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Sports Then and Now



Is It The End of An Era in Boston Celtics Basketball? 9

Posted on June 11, 2012 by Brendan Tyman

The Boston Celtics could be without Kevin Garnett (left), Paul Pierce (center), and Ray Allen (right) next season.

All great things come to an end.

The Big Three revival ended on Saturday night when the Boston Celtics were ousted by LeBron James and the Miami Heat, 101-88, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Now, the uncertainty of the offseason arrives.

Saturday night’s game was reminiscent of the last five years with the Celtics having the opportunity to win multiple championships, but they missed chances and suffered debilitating injuries. In the 2009 postseason, they lost Kevin Garnett to a season-ending knee injury in February. Ultimately, the team fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They fought all the way to Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers where they played without center Kendrick Perkins, who tore his ACL in Game 6 of that series. In an ending eerily similar to the 2010 Finals, the Celtics could not hang with the Heat in the final six minutes of the game on Saturday. Like in 2010, the Celtics head into the offseason with the possibility of the Big Three breaking up with Ray Allen and Garnett as free agents. Paul Pierce has two years left on his contract, but only one season is fully guaranteed. The Celtics could either trade Pierce, amnesty him, or keep him while they rebuild.

There is still a chance that the Celtics could bring the core of the last five years back together for a final run for 2012-’13. After last night’s press conferences from an emotional Doc Rivers and teary-eyed Allen, it appears that the team has long-term goals in mind to build the team around point guard Rajon Rondo. Read the rest of this entry →

Earvin Johnson Still Has the Magic 15

Posted on February 24, 2012 by Joe Gill

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were one of sports greatest rivalries of the 1980s.

When I was invited to a conference call with NBA and Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, I was awe struck. I grew up in Boston with the Celtics-Lakers rivalry dominating the sports world in the 80′s. I can still recall my early teens watching CBS on Sundays witnessing the epic battles between Magic and Larry Bird.  As a Boston sports fan, this was my first taste of winning prior to the new millennium.

It always seemed to come down to the Celtics and Lakers and Magic and Larry. They met three times in the NBA finals in ’84, ’85  & ’87. Larry and my hometown Celtics taking the first series but dropping the next two. I still recall being in my eighth grade field trip in 1987 in Hershey, PA watching Larry Bird’s shot clank off the rim as the Lakers were headed to another championship.

Did I hate the Lakers? Yes. Did I hate Magic Johnson? No.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson was an opponent that you had to respect. He played the game the right way. Along with Larry Bird, he helped save the NBA which was poisoned by rampant drug use. He had and still has a smile a mile long. Magic was someone that you could talk to about anything. These are all the same qualities that Larry Bird saw in him and that’s why they are great friends until this day.

So to say I was excited to hear one of these legends speak is a vast understatement. Read the rest of this entry →

35 Years Ago: Celtics and Suns Play the Greatest NBA Finals Game Ever 4

Posted on June 03, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Celtics center Dave Cowens and Suns center Alvan Adams were the central figures as the 1976 NBA Finals began.

When the Phoenix Suns met up with the Boston Celtics in the 1976 NBA Finals, most observers expected a short series.

The Celtics were the dominant franchise in the NBA with their dynasty in the late 1950s and 1960s with 11 championships in 13 years.

After a brief down period following the retirement of Bill Russell, the Celtics once again rose to the top of the league when they won the 1974 NBA title.

Former Celtics great Tom Heinsohn was the coach of this new generation of Celtics that featured center Dave Cowens, Paul Silas, and Jo Jo White, but included former sixth man and Celtic hero, John Havlicek.

In 1976, the Celtics won 54 games during the regular season and advance to the NBA Finals after a pair of six-game playoff series victories over the Buffalo Braves and Cleveland Cavaliers.

On the other end of the spectrum were the Phoenix Suns, an expansion team who had not done much in their first seven years of existence.

The 1976 season seemed to be another lost effort as the Suns lost 18 of 24 games during the middle of the season.

But lead by head coach John MacLeod, the Suns caught fire in the last part of the regular season, winning 10 of their last 13 games, to finish with a 42-40 record, but good enough for the team’s first playoff berth since 1970

With a core of players that included rookie of the year Alvin Adams and Paul Westphal who Phoenix acquired in a trade from Boston during the offseason, the Suns knocked off the Seattle Supersonics in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals, where they shocked the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in seven games, to advance to their first NBA Finals.

The veteran Celtics won the first two games easily in Boston Garden, but the “Sunderllas” as they become to known as for their remarkable run, won the next two games in Phoenix, to force a pivotal Game 5 in Boston Garden.

What appeared to be a rout in the beginning of the game, turned into the wildest game in NBA Finals history. Read the rest of this entry →

NBA Won’t Be The Same Without Shaquille O’Neal 9

Posted on June 02, 2011 by Dean Hybl

At his peak Shaquille O'Neal was the most dominant player in the NBA.

There is little debate  that Shaquille O’Neal, who finally announced yesterday that he was retiring from the NBA, stuck around a couple years too long, but even the memories of him laboring up and down the floor for the Boston Celtics cannot taint his career as one of the best players of his generation.

We are quick today to throw out the names of Lebron, Kobe and Derrick Rose when discussing the best player in the NBA, but when Michael Jordan retired from the NBA for the second time in 1998, his position as the best player in the game didn’t go to a forward or guard, but instead to a 7-foot-1 center who was as athletic as any big man in league history.

From the time he entered the NBA with his fresh personality and illuminating smile, Shaquille O’Neal was more than a great player, he was a dominant presence both on and off the court.

During his four seasons in Orlando, he captivated the city and the league. Teaming with Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott, he led Orlando to the NBA Finals in 1995 and could have likely spent a decade making Orlando a basketball power.

But Shaq always had his eye on more than just basketball and after just four seasons in Orlando left for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles.

When Shaq was selected in 1996 as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history after just four years in the league he wasn’t chosen as much on the merits of his accomplishments as the promise of what he could become. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the 20 Greatest NBA Finals of All-Time 3

Posted on May 31, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Willis Reed scored only four points in the seventh game of the 1970 NBA Finals, but his mere presence on the court helped lift the Knicks to a championship.

The NBA Finals begin tonight, as the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks battle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look back at the 20 greatest NBA Finals of all time.

These are the 20 best series, not best moments, so moments like Magic Johnson’s “junior, junior” sky-hook are not on this list.

To get on this list, the series had to feature multiple close games or more than one classic moment or performance.

So, here are the 20 greatest NBA Finals of all time:

20. 2010 Lakers-Celtics
The latest edition of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry was another seven-game series as the Lakers avenged their loss to Boston in the 2008 Finals, with a win over the Celtics in 2010.

Five of the seven games were decided by single digits and featured Ray Allen’s record-breaking performance in Game 2 with eight three pointers.

Game 7 was low-scoring but memorable as the Lakers overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter, to pull out an 83-79 win.

19. 1974 Celtics-Bucks

The home court advantage was worthless in this series as the road team won five of the seven games in these Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The series also featured a pair of overtime games, including the famous Game 6 double overtime win by the Bucks on Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s 17-foot sky hook in the second overtime for a 102-101 win in Boston Garden.

Game 7 went to the road team, which was the Celtics, as they defeated Milwaukee 102-87 win, for the franchise’s 12th NBA championship and first without Bill Russell.

18. 1958 Hawks-Celtics
The St. Louis Hawks got revenge for their loss in the 1957 Finals, as they defeated the Celtics in six games, with all four of the Hawks’ wins by a combined eight points.

The most memorable moment from this series came in the clinching sixth game, as Hawks forward Bob Pettit poured in 50 points, including 18 of the last 21 points in St. Louis 108-107 win.

17. 1951 Royals-Knicks
No team in NBA history has ever won a best-of-seven series after falling behind 0-3, but the 1951 New York Knicks came very close.

After losing the first three games of the series, the Knicks won Games 4 through 6 to force a Game 7 against the Rochester Royals (now Sacramento Kings).

Game 7 was tied at 75-75 with almost a minute to play until Royals guard Bob Davies sank two free throws to break the tie as Rochester went on to win the game 79-75 and their only NBA title.

16. 1976 Celtics-Suns
The 1976 Finals is remembered most for the Game 5 triple overtime win by the Celtics over the Suns in perhaps the greatest NBA Finals game of all time.

But the series itself was pretty exciting as the heavy underdog Suns came back from a 0-2 deficit to win Games 3 and 4 in Phoenix to force the memorable fifth game.

Much like they did in Game 5, the pesky Suns did not go away as they held a 67-66 lead in the fourth quarter of Game 6, before Boston outscored Phoenix 21-13 over the last 7:25 of the game to pull out an 87-80 victory and clinch their 13th NBA championship. Read the rest of this entry →

Boston Celtics Quest for Banner 18 Will Have to Wait 11

Posted on May 16, 2011 by Raj Prashad

Banner 18 or Bust?

Every Celtics fan must have gone through the 2010 summer slump, as we sat and watched the Lakers celebrate, then thought, “Next season is 18 or bust.”

Honestly, as a fan, was that fair of us or to the organization? Was it fair to think, “This team has to win a title, or this season will be a total failure.”

Most teams consider finishing the season .500, making the playoffs, getting to the second round, or making it to the Finals a success. In Boston, we have a championship atmosphere. This last decade has provided the greatest city on earth some breathtaking moments, but is it fair to think championship or bust on any given season?

I was one of those fans sitting there after game seven, saying “If Perk….If Rasheed….If If IF.” The offseason would prove difficult as many pieces, including Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen were thought to be moving on. Then Danny Ainge made some incredible moves with such a restricted salary. Doc came back and Ray Allen re-signed. Then Paul Pierce made the ultimate sacrifice, he took less money to stay in Boston and allowed the management to do what they could. Ainge signed Jermaine O’Neal, Von Wafer, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, and Nate Robinson all for bargain deals. He got the legend of LA, Shaquille O’Neal, to sign for the minimum and put together a pretty solid bench. We were given hope. Hell, the motto for the regular season was, “It’s All About 18.” Read the rest of this entry →

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