9.22.2016

A Short Recap of the Greatest Show on Earth

July 3, 1986

The Boston Celtics' drive to their 16th NBA title started a year ago when the 1984-85 season and playoffs left the regulars exhausted.

The starting five of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge possibly was superior to any in basketball history, but a lack of depth left them spent in 1985.

So in the offseason, President Red Auerbach and General Manager Jan Volk acquired oft-injured center Bill Walton for oft-injured forward Cedric Maxwell, then picked up free-agent guard Jerry Sichting.

"Getting Walton and Sichting went well for us," Coach K.C. Jones said. "That gave us a very strong bench from the beginning and better potential."The Celtics won eight straight games after losing their opener at New Jersey, and 19 of their first 22. Later they posted 13- and 14-game winning streaks en route to a 67-15 record, third best in National Basketball Association history.

Jones calls the team "more talented than any of the nine Celtic teams I played with and the best team I've ever coached."Walton's presence gave Parish and McHale, especially Parish, more relief than they previously enjoyed and both said they were more rested during the playoffs than ever before.

Sichting enabled Scott Wedman to back up Bird at forward rather than spell Ainge and Johnson at guard.

The season contained only three "lowlights," none serious.

The first was a 121-103 loss to Portland on Dec. 6 that turned out to be the only one at Boston Garden all season.

The defeat left the Celtics 17-3 overall and did not particularly upset Jones.

"The Portland loss didn't really bother me because they just totally ripped us apart," Jones said. "They played a great game and we didn't play well.

"I'm not disappointed at all that it cost us an undefeated season at home because they just came out and had one of those games you can't do anything about. And that was one of the worst games we played."The most shocking loss of the season came less than three weeks later, a 113-104 double-overtime defeat at New York on Christmas Day.

"We moved along very well until we got to New York, lost a 25-point lead and lost the game," Jones said. "That was an eye-opener for us. It told us that we weren't playing good basketball and that we had to wake up."Around this time, back pains and other aches that plagued Bird early in the season began to disappear.

He had shot 44 percent from the field in his first 28 games, but after Christmas he shot 52 percent, recorded 10 triple-doubles and scored 30 or more 21 times. After the season, he was voted the NBA's Most Valuable Player for the third consecutive year.

"We went on a tear after that Christmas game," Jones said. "Then we went into the playoffs healthy, which we weren't last year."The only setback during a brilliant second half, when the Celtics were 34-7, was when McHale went out on Feb. 9 with an Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him for 14 games.

Wedman moved to Bird's starting spot and Bird went to power forward during McHale's absence, and the Celtics went 11-3, with Wedman averaging 15.3 points.

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