Celtics

Perfect remedy for coronavirus blues? These classic Larry Bird videos

Perfect remedy for coronavirus blues? These classic Larry Bird videos

As we prepare to spend the next month or more in a vast sporting wasteland, all is not lost.

At least we've got Larry Bird videos.

Fans over 45 need no reminder of Bird's greatness, because they watched it in real time. Younger fans might wonder what all the fuss is about, since Bird didn't look particularly athletic and played in an NBA with very different rules that made for a very different game.

Bird's game, however, is timeless and would've translated to any era. Whether you watched nightly on Sportschannel in the '80s — why, hello, Mike Gorman! — or know Larry Legend only for his bad haircut, a trip down the rabbit hole can either be a nostalgic experience or a revelatory one.

YouTube is treasure trove for Bird content, and not just the obvious standout performances like his 60-point game vs. the Hawks or his playoff showdown with Dominique Wilkins in 1988.

Here, then, are 10 videos that run the gamut from the aforementioned greatest hits to some rare B sides that complete the picture of Bird at his best — confident, unselfish, fearless, one of a kind (with special thanks to Bird fanatic Ian Browne of MLB.com on a couple of the more obscure selections).

While we await the return of today's NBA, there are worse ways to spend your time.

1. Rookie breakout

Bird finished this 1980 contest vs. the San Diego Clippers with 36 points, then a career-high. The game gives you an idea of just how completely the NBA would change — with Bird leading the charge — over the course of his career.

You've got Rick Robey taking sweeeeeeeeping left-handed hooks and World Free gingerly dribbling into traffic. There's not a lot of movement off the ball.

Bird looks like he's playing a separate game, at a different speed. Offensive rebounding was always a sneaky strength, and he crashes the glass for putbacks with a vengeance. The highlight might be at the 1:50 mark, when he just rips the ball away from Bingo Smith and takes it the other way for a dunk.

It's either that or right at the very end, where he finds himself leading a 2-on-none with journeyman Eric Fernsten and rather than take the easy two and a shot at his first 40-point game, lays it down for the big man to score a rare basket.

2. The 1981 Finals

With all due respect to Cedric Maxwell, how the hell was Bird not the MVP of this series?

Based on this highlight reel of every point, rebound, and assist he recorded en route to his first title, Bird looks like the best player in the world. It's hard to believe this game was played only a year after the Kings one, because already the NBA is transitioning behind the dual influences of Bird in Boston and Magic Johnson in Los Angeles, faster paced and more wide open.

This series gave us the famous, "Follows his own shot!" highlight, at 1:55, of Bird missing a jumper from the right elbow and then sprinting directly to the spot of the long rebound on the baseline for the left-handed scoop. Slightly less iconic but still memorable is the steal, behind the back pass to Gerald Henderson, and fast-break reverse layup at 3:50.

This is a longer video -- almost 15 minutes -- but it's worth every second to see Bird score inside and out, with both hands, while igniting breaks with home run outlet passes.

3. Bird vs. The Boston Strangler

Every great team has its Kryptonite, and for the Celtics it was Andrew Toney.

The Sixers guard earned his nickname for just absolutely killing them in the early 80s before injuries robbed him of what could've been a Hall of Fame career. This night in 1982 was never really in doubt, with the Celtics building a 25-point lead before Tony went off to make it interesting in the fourth quarter en route to 38 points.

This game gives us Gil Santos and Bob Cousy on the call, with the Cooz referring to Julius Irving simply as, "J" all game. It also features a quintessentially Bird sequence on a night that sees him score 29 on 12-for-14 shooting. At about the five-minute mark, Kevin McHale swats the overmatched Steve Mix, who then pins him to the floor so McHale can't join the break the other way. Bird jumps to the defense of his younger teammate, and on an ensuing possession immediately feeds him the ball so McHale can put the burly, overmatched Mix in the torture chamber.

Notice the subtle way Bird points at McHale before the play even develops as if to say, "This one's coming to you, because he can't guard you." They then share a very enthusiastic high-five like, "Bleep that guy."

There's also a fallaway Bird hits at end of third quarter despite being blanketed. Whereas today's gunners nail step-backs like James Harden or shoot unguarded from two steps inside halfcourt like Trae Young, Bird demoralized defenses by scoring when smothered. Danny Ainge once told me that Bird was the greatest shooter he's ever seen with defenders draped all over him, and this shot is a good example.

4. The Blazers buzzer beater

Bird won back-to-back games at the buzzer in January of 1985, starting with this one against the Blazers that's a definite 10 for degree of difficulty. He effectively shoots it from behind the backboard, giving us one of Gorman's greatest calls, "Larry, fake, fallaway … hits it at the buzzer! All right!"

But there's so much more to this highlight reel than the game-winner. Bird finishes with 48 points, including a high-arcing 3-pointer over a pair of defenders at the 30-second mark that would look right at home leaving the fingertips of Luka Doncic in today's NBA.

The next night, the Celtics faced the Pistons at their home away from home in Hartford, and here's how that one ended:

5. The 60-point game

So much about this game was strange, starting with the fact that it was played in New Orleans against the Hawks, but also including the presence of legendary Yankees broadcaster John Sterling on play by play.

For Celtics fans of a certain age, it's impossible to watch this one without goosebumps, from the increasingly outrageous shots to the forget-it-we're-just-gonna-cheer-for-Larry-Bird antics of the Hawks bench.

It's kind of amazing that for a franchise as storied as the Celtics, no one has ever scored more than 60 in a game. John Havlicek never did it, Paul Pierce never did it, Jayson Tatum hasn't done it — yet.

Kevin McHale had set the previous record of 56 just nine days earlier, and Bird scolded him for not getting 60. Even 35 years later, this one speaks for itself.

My personal favorite is points Nos. 53-54, Bird catching kind of a desperate crosscourt pass from Dennis Johnson and drilling a leaner with his chest in the face of Dominique Wilkins. There's also the basket that didn't count in the final seconds, a 3-pointer in front of the Hawks bench that 1,000 percent deserved continuation and a chance at a four-point play.

6. The left-handed game

This one only reached mythic status well after Bird's career.

The 1985-86 Celtics are one of the greatest teams in NBA history, going 40-1 at home, 67-15 overall, and romping to their third and final title of the 80s. Bird delivered a number of monster performances on the West Coast in those years, the trips inevitably coinciding with winter vacation, which meant middle schoolers across New England could stay up and watch.

A bored Bird told teammates he planned to play this one left-handed, and the result seems impossible — 47 points, 20 with his off hand, as part of a 14-rebound, 11-assist triple-double. Jump to 3:55 for an example of him banking in a lefty floater for no other reason than he had promised.

The game was a classic in its own right. Bird nailed a (right-handed) jumper in the final six seconds of regulation to force overtime before sticking the game-winner in Jerome Kersey's face with three seconds left. This was Bird at the absolute height of his powers.

7. Bird at the buzzer (again and again and again)

Bird's last-second heroics are legendary, and one shot that many fans have undoubtedly seen is the wheeling one-footer off the inbounds from Ainge to beat the Bullets in double overtime in 1987. What fewer fans might remember is what Bird did the rest of the night.

He hit no fewer than four game-tying or go-ahead shots (including free throws) in the final seconds of regulation and OT. One was waved off because head coach K.C. Jones had called timeout, much to Bird's chagrin. He followed it with a buzzer-beating running 3-pointer around a double team to force OT. Two free throws gave the Celtics the lead with four seconds left in OT before the Bullets tied it. He then barely missed a fallaway with a second left before finally winning it in double-OT at the buzzer.

This video is also notable for the commentary of legendary radio play-by-play man Johnny Most, who loses his mind on each make. "We've seen a fantasy game, a dream game," he growls before Bird wins it. "It's good! It's good!"

8. Dueling Dominique

Brent Musberger gave us one of the most unforgettable descriptions of Bird late in this showdown with, "You are watching what greatness is all about."

With Bill Walton in street clothes and the rest of the lineup hobbled, it was really all on Bird to beat back the challenge from the explosive Wilkins in Game 7. He ended up making 9 of 10 shots in the fourth quarter for 20 points, including a lefty layup after slipping Wilkins in the final minute.

This video is most of the fourth quarter, and it's worth watching for the sheer back-and-forth drama. Wilkins delivers the game of his life with 47 points and it's not good enough, because Bird had an answer for everything.

9. Taking down Jordan

Before becoming a six-time champion and the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan was just another guy who couldn't beat Larry Bird.

Case in point: this 1989 mano-a-mano duel. This was the short-haired, stiff-backed Bird who had just missed all but six games of the 1988-89 season following double heel surgery.

No longer the fearless superstar who could throw himself all over the floor with reckless abandon, Bird still had guile and a killer instinct. This game includes what might be the longest hook shot of his career at about the 1:15 mark. But the standout moment is the fallaway Bird hits over the fearsome double team of Jordan and Scottie Pippen with three seconds left.

Jordan signals an irate timeout, while the home broadcaster castigates Pippen for playing behind Bird in the post and allowing him to catch the ball. "Your job is over, buddy," he says.

Bird would only grow slower, stiffer, and creakier as the final two and a half years of his career unfolded, but he could still deliver gems.

10. The last great game

Man, for a club the Celtics only played a couple of times a year, the Blazers sure ended up all over this list.

By 1992, Bird's greatness was limited to those rare days when his back didn't creak like the boulder blocking Lazarus's tomb. This March 1992 encounter with Clyde Drexler and Portland happened to be one of those days. We had no way of knowing that Bird would only play 13 more games before retiring, but for one glorious afternoon, he turned back the clock.

He finished with 49 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists for his final triple-double. He also hit the awkward, wrong-footed, probably-would've-been-overturned-by-replay-today 3-pointer to force overtime. Bird digs deep into his bag of greatest tricks in the double-OT victory, knocking down unguardable fallaways, converting give-and-gos with Reggie Lewis, hitting stop-and-pops, and finishing with his left hand in traffic.

His final contribution — launching a touchdown pass to Rick Fox for the game-sealing layup after a Portland dunk — is the perfect way to end not only that game, but this story.

Why Celtics should be wary of Raptors as potential NBA playoff opponent

Why Celtics should be wary of Raptors as potential NBA playoff opponent

Some thoughts as the Boston Celtics make the turn for the back nine of their eight seeding games, starting with an Eastern Conference showdown against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night:

RESPECT THE RAPTORS

There’s a case to be made that the Toronto Raptors are the scariest team in the Eastern Conference. 

Sure, this Kawhi-less version lacks the top-level superstar who typically helms most championship rosters but that has been offset by the overall collection of talent, strong coaching, experience gained last season, and — maybe most importantly — the disrespect the team has endured during its title defense.

Inside the bubble, where defense has been in short supply, the Raptors have limited opponents to 96.1 points per 100 possessions. That’s the best mark among bubble squads, one of only two teams below the century mark (Oklahoma City, 97.4), and one of only three south of 106. The bubble average is closer to 112.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Raptors, which begins Friday at 8 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

For sake of comparison, the Celtics and their inconsistent defense has allowed a staggering 114.9 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 17th out of the 22 teams in the bubble.

It’s that defense that makes the Raptors a particularly imposing foe. Toronto has absolutely smothered teams from the mid-range and beyond inside the bubble. Maybe intimidated by the length and defensive talent near the rim — with Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Pascal Siakam patrolling there — opponents have settled for low-percentage, long-distance attempts. All while guys like Kyle Lowry make things uncomfortable on the perimeter.

The Celtics enter Friday’s game with the second-best offense in the bubble (121.9 offensive rating), but those numbers were juiced after Wednesday’s fireworks versus the lethargic Nets. Nothing will come nearly as easy against the Raptors and we’ll get a much better sense of whether Boston can put up points against an elite defense.

Are the Raptors scarier than the Bucks? You always want to have the best player in a series and Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly checks that box. But Milwaukee’s depth will be tested in the playoffs and needs its complementary pieces not to shrink on the big stage. The Raptors can feel confident that their championship-tested core won’t do that but they’ll need guys like Siakam to be great in the absence of a certified star.

IS THIS A SECOND-ROUND PREVIEW?

The Celtics enter Friday's action with a 98.6 percent chance of landing the No. 3 seed, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index projections. And while much of the focus has been on who the team might draw in Round 1 (the Sixers were at 58 percent to be that opponent, with Indiana at 37.8 percent), those looking ahead will wonder if we’ll get our first-ever Celtics-Raptors playoff series.

There was a lot of buzz about whether Boston could surge for that No. 2 seed before the seeding games started. That fizzled quickly, in part because of the way the Raptors came flying out of the gate. The big question about a potential Boston-Toronto matchup is whether a neutral floor could negate the obvious advantage that the Raptors would have had as the higher seed. The Celtics have struggled mightily north of the border, but might things be a bit more palatable playing in the Orlando sunshine?

That’s not to say the No. 2 seed won’t aid the Raptors. Toronto is trending towards a first-round series with the Nets who, as Boston found out on Wednesday night, don’t play with any sort of consistency. Even with a recent upset of the Bucks — who rested their All-Stars in the second half of that game — it’s hard to see the Nets (or, potentially, even the Magic) pushing the Raptors. Meanwhile, Boston might have to scrap a bit with a team like Philadelphia or Indiana. 

As Celtics fans mull which first-round opponent they’d rather see, injuries will probably dictate their desires. Even as Philadelphia has fought itself throughout the 2019-20 season, the 76ers were always a daunting foe because of their overall talent. Their size and length, in particular, has bothered Boston. But Ben Simmons injured his knee Thursday and his return timeline is unclear. If he is at all hindered in the postseason, the 76ers become a bit less imposing.

The Pacers have their own injury woes, with Domantas Sabonis departing the bubble. And, yes, the Celtics swept these Pacers last year. But Indiana has a healthy Victor Oladipo now and TJ Warren has been a flamethrower inside the bubble.

Regardless of how the seeding shakes out, the Celtics need to be playing better basketball than they have to ensure a lengthy run. The defense, in particular, needs to ratchet up to pre-quarantine levels for this team to have a chance.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Rob Williams, Langford help C's carry momentum vs Raptors? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

ROMEO, OH ROMEO, THERE ART THOU ROMEO

Even though we've only seen rookie Romeo Langford in small doses this season, Celtics coach Brad Stevens suggested early in the bubble that the lottery pick could be in the mix for minutes. And Langford showed why with his play as the first guy off the bench on Wednesday night.

Shortly after Langford checked in, he prevented a couple of Caris LeVert drives before LeVert fumbled the ball away on the baseline. A little while later, a driving Langford flipped a pass in the paint to Robert Williams for a dunk.

Langford has no shortage of offensive potential, but defense and making the right play are key for him right now in earning playing time. His minutes might be inconsistent because of Boston’s abundance of wing talent, but on nights like Wednesday when Jayson Tatum found himself in foul trouble, there will be opportunities for Langford to log time. Pair him with starters and Langford doesn’t have to try to do too much, just focus on defense.

Even that rare extended glimpse on Wednesday night is an encouraging sign of how Langford can aid the team. As he gets more time, even if that’s next season, his natural offensive abilities should emerge. But right now, he just needs to focus on playing hard defensively and anything else is a bonus.

Still, it’s clear that Langford has shimmied his way up the depth chart and could be one of the few rookies that Stevens is willing to trust in the playoffs.

Kemba Walker sheds light on decision to sign with Celtics over Knicks

Kemba Walker sheds light on decision to sign with Celtics over Knicks

Kemba Walker was this close to becoming a New York Knick instead of a Boston Celtic last summer.

Before signing a four-year, $141 million contract with the C's, Walker considered the Knicks in free agency. The 30-year-old said last fall he believed Boston was "just a better fit" for him despite New York being his hometown team.

Walker shed more light on whether he had serious interest in joining the Knicks during this week's episode of The Ringer's "R2C2" podcast.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Raptors, which begins Friday at 8 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

“To be honest, yes. Yes. Very serious, very,” Walker said ... "Before Boston actually came along, the Knicks were one of my top priorities, actually, because I was thinking they were gonna get another player. But it didn’t work out.”

Watch below:

New York was rumored to be in the running to sign Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant, but both stars chose the Brooklyn Nets instead. It was a rough offseason for the Knicks, to say the least.

In his first year as a Celtic, Walker is averaging 20.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. The four-time All-Star has dealt with a nagging knee injury over the last several months but is encouraged by the progress he's made in the Orlando bubble.

"For me to feel like myself again, it definitely feels good. Just gives me a lot of confidence heading into those games," Walker said on the "R2C2" podcast.

The C's will need a healthy Walker if they're to have a shot at Banner 18.

To listen to the full episode, go here.