Who are the most clutch players in Celtics history? Ranking the Top 10
The Boston Celtics have long since established themselves as the standard all great franchises and dynasties are measured against in the NBA. The road towards becoming an elite basketball franchise has not been a smooth one with a number of games coming down to one play, one moment in time.
And when you take a peek at all 17 of those championship banners that hang high above the TD Garden, they serve as a reminder of how the Celtics more than any other NBA franchise have consistently churned out players who come up with big plays when the game is on the line.
Boston has indeed had its share of late-game crusaders, players who are remembered for what they did in the closing moments of the game as much as what they did throughout the course of their NBA careers.
Here we take a look at the Boston Celtics’ Top 10 clutch performers of All-Time.
10. Isaiah Thomas
His time in Boston wasn’t long, but there’s no mistaking the lasting impact Isaiah Thomas made on the franchise and the Celtics fan base.
The 5-foot-9 guard electrified fans with his scoring ability, particularly how he was able to get buckets in the fourth quarter which is what most Celtics fans remember most about him. Injuries that first showed up during his time in Boston have prevented him from reaching those same basketball heights since then, but Thomas’ late-game heroics as a Celtic will forever be the legacy he leaves behind when it comes to his time in Boston.
9. Cedric Maxwell
While Cedric Maxwell is one of the few on this list who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, that doesn’t take away from the penchant he showed during his time in Boston as a big-game performer.
Despite spending the bulk of his career surrounded by future Hall of Famers who garnered significantly more attention, it was Maxwell who more times than not put the Celtics on his back and carried them to big playoff wins. In 1981, Maxwell’s play garnered him NBA Finals MVP. And three years later, Larry Bird was the Finals MVP but it was Maxwell’s Game 7 performance in the Finals (24 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a blocked shot) that catapulted the Celtics to yet another championship.
8. Dave Cowens
He finished his career as one of the Boston Celtics’ best scorers and rebounders, but it was Cowens’ hustle, especially in big games, that often stood out about his play.
One of the most iconic moments during his time as a Celtic came during Game 6 of the 1974 NBA Finals against Milwaukee when Cowens dove past the outstretched arms of Oscar Robertson for a loose ball, secured it and called a time out. The Celtics would go on to win the series — and the franchise’s 12th NBA title — in seven games.
7. Bob Cousy
Known for his wizardry as a playmaker, Cousy could knock down some big shots, too. Cousy was the floor general during the first of Boston’s NBA-best 17 NBA championships in 1957.
For that playoff run, Cousy averaged 20.2 points, 9.3 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game and tallied a double-double of 12 points and 11 assists in Boston’s 125-123 double overtime win over St. Louis which is considered by many as the best Game 7 in NBA history.
6. Sam Jones
Buckets. That’s the one thing you could count on, seemingly all the time, from Sam Jones.
He was an elite scorer in the NBA; a scorer who seemed to elevate his prowess for producing points when the games had the most at stake. Like most of the Celtics greats, his playoff stats are noticeably better than his regular season ones. Jones, currently seventh on the franchise’s all-time scorers list, increased his scoring average in the playoffs in seven of his last eight seasons in Boston.
5. Ray Allen
When it comes to last-second daggers, there are few to ever play the game that strike more fear in the heart of a defense than Ray Allen.
One of the quickest catch-shoot-release players of any era, the Celtics don’t bring home Banner 17 if not for Allen’s ability to come through in the clutch. And like Paul Pierce, who was Allen’s teammate in Boston, Allen took that clutch shot-making of his to another team after leaving Boston where he did more of the same.
4. John Havlicek
As the Boston Celtics’ all-time leading scorer, that alone makes him a top-five choice when it comes to the franchise’s all-time clutch performers.
You don’t score the way Hondo did for 16 years (all in Boston) and not deliver your share of game-changing baskets along the way. But what made Hondo such a special talent was that his scoring was just part of his game which impacted winning on all the key levels of play — scoring, rebounding, defending and passing — and was a key to the Celtics winning eight NBA titles during his time in green.
3. Bill Russell
While Bill Russell doesn’t get nearly as much attention or love for what he did in the closing moments of games, Russell’s presence at both ends of the floor — especially late in ballgames — was a major factor in Boston’s ascension to the top of the NBA mountaintop.
Averaging 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds throughout his career is impressive. But to see both of those numbers increase to 16.2 points and 24.9 rebounds per game in the playoffs speaks to how Russell stepped his game up when the games mattered most.
2. Paul Pierce
Pierce will always be remembered by Celtics fans as a lethal, big-time scorer with many of those points coming in pressure-packed, next-shot-wins-the-game kind of moments.
Whether it’s delivering a last-second dagger in Miami, or taking his last-second clutch game to Washington and coming through for the Wizards, Pierce will be remembered as one of the game’s all-time greats in the clutch.
1. Larry Bird
When it comes to making big plays in big moments, there has never been and there never will be another Larry Bird.
What made him such a special late-game performer is that some of his most iconic moments came in games in which he thoroughly dominated from beginning until the very end. According to The Ringer, Bird averaged 41.3 points in games in which he made a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot.
“If it comes down to one shot, I want to be the one to take it,” Bird said in an interview during his playing days.