The Greatest Five Minutes of Basketball Ever Played
Tucked away somewhere in his private stash, Danny Ainge owns a VCR tape he entitles "The Way Basketball is Supposed to be Played." It captures quarter number 3 of Game 5 in the Celtics-Hawks 1986 playoff series.
The Celtics had managed to lose the previous game in Atlanta by a 106-94 margin, and it really wasn't that close. Embarrassed and disgusted, the GREEN had worked up a head of steam going into the next game. Bill Walton, who had missed the previous two games after a collision with Tree Rollins injured his wrist, returned to the lineup.
The score at halftime was 66-55. Boston was clearly the better team. But that wasn't enough. Locker room talk conveyed a sense of urgency for the start of the third quarter. Still upset with the arse whoopin' from the last game, the Cs began the second half with what might still be described as the best 12 minutes of Celtics basketball--EVER.
The quarter actually began quietly enough, compared with what was yet to come. Boston expanded it's lead to 17 points with a 12-6 run. 5:17 remained in the quarter. Bird stepped to the line and converted a technical called on Atlanta for illegal defense. Then the dam broke. The Celtics got the ball back and Ainge and Bird began taking turns from international waters.
On defense, Ainge combined with DJ to lock down their opponents, force turnovers, or direct their man to the interior where the helpless Hawk was smothered by Bird, McHale, and Parish. Over the next 317 seconds, Atlanta committed 5 turnovers, had three shots blocked, and incurred two 24-second clock violations.
On offense, the Celtics could do no wrong. Covered by Dominique, McHale scored at will. Bird kept feeding Parish who scored over Tree Rollins, literally left and right. DJ and Ainge had 3 break-away layups, one of which came after Rollins, out of frustration, threw an inbounds pass directly at Ainge, who calmly intercepted it and waltzed to the other end for an easy two. When the quarter mercifully came to and end, the score was 102-61.
The Cs had outscored the Hawks 36-6 in the quarter, including 24-0 in the last 5 minutes. The Hawks tried everything, timeouts, substitutions, and cheap shots. Nothing worked. "The only thing I didn't try was making a trade," Coach Mike Fratello quipped, "and the only reason I didn't try that was because the league prohibits trades during games." Doc Rivers said "it seemed like it was raining baskets from everywhere. The were all on fire at the same time. One minute it was a game and the next it was over."
Asked to comment after the game, Mchale said "it was as close to perfection as you will ever see on a basketball court."
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