Celtics await 15th playoff appearance in 18 years - can they do a 1969 repeat?
With all of the criticism the Celtics have been absorbing (much of it deserved), it is easy to forget their overall success over the the first part of this century. We are spoiled in Boston. Anything less than a Title is a wasted season. But the record shows Boston to be the second-best team during the past 18 years to make the playoffs, trailing only the San Antonio Spurs.
MOST NBA PLAYOFF APPEARANCES
(Since 2001-2002 - Last 18 years)
1. San Antonio 17*
2. BOSTON 15
3. Dallas 14
4. Miami 12*
6. Denver 11
LA Lakers 11
Boston has clinched a playoff spot this season, gone to the Conference Finals in both of the previous seasons, and were eliminated in the first round in 2015 and 2016. The Celtics failed to move on to the post-season in 2013-14, were bounced in the first round in 2013, went to the Conference Finals in 2012 and the Conference Semis in 2011.
From 2001 to 2009, the guys in green won a Title (2008), traveled to the Finals (2010) and missed the playoffs only twice during that period. So in 18 seasons, the team only missed the post-season three times. That is success - maybe just not in Boston.
So here we are again. The post-season awaits and we, the fans, don't have the slightest hint what we have in this crew. The fifth seed in the East was not what was foretold. A story book finish to this Celtics season is still possible despite all the turmoil.
Travel back to 1969. The Celtics best player, Bill Russell, was nursing a knee injury and the Celtics were the fourth seed in the 7-team Eastern Conference - barely making the playoffs. The two top-seeded Eastern teams, the Bullets and 76'ers, were eliminated in the first round, and the Celtics defeated the New York Knicks in Round Two to face the Lakers in the Finals.
The Lakers had celebratory balloons in the ceiling above their home court, but they never fell. Russell and his comrades defeated the Lakers to win the 1969 NBA Championship. Great story. It would be terrific to see a repeat half-a-century later.