'86 Celtics were Blazed and confused at home . . . once


'86 Celtics were Blazed and confused at home . . . once

Life here on Earth is very different today than it was in December 1985, and naturally that’s how it should be. 

Thirty years is a long time. 

If there's no change we'd be in trouble. 

But with that said here’s one thing that "now" and "then" have in common:Rocky Balboa on the big screen.

Rocky Balboa on the big screen. 

This past November we had Creed, the story of Apollo Creed’s son on the road to becoming a professional boxer. In November 1985, we had Rocky IV, where Ivan Drago **SPOILER ALERT** beats Apollo to death, after which Rocky storms into Russia to avenge his friend and ultimately end the Cold War. The movie opened on November 27, but fittingly it was still No. 1 more than a week later -- on Friday, December 6 -- when the NBA’s version of Rocky IV unfolded in real time.

* * * * 

The fight took place in the Boston Garden, which for these purposes is Soviet Russia. You know that old run-down cabin where Rocky stays while he's training? That’s the visitors’ locker room. That’s where Arnold “Red” Gorbachev used to mess around -- with the heat, with the water pressure -- and make an opponents’ life hell. Outside that locker room lied the court where Boston had gone 77-14 over the previous two-plus seasons and ruled every inch of parquet with a green iron fist.

On this night the role of Rocky was played by the Portland Trail Blazers, but don’t get too crazy because there’s only a loose connection. When Rocky went to Russia he was already a world champion. He was one of the most celebrated boxers of all time. Meanwhile in December 1985, the Trail Blazers were a mess. They arrived in Boston as losers of three straight and eight of their last 12 games. Their leading scorer (Kiki Vandeweghe) had already been sent home from the road trip with a leg injury.


These Blazers were like Rocky if he’d stayed up all night shooting vodka with Paulie. 

But the #86Celtics were most definitely Ivan Drago. They were cold-blooded, genetically modified basketball murderers. They stepped into the ring that night with wins in nine straight and 16 of their last 17 games. Their leading scorer wasn't injured -- he was the league’s best player, in the midst of his third consecutive MVP season. He was Drago’s hottest asset. Call him Birditte Nielsen.

Actually, no. Don’t ever call him that again. But, seriously, this was one day before Larry Bird’s 29th birthday. He was two full years younger than LeBron is right now. He was in his absolute prime and the #86Celtics were out for blood. They didn’t just want to beat you, they wanted to embarrass you. They wanted to “break you” in a heavy Russian accent.

So, what happened?

Well, imagine if Drago had stepped into the ring against Rocky with a fully loaded diaper on under his shorts. Imagine the giant Russian looked a step slower, more awkward and uncomfortable with every movement. Now imagine Rocky was shot out of a cannon with his fists spinning like a pair of high-powered propellers -- because that’s how the Blazers handled their business.

They jumped out to an 8-1 lead. Then it was 18-7. With less than six minutes left in the half, Portland led by 18 (!) and there was no mystery to its success. The Blazers played better basketball. They tried harder. They were less selfish. They made fewer mistakes. They ran the Celtics up and down the court and beat them to every loose ball. They were simply a better basketball team than one of the best basketball teams of all time, and they weren’t intimidated for a second. Not even when Celtics came storming back.

Of course they came back. This is the NBA. These were the #86Celtics. Boston finished the first half on a 17-3 run and only trailed 56-52 at the break. The teams continued to exchange blows -- rapid fire, back and forth -- but with 3:30 left in the third Kevin McHale hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to two. On the next possession he blocked Mychal Thompson’s jumper. Bill Walton picked up the ball and tossed an outlet pass to Bird. Bird drove and hit a lay up “and one” to give Boston its first lead of the game, 75-74, with 2:56 left in the quarter.

The crowd erupted.

The Garden was the Garden.

Now this is where you figure that Drago would sense fear, take everything up a notch and slowly squeeze the life out of Rocky until he was lying in the ground next to Apollo; that this is where the Blazers might look at each other and say, “Well, that was fun for a while, but here comes the pain.”

But then again you’ve seen Rocky IV.

Led by Jerome Kersey, and with Bird mostly on the bench, the Blazers finished the quarter on an 11-2 run. They started the fourth quarter on a 14-6 run. They took Drago’s best shot and jammed it down his throat, on his turf, in front of his leaders and a nation of fans. The final score was 121-103, but the aftermath was uglier than that.

Bird finished 6-for-29 from the field.

“We got outplayed," he later said. “When I left the court, I remember thinking they were just better than we were that day.”

As a team, the Celtics committed 26 turnovers. They shot 19-of-30 from the foul line. Dennis Johnson fouled out in only 23 minutes. K.C. Jones earned his first and only ejection of the year. Bill Walton played 18 minutes and committed five turnovers. “I was a disgrace to the sport of basketball,” Walton said. “I was just running on empty: Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.”

Portland was led by Kersey and Steve Colter, who each had 22 off the bench. Sam Bowie had 18 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Clyde Drexler (only 23 years old and on the way to his first of 10 All Star games) had 19 points, 6 assists and 5 steals.

"The Celtics proved they were human," Drexler said, before dramatically grabbing a microphone at center court and screaming, “and if they’s human . . . and you’s human . . . THEN MAYBE WE’S ALL CAN BE HUMAN!

* * * *

OK, the last part’s fake but the beginning is real. And it was real. That’s all it was. That’s all this was. Just a little reminder that the #86Celtics were a team of mortal humans beings prone to real-life human lapses. They didn’t come to play. And the Blazers made them pay. And unfortunately for the rest of the league, Boston spent the rest of the season returning the favor.

Final home record (including the playoffs): 50-1.

Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

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Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has stepped up his game this season. There’s no disputing that point. 
And the Celtics have rewarded him with increased playing time, which he has proven he deserves. 
While he has made the most of his opportunity with an increased role due to injuries, at some point Rozier’s minutes should go back to being 20 or so per game. 
It’s amazing how far Rozier has come in such a short period of time, from a first-round pick many questioned as being a reach on Boston’s part, to an integral part of the team’s quest towards Banner 18.
And it is games like tonight’s against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will put the experience gained by Rozier as a major contributor, to the ultimate test when he faces off against reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook.
No one expects Rozier to put up Westbrook-like numbers . . . but would anyone be shocked if he did?
Remember, Rozier’s first NBA start came this season and he racked up his first career triple-double. The next game out, he dropped a career-high 31 points. 
But as we get deeper into the season, he’s no longer viewed as a backup or a role player, They see him as a player that has to be accounted for, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. 
“There’s a lot of teams in this league you could easily see him starting for,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston via text. “He’s not Kyrie [Irving] obviously, and he’s a different kind of player than Marcus [Smart], but he can play. If teams didn’t know it before, they know it now.”
Rozier may not be a secret anymore, but here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics go for the season sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


If the Celts expect to win tonight, they better get it done in four quarters of play. Because overtime has been a good time for the Thunder. They come into tonight’s game with a 3-0 record in overtime this season. They are one of eight teams with an unblemished overtime record, and no other team in the league this season has as more wins (3) in overtime without a single defeat. 


The NBA hit Marcus Morris up for $15,000 following “verbal abuse of a game official” at the end of Boston’s 108-89 loss at New Orleans.  Morris will be lighter in the wallet, obviously. But it also might get him even more fired up tonight which could lead to him lighting up the Thunder. 


Scoring around the basket has not been a strength of the Celtics, but with key players on the perimeter hurt, Boston has to generate points in other ways. Doing so against the Thunder, a team that has allowed 43.1 points in the paint per game --10th-fewest allowed in the league this season -- will be a challenge.


At some point tonight, Boston will be challenged to get back on defense and not allow Russell Westbrook to score on the break. The Celtics have been one of the league’s better transition defense teams in allowing 10.2 fast-break points, which is the fourth-fewest allowed per game this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder average 14.1 fast-break points, which ranks third in the league. 


The Celtic players talk all the time about how great the TD Garden crowd can be. But at the end of games lately, they haven’t let them much to cheer about. The C's come into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with losses in five of their last seven home games with the lone wins coming over Memphis and Charlotte – two teams currently out of playoff seeding. Boston’s last home win over a team that’s currently in the top 8 was a 97-96 win over Portland on Feb. 4, a game in which Al Horford hit a game-winning, fadeaway jumper as time expired.


Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

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Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving is reportedly going to get a second opinion on his sore left knee which may result in him having season-ending surgery.

98.5 The Sports Hub’s Tony Massarotti reported on Tuesday that Irving will get a second opinion as early as Wednesday.

Irving suffered a fractured left knee cap during the 2015 NBA Finals.

He underwent surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs.

The surgical procedure performed on his knee involved the insertion of screws to aid the stabilization of the  kneecap.

The Celtics have already been ravaged by injuries this season. They lost Gordon Hayward just five minutes into the season due to a left ankle injury. Daniel Theis is out for the season with a torn meniscus injury to his left knee. Marcus Smart recently had right thumb surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, with there being a chance he will return at some point for the playoffs. And Jaylen Brown suffered a concussion that has him sidelined, as well.