The 1986 Boston Celtics in a Nutshell

Some of you may remember when the 1986 NBA Finals on DVD first arrived at my house. I confess. It was a religious experience. Some of you may also remember that I'm a big advocate of delayed gratification. So while I did immediately watch games 1, 2, and 3 of the '86 Finals, I stopped there. After all, I had other things to do. The 1986 DVDs arrived in the middle of the 2008 Finals. So I put the 1986 DVDs away, until now.

I pulled out game 4. As most of you know, I'm a Dennis Johnson fan. I mean a Big DJ fan. No, I mean a really, really, really big fan of #3 (LINK, LINK, LINK). But every now and then I have to put down the DJ pom poms and confront reality. When I do, the 1986 Boston Celtics are a pretty easy nut to crack.

Walton and Bird, Bird and Walton. Walton, Walton, Walton. Bird, Bird, Bird.

Got it?


Ok, then, let me explain.

Game 4, 5 minutes left. Rockets up two with the ball. Houston has been absolutely dominating the glass at both ends of the floor. We know this because Tommy Heinsohn is going apoplectic about it. KC Jones inserts #5. That's right. Crunch time, and Bill Walton, a bench player, is coming in for Robert Parish, the starter. Robert Reid misses a jumper, and Walton rips the rebound away from two Rockets.

In Hollywood, they call that foreshadowing.

At the other end, Danny Ainge dribbles right, and passes left to Walton under the hoop. Walton could easily score over his defender. He doesn't. He holds the ball, drawing another defender and then another. Ooops. Who's that out at the three-point arc? Yup, #33. Walton takes a step toward the hoop, thereby committing all three defenders, throws a no-looker to Larry Legend, who promptly drains the three.

Celtics up 1.

Walton and Bird clog up the middle at the other end, forcing Bill Fitch's squad to take and miss a bad shot. This time Bird grabs the rebound, outlets to DJ, who drives the lane and misses a layup. So much for my theory about DJ never missing a shot in crunch time. We're screwed, right? Nope. Walton dives across the lane, grabs the carom and just as quickly puts back a reverse lay-in over Hakeem.

Let's summarize:

Walton grabs defensive board, changes the momentum, announces the rebounding war is over, and the Celtics will now own the glass.

Bird and Walton clog the middle, forcing the Rockets to take a bad shot that Bird rebounds.

Walton draws a triple team, hits a wide-open Bird for the go-ahead three.

On the next trip down, Walton finds a way to make his beat-up, 33-year-old body out hustle Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson for an offensive rebound and then scores on a put-back all in one motion, almost as if to demand extra points for artistic merit and hard work.

Game over.

How'd we do against LA that season?

We swept.

How'd we do it?

Lots of Walton and lots of Bird.

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