Much of Celtic Nation has been hitting the snooze bar since the green closed out wins against Phoenix and New Orleans at home, while other Celtics fans began to lose interest after win number 60 and home-court advantage had been secured.
I’ve always been fascinated by watching talented green teams pile up the wins. Russell’s Celtics won 60 games three times, and two of those team’s won championships. Heinsohn’s Celtics won 60 games twice, and neither of those teams won a championship.
When Boston won nine of its first eleven games in the Bird Era, it was immediately apparent that Celtics teams would be racking up Ws by the boatload for many years to come. Bird’s Celtics won 60 games six times in seven years. Yet how many Celtics fans know the precise number of regular-season wins compiled by any one of those teams?
The regular-season record of one of those teams stands out, to be sure. But can you tell me how many regular season games the 1981 or 1984 championship teams won? How about how many games Bird won in his rookie season?
While 60 regular season wins is clearly special, then, the final win total becomes memorable only once a Celtics team eclipses 65 wins. Most Celtics fans know two regular season numbers by heart, 68 and 67. Sixty-eight wins by the 1973 Celtics, who lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Knicks, and 67 wins by the 1986 squad.
Winning 66 games would put Garnett’s Celtics in that exclusive group.
Now that the Bulls went off and won 72, the 67 wins doesn’t seem quite as impressive as it did back when the 1986 Celtics originally reached that milestone. It is nonetheless distinctive. It adds to the identity of that team, and enables McHale to idly boast “we were only a handful of mental lapses away from winning 70 games two or three times in the 80s.”
So while winning their 66th game tomorrow night would be no cause to break out the champagne, it would definitely write another chapter in the book on the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, a book that will reach it’s climax shortly.
In the end, the number 66 will either be remembered like the number 67 or the number 68.
I never did like 68.