The Boston Celtics are coming to town Saturday night. They've lost 6 straight, and have just 1 win in their past 10 games.
I know many expect the Blazers to win; I do. The Celtics will be on the second night of a back to back, having played at Golden State tonight.
So, I wanted to look back and remember a game that happened in late 1985 between the Celtics and Trial Blazers.
December 6, 1985
The Boston Celtics were 17-2.
The Celtics had 5 future Hall of Famers in Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Bill Walton, and Robert Parrish. In addition, they also had 1988 All-star Danny Ainge as a starter(Bill Walton came off the bench), and future Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle coming off the bench.
Their 2 losses were an overtime loss opening night @New Jersey Nets and a 2 point loss @Indiana Pacers. The Nets were led by their 3 time All-star, and former rookie of the year, Buck Williams with 23 points and 15 rebounds. The Pacers just needed a triple double by Steve Stipanovich(20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals) and a near triple double by Vern Fleming(13 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds,and a steal) to beat the Celtics by 2 points.
Besides those 2 games, the Celtics were a perfect 17-0, and heavy favorites to beat the 12-10 Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers starters were Jim Paxson, Clyde Drexler, Darnell Valentine, Sam Bowie, and Mychal Thompson.
The Blazers were unquestionably becoming Clyde Drexler' team. In his third season with the Blazers, Drexler was averaging 18.5ppg, 8.0apg, 5.6rpg, and 2.6spg. This would be Drexler' first All-star year, the first of 10 in his NBA career. For each of the next 8 seasons, Drexler would lead the Blazers into the playoffs, advancing out of the first round 3 times. Each time the Blazers advanced out of the first round, they advanced to at least the Western Conference Finals.
Jim Paxson, a Blazers All-star in 1983 and 1984, played in 627 games for the Blazers. Only Drexler, Kersey, Porter and Cliff Robinson have played more games for the Blazers. His brother John Paxson was a winner of 3 NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls(Jordan' first 3peat). The Blazers later traded Jim Paxson to the Boston Celtics in 1988.
Mychal Thompson had been the #1 pick of the 1978 draft by the Blazers. He sat out his entire sophomore season with a leg injury, but he came back with vengeance. He was the player of the week for the first week of November 1981, and led the Blazers in scoring during the 1981-82 season. All 7 seasons he played for the Blazers he averaged at least 14.7ppg and grabbed at least 7.4rpg. Six months after this game, the Blazers would trade Thompson to the LA Lakers, where he would win 2 NBA Championships in 1987 and 1988.
He is the father of Golden State Splash Brother Klay Thompson. Something tells me he's overly critical...
Sam Bowie, the 7'1" superstar out of Kentucky had been drafted #2 overall by the Blazers in the 1984 draft. Much has been written about the #3 overall pick in that draft, Michael Jordan. The Blazers didn't draft Jordan, because they already had Clyde Drexler and needed a big man. Sadly, like so many Blazers before and after, Bowie' career would be crippled by injuries.
Darnell Valentine, drafted by the Blazers in 1981, would be traded to the LA Clippers a month later(January 14, 1986) for the first round pick that would become Arvydas Sabonis.
On the bench, the Blazers had former All-star, and 2 time All-Defensive First Team, Caldwell 'Pops' Jones. Pops had been played for the Philadelphia 76ers, along side Dr. J, against the Blazers in the 1977 NBA Finals. Also on the bench, the Blazers had their 1984 2nd round pick, Jerome Kersey, and their 1985 1st round pick, Terry Porter. Both would become core members of the Blazers during their Championship runs from 1989 to 1992.
On this day, in the Boston Garden, the Blazers were about to accomplish something no other team could: beat the Celtics in Boston.
The Celtics would finish the regular season 40-1 at home, with their lone loss coming at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. They would continue this incredible streak into the playoffs, going 10-0 at home on their way to winning the NBA Championship.
The Celtics would finish 50-1 at home in the Boston Garden during their 1985-86 NBA Championship season.
This was the Celtics 16th Championship in 30 years(1957-1986).
However, this would be the last NBA Championship for the Celtics for 22 years, until Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo would restore the Celtics to their former glory.
Hopefully like this year' Blazers team, the 2007-08 Boston Celtics team was a 20+ win improvement team. As discussed, if the Blazers get 53 or more wins, they would become the 8th team to have a 20+ win improvement year, when starting with at least 29 wins. All seven of the previous teams advanced to at least their Conference Finals.
Back to the game on December 6, 1985.
The Blazers won 121-103.
A month a half later, Sam Bowie would play his last game of the season, also against the Celtics. For the next couple years, mirroring the Blazer experience of Greg Oden, Sam Bowie would be plagued with injuries.
Danny Ainge would later play 2 seasons with the Trail Blazers: the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons. Danny Ainge, who grew up in Oregon, played as a 3 sport star for North Eugene High School, and is the only person to be a high school first team All-American in football, basketball, and baseball. Ainge was drafted in the 1977 MLB draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, and had 146 hits and 2 home runs in 211 MLB games. He is the youngest player in Blue Jays history to hit a home run, at 20 years and 77 days. Deciding that he would be better suited as a professional basketball player, he entered the 1981 NBA draft, and was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the second round.
Danny Ainge would later become the head coach of the Phoenix Suns from 1996-2000, with a record of 136-90, for a winning percentage of 60.2% After this, he took his talents to the front office, and has been the GM of the Boston Celtics since May 2003. He won Executive of the Year in 2007-08, for acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and producing the first Celtic Championship in 22 years.
Larry Bird returned home to Indiana, and became the head coach of the Indiana Pacer from 1997-2000, winning 147 games, and losing just 67, for a winning percentage of 68.7%. He led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 1999-00 season. He was the 1997-98 NBA Coach of the Year. Later, he became the Indiana Pacers GM from July 2003 to June 2012, taking a brief period off(see: Kevin Pritchard), and has since re-taken over as Indiana's GM since June 2013. He won Executive of the Year in 2011-12.
Kevin McHale became the GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves from May 1995 until December 2008. His first draft pick was Kevin Garnett, and he rode that pick for the next 13 years. He took over coaching duties for the Timberwolves during the 2004-05 and 2008-09 seasons. Since 2011, he has been the head coach of the Houston Rockets. He has a 141-137 record as a head coach, but that is substantially deflated because of the 20-43 record he incurred during the 2008-09 season in Minnesota.
Rick Carlisle would later become a Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach from 1994-97, before becoming a head coach of the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, and now the Dallas Mavericks. Current Blazers coach Terry Stotts was hired as an assistant by Carlisle shortly after he became head coach of the Dallas Mavericks in 2008. Together, they would win the NBA Championship in 2011 by having the most efficient offense in the league. Their offense was focused around their jump shooting all-star power forward(Dirk), their HoF point guard(Kidd), and a bevy of 3pt shooters(Peja, Terry, Stevenson, Barea). In the first round of the 2011 playoffs, the Mavericks faced the Portland Trailblazers, and were subjected to Brandon Roy' heroics in game 4.
For a night, the city of Boston was owned by Portland.