NBA Playoffs: 25 Signature Moments in Boston Celtics Postseason History
The list spans the entire history of the team, from the early black and white days, to the Big Three, leading up to the current incarnation of the team.
The Boston Celtics have had so many great moments in their history that it was a task to accurately choose and ranks those moments selected.
Regardless of the list, the team has built its legacy off of great playoff moments, championships and the ability to win games no matter who was on the floor for them.
25. Reggie Lewis Collapses
The list may not be starting off on a high-note, but it is memorable.
In that game, Lewis had already racked up 17 points in only 13 minutes, before staggering on the court and going down. The fans were left stunned as no one knew exactly what was wrong with Reggie at the time.
Lewis was on his way to assuming the Celtics’ throne, recently vacated by Larry Bird, but unfortunately he never was able to enjoy a long reign. Lewis died on July 27th, 1993, less than two months after his collapse.
24. McHale’s Last Run
The one bright spot to come out of the Celtics’ 1993 postseason run was the play of an aging Kevin McHale.
McHale’s last season was uneventful and uninspired. Everyone knew it was the end. Unfortunately McHale had slowed to a snail’s pace during the final weeks of the regular season, leaving very little to go out on.
However, after Reggie Lewis went down in Game 1 of the first round, McHale seized the reigns and gave one last A+ effort.
The man, who had scored in single digits in eight of the final 11 games of the regular season, went off for 30/10 in Game 2. The Celtics may not have won the series, but McHale showed one last flash before retirement.
23. Shrek & Donkey
How can anyone forget the image of Glen Davis and Nate Robinson after the Celtics’ Game 4 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers last year?
Nate jumping on Baby’s back and yelling, Davis drooling away like a Saint Bernard after the Celtics took a late lead in the game.
The image sums up the importance of the Celtics’ bench in Game 4, as Davis scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.
22. Leon Powe(r)
When you think of the Lakers versus Celtics rivalry you don’t think about Leon Powe, but in Game 2 of the 2008 finals, Leon made sure everyone was thinking about him.
Power dropped in 21 points in only 15 minutes, pacing the Celtics to a 20-point lead after three quarters. The Celtics eventually held off a Lakers comeback and won the game.
21. Pierce Drops 46
In their first trip back to the playoffs in seven years, the Celtics played a decisive Game 5 in Boston against the 76ers. The series was tied at 2-2 and was anybody’s to win.
Enter Paul Pierce and his 46 points. The Celtics went off in the second half, blew out the Sixers and made everyone believe again.
20. McHale Versus Rambis
Kevin McHale summed up the Lakers versus Celtics rivalry in 1984 by clotheslining Kurt Rambis to the ground on a fast break.
What would now be considered a flagrant 2 in the NBA, was merely competitive spirit back then.
Still, the iconic image will always be associated with the two teams.
19. Parish Versus Laimbeer
While Kevin McHale was busy taking down Kurt Rambis, Robert Parish was waiting for his moment. That moment came in the 1987 playoffs against the Detroit Pistons.
Parish, possibly reacting to Bill Laimbeer’s takedown of Larry Bird in Game 3, got tangled up with the Pistons big man late in the game while going for a rebound. What ensued were a couple of Taekwondo chops and one pile of Piston on the floor.
This set the tone for a historic Celtics’ victory.
18. Henderson Stole the Ball
With the Celtics down by two against the Lakers in Game 2 of the 1984 Finals, Gerald Henderson stole the show with the 18 seconds left in the game.
The Celtics were in a must-foul situation, but thanks to an errant James Worthy pass, the C’s tied the game and wound up winning in overtime thanks to Henderson’s heroics.
17. Parish Steals Another
If Gerald Henderson’s heroics in Game 2 weren’t enough, Robert Parish’s heads up play in Game 4 of the 1984 series was.
Parish stole a pass from Magic Johnson, right from James Worthy’s grasp, preserving the Celtics’ lead and giving the Celtics a crucial road win in LA.
16. Rondo Steals the Show
This is one of the most impressive heads-up plays I have ever seen.
15. Bird Flies Higher Than the Rockets
Back in the days when you could still rush the court and not get tasered, Larry Bird was busy securing his last championship as a member of the Celtics.
In typical Bird fashion, Larry legend put up a triple-double in Game 6. It would take the Celtics 22 years before the Celtics reclaimed the same glory.
14. 26 Games in 2008
The 2008 Celtics team brought glory back to Boston after a 22-year drought for basketball.While the 2008 team did win it all, it was no simple feat. The Celtics played a record 26 games, while going to seven games in both the first and second round.
Still, the team was able to push through it, like the champions they were.
13. The Picket Fence
The 1969 NBA Finals had its share of exciting moments, the first of which involved Sam Jones and an off-balance shot with time running out in Game 4.
With seven seconds left the Celtics ran a picket fence, the same play in the movie Hoosiers, Sam Jones caught the ball at the top of the key, scored and helped the Celtics even up the series at two against the Lakers.
12. Bird Versus Wilkins
The two traded off hoops, back and forth, late in the game, showcasing two of the league’s top talents.
The Celtics held off Atlanta in overtime and moved on to the second round.
11. Nelson's Shot in 1969; Farewell to Russell
The 1969 championship was the end of an era in Boston. It was the end of Bill Russell’s career.
Russell went out on top though, as the C’s took out the Lakers in a seven-game series they weren’t supposed to win.
The Lakers went as far to store balloons in the rafters that would descend when they won the game. They lost, and the balloons were donated to charity.
10. Russell’s Rampage
Bill Russell went off in Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals, leading the Celtics to their fifth NBA title.
Russell put up 30 points and tied his record for rebounds in a playoff game with 40. It still stands as one of the most dominant all-around performances in an NBA title game.
9. Bird's Mid-Air Switch
Earlier we saw the greatest defensive play from a Celtic during the playoffs. Here’s the greatest offensive play during the postseason.
8. The Celtics’ Dynasty Is Born
In 1957, the Boston Celtics won their first NBA championship behind the play of greats Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy. It didn’t hurt that they had two talented rookies in Tom Heinsohn and Bill Russell.
The game was great for different reasons; not to be overlooked was the fact the Celtics won at the buzzer with the St. Louis Hawks missing a last second shot.
7. Eight Straight
The 1966 NBA Finals saw the Celtics defeat the Lakers, and cap off their run of eight straight NBA titles.
One of the more impressive team accomplishments in the history of sports, and with today’s free agency, it’s a record that may never fall.
6. Greatest Game Ever
In what has been dubbed the greatest game ever, the Boston Celtics held off the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals.
Lead changes, last second shots and pandemonium on the court after the game, all led to the thrilling triple overtime finish.
5. Bird Face Smack
In one of the final story book moments in Larry Bird’s career, the Celtics’ great overcame a second quarter fall in the 1992 opening round of the playoffs, where he smacked his face on the court, only to comeback and lift the C’s to victory.
I was fortunate enough to be at this game, and it still lives as the single most passionate crowd reaction I have ever experienced when Bird came through the tunnel and made his way back onto the court.
4. Greatest Comeback in NBA History
It may have taken the Celtics seven years to get back to the playoffs in 2002, but the team made the most of their postseason run that season.
After advancing to the ECF, the Celtics met the New Jersey Nets, and few thought the Celtics had a chance to win the series. They may have been right, but not before the Celtics staged the greatest comeback of all time in an NBA playoff game.
Down 21 to begin the fourth, the Celtics roared back behind the leadership of Antoine Walker and won the game breathing new life into a franchise that had had no reason to celebrate for a 10-year stretch.
3. Anything Is Possible
In 2008, after 22 years, the Boston Celtics finally won their first NBA title since the Larry Bird era.
Kevin Garnett’s post-game interview with Michelle Tafoya sums up what Celtics’ fan knew could happen, but didn’t know if it would. Garnett and the fans knew that “anything is possible.”
2. Bird Lays It Up to DJ
Down by one, with only a few ticks left on the clock, the Celtics needed a miracle to win Game 5 of the 1987 ECF. That miracle assumed the form of Dennis Johnson and Larry Bird.
Instead of having to intentionally foul Detroit off of the inbound, Larry Bird cut in front of Bill Laimbeer, knocked the ball free, Dennis Johnson recovered the loose ball and scored, putting the Celtics up by one with only one second left on the clock.
1. Havlicek Stole the Ball
In what is generally considered one of the most memorable play-by-plays of all-time, John Havlicek’s steal ranks No. 1 on our list.
Havlicek knocked away an inbound pass from the 76ers Hal Greer in the closing seconds of the 1965 ECF, which was recovered by Sam Jones, who ran out the clock to preserve the Celtics’ one-point lead.