1969 Boston Celtics World Champions Record: 48-34
Finished 4th in the Eastern Conference.
Eastern Division Semifinals (4-1): Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers
Eastern Division Finals (4-2): Boston Celtics over New York Knickerbockers
Finals (4-3): Boston Celtics over Los Angeles Lakers
The 1968-69 Celtics were too old. Their window had passed. They struggled in the regular season with injuries and entered the playoffs with the worst record of any team in the playoffs. They had to win on the road because they didn't have home court advantage in any of the 3 series. They faced a vaunted Lakers team in the Finals who were anointed as the champions before a game was even played. The Celtics weren't given any chance to beat what was considered to be a superior Lakers team.
When they made it to game 7 in LA, they saw the ceiling lined with nets full of balloons and saw all the cases of champagne lining the halls and there were fliers being passed out with details on the Lakers victory celebration. But that team had Celtic Pride. They reached deep down and pulled out that game 7 and the series and won the Celtics 11th championship. That Celtic Pride is alive and well in the 2012 Boston Celtics. These players are proud. They are veterans. They know how to dig deep to pull out a victory.
The Celtics are down 0-2 but those two losses were on the road. There have been 14 teams in league history to come back from an 0-2 series deficit to win a best of 7 series. One of those 14 teams was the 1969 Celtics. They lost the first 2 games on the road to the Lakers team that was considered a lock for the title. There were reports of them being finished, not having enough left to win another title, being too old to compete with the younger and more athletic and more talented Lakers. But that team was too proud to give up and they rallied to win games 3 and 4 and 6 at home and then beat the Lakers on the road in game 7.
I know that every team is different and this is a different era, but we can draw enough parallels between these two proud Celtics teams to give fans hope. Both teams include over-30 Hall of Fame talent with championship experience. As the 1969 playoffs began, team leaders Bill Russell and Sam Jones were both 35 years old and 4 other key players were also in their 30's.
Much like the 2011-12 Celtics, the '68-'69 team not only finished with a lower seed, but they also went through an extended period of mediocrity during the season. The '69 Celtics started out strong but they played .500 ball over the final half of the season. This current team started out slowly and lost 7 of 8 going into the All Star break, but came on strong down the stretch.
The 1969 team had key contributions from several different players in leading them to the Finals. Russell, Havlicek, and Sam Jones were all key contributors, forming a "big 3" of sorts. But there were others who came up big for the team as well.
Larry Siegfried scored 28 points off the bench in Game 3 of the Finals in a must win game with the Celtics trailing 0-2 in the series. Emmette Bryant had several strong games. He was key in Game 1 of the Knicks series. Veteran Celtic Satch Sanders had 18 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes in Game 2 vs. Philly, after Sam Jones was ejected early. Don Nelson contributed clutch fourth-quarter scoring throughout the playoffs, including a miraculous shot late in Game 7 of the Finals.
In getting to this point, the 2012 Celtics have gotten key contributions from several players as well. Rondo has had big games. Pierce has come up big in games. KG has played very well throughout this playoff run. Ray hit big shots in the Philly series and Bass had a big game in the Philly series as well.
The Heat of 2012, like the Lakers of 1969, have been declared the victors before the series even started. The Lakers' big 3 of Elgin Baylor, Jerry West (the logo himself) and Wilt Chamberlain, like the Heat's duo of James and Wade, were considered to be too strong and talented for the Celtics to be able to beat them, especially when the heavily favored Lakers went up 2-0 in the series.
I know that looking back to a championship team from 43 years ago may be stretching it a bit, but that same Celtic Pride that coursed through the 1969 Celtics, also is a part of this team. They may be old, they may be beaten up, they may be counted out by many, and they may be down 0-2 in the series, but because of that unfathomable quality of Celtic Pride, I'll never count them out.