidentally, Bird missed 24 starts due mainly to a broken cheekbone and served as sixth man for much of an 18-game Celtic win streak while McHale filled in admirably.



The biggest difference between the starting fives is at off guard, where Ainge was far more athletic and skilled than the aging Ford or Carr. His 13 ppg and good floor game at nearly 6-5 far exceeded anyone the '82 Celtics put on the floor. The '82 Celtics tried several combinations at guard, with Ford starting 53 games, Henderson 31, Archibald 51 and Carr 27, but none really clicked at a championship level.
The 1982 Celtics shot 49.9% from the floor and were fourth in the league in scoring. They ranked a surprising 14th in foul shooting at 74 percent while making only 26.6 percent of their three's. They were an excellent rebounding team, ranking third in boards with nearly a four per game margin over their opponents. They also allowed opponents to make 47 percent from the field, good for sixth-best out of 23 teams.
The 1985 Celts were a better-shooting club, making 50.8% of their field tries (third in the NBA), 80.6% from the foul line (first) and 35.6% beyond the arc (also first). An excellent rebounding squad, they ranked
third in that category with nearly a 4.5 plus margin per outing.
Defensively, they allowed teams to shoot 47.7% from the floor (3rd of 23) and gave up the fifth-least ppg.
Ultimately the sharper shooting '85 team, with the addition of Wedman and the emergence of Ainge and McHale as quality starters, gets the slight nod.
Result: 1985 Celtics 4, 1982 Celtics 3
Series MVP: Danny Ainge

SEMIFINALS
1973 Celtics (68-14, 7-6, Tom Heinsohn, 112.7-104.5 ppg, lost 4-3 in East Finals to eventual champion NY)
Starters: D. Cowens (20.5 ppg, 16.2 rpg, 4.1 apg), J. Havlicek (23.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.6 apg), P. Silas (13.3 ppg, 13 rpg), JJ White (19.7 ppg, 6.1 apg), D. Chaney (13.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
6th man: D. Nelson (10.8 ppg). Key reserves: S. Kuberski (4.4 ppg), P. Westphal (4.1 ppg).
vs.
1985 Celtics (63-19, 13-8, KC Jones, 114.8-105.1 ppg, lost 4-2 in NBA
Finals to LA Lakers)
Starters: L. Bird (28.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 6.6 apg, 88.2 FT%, 42.7% 3's, 52.2 FG%), K. McHale (19.8 ppg, 9 rpg), R. Parish (17.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg), D. Johnson (15.7 ppg, 6.8 apg), D. Ainge (12.9 ppg, 5.3 apg).
6th man: C. Maxwell (11.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Key reserves: S. Wedman (6.4
ppg), Q. Buckner (2.4 ppg), R. Williams (6.4 ppg).
Analysis: The 1973 Celtics posted the best record in franchise history in large part to sheer hustle, speed, determination and high skill. The 1985 Celtics won 63 games, five less than the '73 team, on similar traits,
although they were much bigger and slower, and a better-shooting team. Cowens was far more intense than his center counterpart, the languid Parish, while Havlicek and Bird had similar smarts and drive as clutch,
poker-faced assassins. DJ was not as good a shooter as White but was a better defender, while Ainge was a much better shooter than Chaney but not as good defensively.

McHale, in his first year as a starter, enjoys an edge over rebounding and defensive workhorse Silas, but he hadn't quite become a superstar yet in 1985. League MVP Cowens would be able to run the high-stepping Chief while also out-rebounding and passing him.



The '73 Celtics might be able to run enough to win against the '85 Celts since they were a better rebounding team and all five starters ran the break well. With a healthy Maxwell, their bench would be better, but Max
was not effective after his knee injury. Ray Williams was an experimental bust as a mid-season free agent signing, and rookie first round pick backup Westphal was more talented than anyone else the '85 Celtics brought off the bench at guard.
There is very little between these teams but the incredible versatility of Havlicek, who could move to guard and allow for a better shooting lineup with Nelson in for Chaney, might be the difference. Bird was slowed later in the season and playoffs by an elbow injury to his shooting arm, and Hondo was extremely determined to win his first NBA title without Russell.

With John and the unsurpassed high-motor of Cowens at their peak form, along with the underrated White, they had their own "big three" to be reckoned with, arguably about as good as any center-forward-guard trio in team history.
Result: 1973 Celtics 4, 1985 Celtics 3
Series MVP: Dave Cowens

SEMIFINALS
1987 Celtics (59-23, 13-10, KC Jones, 112.6-106 ppg, lost 4-2 in NBA Finals to LA Lakers)
Starters: L. Bird (28.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 7.6 apg, 40% 3's, 52.5 FG%, 91% FT), K. McHale (26.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 60.4 FG%), R. Parish (17.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg), D. Johnson (13.4 ppg, 7.5 apg), D. Ainge (14.8 ppg, 5.6 apg).
6th man: J. Sichting (5.7 ppg). Key reserves: F. Roberts (5.5 ppg), D. Daye (3.9 ppg), S. Vincent (3.7 ppg), B. Walton (2.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg in 10 games).
vs.
1967 Celtics (60-21, 4-5, Bill Russell, 119.3-111.3 ppg, lost 4-1 in East Finals to eventual champion 76ers)
Starters: J. Havlicek (21.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.4 apg), B. Howell (20 ppg, 8.4 rpg), B. Russell (13.3 ppg, 21 rpg), S. Jones (22.1 ppg, 3 apg, 85.7FT%), L. Siegfried (14.1 ppg, 84.7 FT%).
6th man: T. Sanders (10.2 ppg). Key reserves: D. Nelson (7.5 ppg), KC Jones (6.2 ppg).

Analysis: The 1987 Celtics were the best-shooting team in the NBA and one of the greatest in league history. Their starting five was as good as any ever, if not the best in league annals.
The 1967 Celtics had their record string of eight consecutive NBA titles snapped by the 76ers, yet were still a tremendous team featuring a very strong starting five as well. The matchups by position, starting at
center: Russell vs. Parish: Although the Chief was a better shooter than Russ, Bill has the edge in every other way, including intangibles. Yet Parish was no slouch as a Hall of Famer himself, and was a fine rebounder/defender.
Bird vs. Havlicek: The Larry Legend of 1987 was the three-time reigning league MVP, while Hondo in 1967 was a great player not yet at his peak. Bird was the better rebounder, deep shooter and passer, while Havlicek was the better defender.
McHale vs. Howell" McHale was arguably the MVP not only of the Celtics in 1987, he may also have been the MVP of the entire league before a broken navicular bone on his foot slowed him to merely all-league first team status. In fact, he and Bird became the first and only forward tandem from the same team to earn first team All-NBA the same year in 1987. Howell was an intense All-Star player, a fine shooter and rebounder who hustled and played hard. But at 6-7 he was giving up too much size and length to handle the variety of moves Kevin had at his disposal inside in 1987. DJ vs. S. Jones: Sam was the better shooter and is acknowledged by most as the best bank shooter in league history. DJ might be the best defensive
guard in league history, although by '87 he was slowing down just a bit. Both were around 33, with Dennis the better passer as well. Both were tremendous in the clutch, too. Jones averaged 27 ppg in nine career
seventh games, in which his teams also went 9-0! Russell called Sam the "true Mr. Clutch." DJ was not a particularly good shooter for a guard, except in crunch time, when he concentrated much better.
Ainge vs. Siegfried: Both were very good shooters and ballhandlers capable of playing the point or the off guard, but Ainge was bigger, quicker and more athletic. Siegfried was a bit more consistent and less likely to make as many errors as the more mercurial Ainge, being more under control. In the end, Danny was a bit better all-around and more explosive.
Bench: The trio of veteran forward stopper Tom Sanders, good-shooting and heady Don Nelson and defensive ace KC Jones in his final season was better than the injury-decimated '87 Celtic pine crew. Yet with a healthy Walton and Wedman, along with Sichting, this is a draw or an edge to the more
recent Celtic squad.

The 1987 Celtics scraped, clawed and guiled their way past three tough foes to the Finals, where they almost beat a great Laker team despite everything stacked against them. The '67 Celtics were knocked out in the semis by one of the greatest teams in NBA history, the 76ers of Hall of Famers Wilt, Walker, Greer and Cunningham.

In the end, there is not a lot of difference betwen these great championship-caliber clubs. But McHale would be unstoppable inside, Ainge was better than Siegfried and Bird would find a way to win, like he did in
game five of the eastern finals with his steal and assist to DJ to beat the bad-boy Pistons. Any help from Walton would be icing on the cake.
Result: 1987 Celtics 4, 1967 Celtics 3
Series MVP: Larry Bird



ALL-TIME CELTIC NON-CHAMPION TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
1987 Celtics (59-23, 13-10, KC Jones, 112.6-106 ppg, lost 4-2 in NBA Finals to LA Lakers)
Starters: L. Bird (28.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 7.6 apg, 40% 3's, 52.5 FG%, 91%FT), K. McHale (26.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 60.4 FG%), R. Parish (17.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg), D. Johnson (13.4 ppg, 7.5 apg), D. Ainge (14.8 ppg, 5.6 apg).
6th man: J. Sichting (5.7 ppg). Other reserves: F. Roberts (5.5 ppg), D. Daye (3.9 ppg), S. Vincent (3.7 ppg), B. Walton (2.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg in 10 games), G. Kite (1.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg), R. Carlisle (1.9 ppg), S. Wedman (3.3 ppg, 6 games), C. Henry (2.7 ppg).
vs.
1973 Celtics (68-14, 7-6, Tom Heinsohn, 112.7-104.5 ppg, lost 4-3 in East Finals to eventual champion NY Knicks)
Starters: D. Cowens (20.5 ppg, 16.2 rpg, 4.1 apg), J. Havlicek (23.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.6 apg), P. Silas (13.3 ppg, 13 rpg), JJ White (19.7 ppg, 6.1 apg), D. Chaney (13.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
6th man: D. Nelson (10.8 ppg). Other reserves: S. Kuberski (4.4 ppg), P. Westphal (4.1 ppg), T. Sanders (2 ppg), H. Finkel (2.4 ppg), A. Williams (3.2 ppg).

Analysis:  Simply being able to put the ball in the hole might be the most important skill in the game, and great shooting can also cover up other deficiencies. The 1987 Celtics were a tremendous shooting team due to
exceptionally high skill and crisp, unselfish passing/ball movement that led to superb halfcourt execution.
They led the NBA in field goal shooting at a sizzling 51.7% despite getting few layups in transition, and were first in team foul shooting (80.8%). The sharp perimeter marksmen were also second in three-pointers
made and three-point accuracy (36.6%).

However, they did not get to the line much, ranking last in free throw attempts since they played a slower pace and did not penetrate much. The Bird-led Celtics ranked second in the NBA in assists, an amazing stat
since they did not run much and thus get easy assists in transition. It is much harder to get assists in a halfcourt offense, something those Celtics mastered as Bird stimulated the entire offense with his high hoops IQ, shooting ability, unselfishness and great passing ability in creating shots for others.
Surprisingly, the '87 Celtics were just an adequate rebounding team, although they were the second-most prolific defensive rebounding team and the worst offensive rebounding team stat-wise. But this is slightly misleading since they did not get many offensive boards partly because they shot such a high percentage from the field, and also because they retreated on defense to guard against the fast break due to a lack of foot speed. Injuries that shortened the bench also helped limit their offensive board work, as well as a lack of depth, since offensive rebounding is directly tied to energy and hustle. McHale, their best offensive board man due to his length, timing and jumping ability, was also limited on the glass after he broke his foot yet continued to play on it.

Those Celts forced the fewest amount of turnovers in the NBA but also made the seventh-least amount of miscues. They were a good defensive team behind shot-blockers Parish and McHale, allowing the fourth-lowest field goal pct. by opponents at 46.3%.
Despite running little, the 1987 Boston team ranked sixth in NBA points per game, a tribute to their extremely precise halfcourt offense. Their solid defense ranked fourth in the 23-team loop in points allowed per contest.

The 1973 Celtics were extremely fast and quick, and due to their running style they led the league in field goals made and attempted. Yet they shot just 44.8% from the field, 14th in a 17-team league. They did hit on 78 percent from the foul line, good for fifth in the NBA, but they lacked the long-range shooting skills of the 1987 Bostonians.

Led by intense, harassing defensive aces Havlicek, Chaney and Cowens, they pressured the opposition relentlessly and allowed them to make just 43.4 of their field goal tries, the third-best mark in the NBA.
Behind the tremendous hustling board work of Cowens and Silas, the '73 Boston club topped the NBA in rebounds, with a margin of nearly eight rebounds per game over their opponents. They ranked second in the league in points a game and sixth in points allowed, and ran their opponents into submission despite a lack of depth. That team just outworked, out-hustled and out-smarted teams, and had several very good mid-range shooters. Would the 1973 Celtics be able to speed up the '87 Celts, as that was probably the only way they could beat them and counter a relative lack of size?

It is doubtful that with a healthy McHale, which he was for the first 2/3 or so of the season, that they could do so. Cowens and Silas were particularly effective on the offensive glass, but the '87 Celtics were a great defensive rebounding squad and were much bigger, led by Bird and Parish on the boards.

A younger White had a speed edge over 33-year old DJ at that point, although Ainge was a bit quicker than Chaney and Dennis still possessed the exceptional length, pride and smarts that made him a formidable
defender. Since Hondo ran and ran and ran without the ball in perpetual motion, Bird would have his hands full guarding the quicker, smaller forward. But Larry was well-conditioned too and would have a four-inch height advantage over John he could exploit inside and around the boards.
League MVP Cowens would get the better of Parish, but not to the same extent as McHale would over Silas. Kevin would have little trouble scoring on the shorter Silas inside, as he would on almost anyone else.
With the '87 Celtics shooting over 50 percent from the field, it would slow down the '73 Boston running game. For it is much harder to run after taking the ball out of the hoop thsan off the glass or in forcing
turnovers. The '73 Celtics might be able to pressure the '87 Celtics some due to their slowness, especially with DJ being a slower than average lead guard. But Ainge was a fine ballhandler too and the great passing and floor vision of Bird, along with the heady DJ, would overcome most of the pressure.

Thus it is unlikely that the quick '73 Celtics could speed up the '87 version enough or force the number of turnovers necessary to create the fast tempo needed to overcome their superior size, shooting and halfcourt
offense. Both squads were exceptionally smart and determined, taking on the personality of their savvy veteran leaders, Bird and Havlicek. It would be close and a great series, however, featuring great individual
matchups. A young Cowens against Bird in his prime squaring off, as well as Bird vs. Havlicek and DJ vs. White, would be something to see.  But I feel McHale would be a mismatch the '73 team could not make up for, and if they switched Cowens onto Kevin, the sweet-shooting seven-foot Parish would dominate the 6-7 Silas inside, scoring over him with ease. Cowens also had a penchant for getting in foul trouble due to his
extremely aggressive play, and with the league MVP out for any time due to a lack of a good backup for their hub, the '73 Celtics would probably be dead in the water.

And it is likely that due to giving up a lot of size on the frontline (since Cowens was shorter than all three '87 Celtics frontliners), he would have foul problems. In fact, Dave led the NBA in total fouls in each
of his first two seasons, and was second in the NBA in fouls in 1972-73 when he was disqualified from nine of his 95 games.
In the playoffs that year, when Dave fouled out of the epic double overtime fourth game of the East finals at New York on Easter Sunday, the eventual champion Knicks pulled away late and won in the most pivotal game of the campaign.

The gritty way the 1987 Celts battled through an incredible gauntlet of injuries, death, bad calls and the heat in the toughest playoff run any team arguably ever faced makes them true champions in my book.
They overcame incredible odds, controversy and two grueling, back to back seven-game series vs. fine teams (Milwaukee and Detroit) in a mere 26 days just to get to the Finals against a rested and healthy Laker team. Yet Boston still came within an absolute rob-job by the officials in game 4 of the title series from posting the guttiest title in league history. As Bird later said, even though he played on deeper and more talented squads, due to their incredible intangibles, toughness and character he felt  "the '87 Celtics were the best TEAM I ever played on."

Even though the 1973 Celtics have an edge at center with league MVP Cowens at his all-out best in his third season, they had no answer for the post game and size of McHale - as well as his frontline mates. Bird and Hondo basically cancel one another out, as do DJ and White. Ainge was a better all-around player than Chaney, who did not shoot well but was a tremendous defender.

The 1973 Celtics were great and posted the best record in the history of the franchise, but they did benefit from the NBA having expanded by eight teams over the previous six seasons, making the lower half of the league weak and adding to the win totals of the top teams.

With any contributions at all from Walton the '87 Celtics also are at least as good depth-wise. The '73 Celtics had a short bench after sixth man Don Nelson, even though seventh man guard Paul Westphal was a talented rookie that coach Heinsohn under-used. In fact, both of these teams did not use much bench as their old-school coaches rode their top five in a race to win as many games as possible to earn homecourt advantage. If Len Bias doesn't die before what would have been the rookie season of a superstar career and Walton/Wedman stay healthy, the 1987 Celtics are likely the greatest team ever. And with a great bench, then Bird and McHale perhaps do not get hurt due to over-use, and the Celtics run off four or five more titles. And Bird goes down as the greatest player ever in conventional wisdom, not just among basketball aficionados or Celtic fans.

Even without all those what-if's, I think the 1986-87 Celtics are the best non-title team in Boston history, by a nose, or a McHale long-armed reach.
Result: 1987 Celtics 4, 1973 Celtics 3
Series MVP: Kevin McHale

ALL-TOURNAMENT FIRST TEAM (Celtic teams played for in tourney)
C-Dave Cowens (1972-73-75-77-80)
F-Larry Bird (1980-82-83-85-87-88-91-92)
F-John Havlicek (1967-72-73-75-77)
G-Jo Jo White (1972-73-75-77)
G-Dennis Johnson (1985-87-88-90)
6th man-Kevin McHale (1982-83-85-87-88-91-92)

Second Team
C-Robert Parish (1982-83-85-87-88-91-92)
F-Paul Pierce (2002-2010)
F-Cedric Maxwell (1980-82-83-85)
G-Danny Ainge (1982-83-85-87-88)
G-Nate Archibald (1980-82-83)
6th man-Don Nelson (1967-72-73-75)
Tournament MVP-Larry Bird

tb727 10/13/2013 12:47:00 PM Edit
_________________________________________________________________________________________
« Prev Post Next Post »

More Celtics News via Bleacher Report


More Celtics Life Features

Click here for Celtics videos.

Click here for Celtics wallpapers.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

comments powered by Disqus
    Powered by Blogger.