Best of the Decade: Celtics' five greatest single-game performances

Best of the Decade: Celtics' five greatest single-game performances

BOSTON — As we continue to look at the best of the Boston Celtics this past decade, we turn our attention now to the best individual performances. 

There were a ton of options to choose from when putting this list together, like Terry Rozier's 26-point, nine-assist performance in Boston's Game 7 win over Milwaukee in 2018; or Glen “Big Baby” Davis’ 18-point performance in Game 4 of the 2010 NBA Finals that evened the series with the Los Angeles Lakers at 2-2, but also featured one of the more memorable moments of the past decade: Davis carrying Nate Robinson on his back following a Davis put-back basket. 

But what separated these five choices goes beyond the individuals having good games. 

There was something about their play that went beyond a good performance in an important game. 

They each elevated their play in a way that not only stood out at that moment, but has since stood the test of time because of its impact on the franchise or in the case of a couple on the list, their legacy as future Hall of Famers. 

5. Paul Pierce, Dec. 19, 2012 vs. Cleveland

The idea of having an all-Decades list of great performances by the Celtics and not having Paul Pierce on the list just didn’t feel right, even if most of his best performances came prior to 2010.

However, there was one night in the winter of 2012, his last season with Boston, when Pierce had a Hot Tub Time Machine moment and absolutely shredded the Kyrie Irving-led Cleveland Cavaliers to pieces. 

Pierce would finish with 40 points, his last 40-point game for Boston. What made the game stand out besides the points, was that he did it on 13-for-16 shooting which was the most efficient game Pierce had ever played and for one day, served as a reminder of what fans in Boston were blessed with seeing for more than a decade.

4. Kevin Garnett, Game 6, first round vs Atlanta (2012)

This was an elimination game for the Celtics, who held a 3-2 series lead after having lost an 87-86 nail-biter in Game 5 to the Atlanta Hawks. The last thing the Celtics wanted to do was get into a Game 7, winner-take-all scenario against an Atlanta team which had the fourth-best record in the East at home during the lockout-shortened season which was limited to 66 games played. 

It wasn’t Kevin Garnett’s best game as a Celtic, but on this night he was far and away Boston’s best player. Big shots, key plays defensively and dominance on the glass highlighted one of the last in a long line of many great performances by the future Hall of Famer. 

Garnett had a double-double of 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting, to go with 14 rebounds. He also racked up three steals, two assists and a game-high five blocked shots. 

But most importantly, he delivered when the stakes were high, which was a reminder to all that despite being near the end of his career, he too could still come up big when it mattered.

3. Kelly Olynyk, Game 7, Eastern Conference Semifinals (2017)

Of all the big-game performances we have seen this past decade in Boston, there may not have been a bigger surprise than the performance delivered by Kelly Olynyk in the decisive Game 7 of the Celtics' second-round series against Washington.

And remember, this was the series that provided the foundation for the short-lived Boston-Washington rivalry that included a bit of a kerfuffle between Olynyk and then-Wizards forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. 

Just as Oubre Jr. delivered an unexpected cheap shot to Olynyk in Game 3 of that series, Olynyk in turn delivered a few costly shots to Washington — mostly lay-ups and 3-pointers — in the decisive seventh game that ended with Olynyk scoring 26 points in just 28 minutes.

To put that in perspecive, Olynyk had scored 26 points in the three previous games combined. The big scoring game in the most pivotal game of the season not only earned the Celtics the win but just as importantly (for Olynyk anyway), it put him on the path towards a mega payday of $50 million over four years with the Miami Heat and will probably get him a free drink in New England by uttering the magic words “Game Seven.” 

2. Rajon Rondo, Game 4, Eastern Conference Semifinals (2010)

We have seen “Playoff” Rajon Rondo do his thing in recent years with the Chicago Bulls and the New Orleans Pelicans. But there’s nothing that compares to “Playoff” Rondo when he was with the Boston Celtics. 

He delivered repeatedly in the postseason, but few performances stand out like his Game 5 performance in the 2010 conference semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Rondo absolutely dominated the game in all phases of play, something you rarely see when LeBron James is playing. 

And the timing of Rondo’s big game was what made it stand out. Boston went into Game 4 facing a 2-1 series deficit, so the C's needed a win to avoid heading back to Cleveland facing elimination. 

Rondo finished with a triple-double of 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. 

It was indeed a historic performance by Rondo, who posted playoff numbers that night that had only been achieved by two others before him — Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain. 

Boston not only went on to win the series, but they would advance to the NBA Finals where they lost in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

1. Isaiah Thomas, Game 2 Eastern Conference Semifinals (2017)

Players often go into the playoffs with an increased pressure to perform, but few go in coping with the kind of emotional turmoil and pain Isaiah Thomas was feeling in 2017. 

His sister Chyna died shortly before the playoffs began and Game 2 of the series with Washington fell on what would have been Chyna’s 23rd birthday. 

Thomas honored her memory with what will be remembered around these parts as one of the greatest individual performances ever put on by a Boston Celtic, leading the team to a 129-119 overtime win while scoring a career-high 53 points. 

“I was just so locked in that fourth quarter and overtime because I wanted to win the game so bad that I really didn’t know what I had (point-wise),”  said Thomas, who scored 29 points in the fourth quarter and overtime session. “I just knew that I had to keep being aggressive.”

And in doing so, he etched his name into the history books with the second-highest point total by a Celtic in a playoff game (John Havlicek, 54 points, April 1, 1973). 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which tips off Wednesday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Pacers simulation: Can Kemba Walker, C's keep up their hot streak?

Celtics-Pacers simulation: Can Kemba Walker, C's keep up their hot streak?

The NBA season has been put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis, meaning we have to wait a while to watch the Boston Celtics again.

As a way to make up for the loss of Celtics action, we'll be using the NBA 2K20 video game to simulate each game on the schedule until they finally return.


The Celtics were supposed to take on the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. Here's how our simulation of that game went:


Kemba Walker (28 points) and Gordon Hayward (19 points) carried the load offensively in what ended up being one of the lowest-scoring games for the Celtics in their past few simulations, which just goes to show how on fire they've been. They shined on the defensive end, tallying eight total steals and eight blocks.

With the game pretty much in hand, the C's second unit played for the entire fourth quarter. Rookie Romeo Langford was solid in his 12 minutes, contributing nine points, a steal, and an assist.


This was a disastrous offensive performance by the Pacers as they were unable to get any semblance of momentum throughout the contest. Malcolm Brogdon struggled from the field but was able to get nine of his 17 points from the free-throw line. Domontas Sabonis was the only real bright spot as he shot 7-for-10 from the field for 16 points while bringing down nine rebounds.


All you need to do is look at the field goal percentages and 3-point percentages (ZERO for Indiana!) to figure out what happened here. Boston dominated in pretty much every other major category too, despite possessing the ball for nine minutes less than the Pacers.

FINAL SCORE: Celtics 101, Pacers 77

Four games remain in the NBA 2K Celtics' regular-season schedule as they ride a 12-game win streak into their matchup vs. the Orlando Magic. Can they extend the streak to 13? Check back Friday to find out.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Mike Gorman debates the best trades in C's history

Celtics Talk Podcast: Mike Gorman debates the best trades in C's history

With no Boston Celtics basketball on the docket for a while due to the coronavirus pandemic, there's no better time to reminisce on some of the greatest moves in the team's history.

NBC Sports Boston's longtime Celtics play-by-play voice Mike Gorman joined the latest Celtics Talk Podcast to discuss the best trades the organization has made. Of course, the ones for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that formed the "Big Three" immediately come to mind. But to Gorman, the best deal in franchise history is a no-brainer.

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Gorman's No. 1 Celtics trade ever is the one that brought the great Bill Russell to Boston.

When Red [Auerbach] got Russell -- I mean, when you pull off a trade where you get three Hall of Famers in the first round of the draft, 'cause K.C. Jones was on the tail end of that and nobody talks about him. Tommy [Heinsohn] was the rookie of the year. And you get Bill Russell, who goes on to win 11 championships and is MVP five times.

That's got to be the best trade ever for Ed Macauley who was a good player but certainly not a great player. And Cliff Hagan who was a good player but not a great player. Neither one of those guys was going to do anything anywhere near what Bill Russell did to the Celtics. I think the Russell trade has to be the best trade maybe in the history of sports.

The runner-up? That would be the deal 40 years ago that landed Hall of Famers Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.

Again, it was a situation where Red traded and ended up with two Hall of Famers and gave up Joe Barry Carroll whose whole career was a massive disappointment. You would have thought that no one would deal with Red again [after the Russell trade] ... But yeah, to get Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in a draft, and both of them end up going to the Hall of Fame, and you gave up a guy again who had a marginal career ... 

Gorman also discussed what he's been up to in quarantine, as well as what the Celtics' ceiling is if/when the season resumes.

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