John Havlicek

This Date In Celtics History: C's win first NBA title in post-Bill Russell era

This Date In Celtics History: C's win first NBA title in post-Bill Russell era

The Boston Celtics already had won 11 championships by the 1973-74 season. But believe it or not, they still had something to prove entering the 1974 NBA Finals.

That's because the Celtics had yet to win a title without the legendary Bill Russell, who retired as a player in 1969.

On this date 46 years ago, though -- May 12, 1974 -- John Havlicek and Co. ushered in a new era of Celtics basketball.

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In a winner-take-all Game 7 of the 1974 NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics went on the road and defeated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's squad 102-87 to win their 12th NBA championship and their first without Russell.

Havlicek and Jo Jo White added 16 points each, but Dave Cowens was the star for Boston, racking up 28 points and 14 rebounds to help Tommy Heinsohn win his first championship as head coach.

Here are two other notable May 12 performances from the C's, who are 6-4 all-time in games played on this date:

May 12, 2012: Rajon Rondo (13 points, 12 rebounds,. 17 assists) drops a triple-double in the Celtics' Game 1 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Rondo had 10 career playoff triple-doubles for the Celtics, tied with Larry Bird for the most in franchise history.

May 12, 1985: Kevin McHale (28 points) and Robert Parish (26 points, 13 rebounds) power Boston to another win over Philly, this time in Game 1 of the East Finals.

Bill Russell, Larry Bird headline Boston Celtics All-Time "Dream Team"

Bill Russell, Larry Bird headline Boston Celtics All-Time "Dream Team"

The latest episode of the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance” continued to shed light on not just the final season of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls but also some of the more memorable basketball moments of that time. 

Among them is the formation of the 1992 “Dream Team” which was the first time NBA players were allowed to compete in the Olympics. 

The pool of talent for that team was deep, obviously. 

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And when it comes to putting together a Boston Celtics-themed “Dream Team,” the possibilities are even more endless. 

That’s not all that surprising when you consider the Celtics have won more NBA titles (17) than any team in NBA history, annually churning out Hall of Famers to be inducted.

For the sake of consistency, we’ll construct the Celtics Dream team in similar fashion to the 1992 Dream Team which steamrolled over the competition to win the Gold Medal. 

We will start with 10 players, led by two captains. We'll add an 11th veteran to the team and the 12th spot will go to a talented player with promise who isn't quite as accomplished as the rest of the team. On the original Dream Team, that was Christian Laettner from Duke. 

CAPTAINS

Bill Russell: It’s impossible to put together any kind of elite team involving the Boston Celtics and not begin with Bill Russell. His 11 NBA titles will forever rank him among the greatest winners in any professional sport. And that doesn’t include the Olympic Gold medal he won in 1956. A basketball icon unlike any the NBA has seen before or since then. 

John Havlicek: He’s the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer but for those who have either seen or played with Havlicek, they knew he was so much more than that. The 6-foot-5 forward had the kind of all-around game that allowed him to make a difference at both ends of the floor, regardless of the scenario. Hondo was just that good!

ROSTER

Larry Bird: Similar to Havlicek, Bird’s versatility gets often overlooked because he was such a good shooter. But the more you watched him play, the clearer it became that above all else, Bird was a player capable of doing whatever was needed in order to win. 

Bob Cousy: As much as the goal every game is to win, having someone with that approach and some flashiness to their game can’t hurt, right? Cousy was indeed a showman with the ball, nicknamed the Houdini of the Hardwood. His playmaking might have been off-putting to some, but here’s the thing: It worked in helping the Celtics to become the NBA’s first true basketball behemoth for decades. 

Sam Jones: A Hall of Fame shooting guard, Sam Jones was one of the best at finding ways to score, whether it be with the jumper or getting to the rim off the dribble. And he did it with an elite level of consistency, averaging 17.7 points per game throughout his 12 NBA seasons, all with the Celtics. 

Paul Pierce: The Truth finished his career in Boston as one of the team’s all-time great scorers while ranked among the franchise’s leaders in several other categories. Pierce makes the team because of his versatility not only as a scorer but also as a small-ball rebounder and initiator of offense who was one of the franchise’s great one-on-one scorers. 

Dave Cowens: There are few to ever don a Celtics uniform who were better at throwing their body around and being physical than Cowens. His dive for a loose ball against the Milwaukee Bucks’ Oscar Robertson is one of the most iconic plays ever made by a Boston Celtic. That toughness made him a no-brainer for this team.

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Kevin Garnett: It’s one thing to change a team’s fortunes from being futile to flourishing. It’s a completely different animal to change a franchise’s culture, which is exactly what Kevin Garnett did in Boston. Yes, he’s one of the most talented players to ever play in Boston. But the impact that he has on teams goes so much deeper than points, rebounds and assists. 

Bill Sharman: One of the great shooters in the 1950s, Sharman was an eight-time All-Star with a career scoring average of 17.8 points per game. And if the game was tight, you wanted the ball in his hands. A career 88.3 percent free throw shooter, Sharman led the league in free throw percentage seven times. 

Jo Jo White: In addition to being a talented player, Jo Jo White was one of the most durable players in Celtics history with a streak of five straight seasons in which he played all 82 regular-season games. White’s conditioning allowed him to wear down opponents over time, a key to him being named a seven-time All-Star. Like most of the men on this list, he eventually made his way to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

11TH MAN

Robert Parish: Scoring, rebounding and strong defense were the pillars of Robert Parish’s game, one that etched his place among the game’s all-time great centers. A four-time NBA champion and nine-time All-Star, only Russell stands ahead of him when you talk about Boston’s all-time great centers.

ON THE RISE

Jayson Tatum: The 22-year-old was nearing the end of a breakout year when the 2019-20 season was suspended indefinitely, putting up stats that had him statistically shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the all-time greats in NBA history. There’s still plenty of room for Tatum to get better, which is great news for the Celtics — and also kind of scary for foes who are trying to limit the latest Celtic with Hall-of-Fame promise. 

This Date in Celtics History: Emotional Isaiah Thomas scores 53 in a playoff victory over the Wizards

This Date in Celtics History: Emotional Isaiah Thomas scores 53 in a playoff victory over the Wizards

It's one of the greatest performances in Celtics history and the circumstances surrounding it make it even more remarkable.

May 2, 2017. Isaiah Thomas poured in a career-high 53 points in the Celtics' Eastern Conference semifinal victory over the Washington Wizards to give Boston a 2-0 lead in a series they would in seven games.

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The point total was the second-most in the storied playoff history of the C's, surpassed only by John Havlicek's 54 in a 1973 playoff win over Atlanta.

Still, what made Thomas' performance extraordinary was it came days after the death of his sister Chyna in a car accident. A grieving I.T. had also undergone hours of dental surgery to repair three broken teeth he sustained in Game 1 of the series. 

And then he dropped 53 on his sister's Chyna's birthday. 

It drew praise from around the NBA, not the least of which came from LeBron James, whose Cavaliers would eventually end that 2017 playoff run of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. 

Thomas wished his sister a happy birthday Saturday. It would have been her 26th. 

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Here are some other notable Celtics games played on this date, courtesy of @BosSportsInf: 

1984: Larry Bird (37 points, 11 rebounds, four assists) leads C's to a 116-102 win and 2-0 Eastern Conference semifinal lead over the New York Knicks. Bird shoots 16-for-22 (73 percent) and Boston would go on to win the series in seven on their title run. 

1976: Charlie Scott (31 points, three rebounds, eight assists) leads C's to a 104-100 victory over the Buffalo Braves to close out the Eastern Conference semifinal in six games.

1968: Celtics win their 10th NBA title in 12 years with a resounding 124-109 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Havlicek (40 pts, 10 rebounds, seven assists) leads the way.