Boston Celtics

Danny Ainge discusses Michael Jordan's 63-point playoff outburst vs. Celtics

Danny Ainge discusses Michael Jordan's 63-point playoff outburst vs. Celtics

On April 20, 1986, Michael Jordan turned in one of the most legendary playoff performances in history, scoring an NBA-record 63 points in a double overtime loss to the Boston Celtics.

Current Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was a member of that Boston team and talked about that game on a recent episode of the Celtics Talk podcast with Brian Scalabrine.

“We knew he was a great player. He was rookie of the year the year before,” Ainge said. “Everybody knew Michael’s athleticism and talents. I think this was a coming out party... Maybe for Michael as, ‘Wow this guy is really special.'"

Jordan missed a majority of the 1986 season with a foot injury but was primed for a first round showdown with the NBA’s best team. The Celtics won 67 games that regular season and boasted a 40-1 record at home (an NBA record that was tied by the Spurs in 2015-16).

“Chicago had nothing to lose. Michael had missed 65 games during the season with a foot injury, and he was fresh,” Ainge continued. “Nobody expected them to win one game against the Boston Celtics that year.”

In Game 1 of that series, Jordan poured in 49 points in a 123-104 loss at the Boston Garden. But nobody could have seen what was coming in Game 2.

"We wanted to make Michael shoot a lot of jump shots,” Ainge said. “He wasn’t known as a great jump shooter, he was a good jump shooter. He lived getting to the free throw line and getting to the rim.”

The Celtics' gameplan played right into Jordan’s hands. He shot 22-for-41 from the field without attempting a 3-pointer in the game and made 19 of his 21 free throw attempts.

“He was pretty impressive, no doubt about it. I mean, 63 in a double overtime game. It was a 58 minute game. But he still had 54 in regulation,” Ainge said. “We were all very, very impressed with Michael... We had big aspirations that year. And that was a good little wake up call.”

If people didn’t know who Michael Jordan was before, they sure did after that game. Celtics Hall of Famer Larry Bird was quoted after the game saying: "He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Jordan’s 63-point outing still stands as the highest-scoring individual performance in NBA playoff history. Even 34 years later, people are still talking about it.

“Michael was very, very special,” Ainge said.  “We all knew it. We all knew it after that game. And 34 years later, he’s still being considered the best player of all time.”

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Joakim Noah has a chance to be the best of the 'Doc Rivers All-Stars'

Joakim Noah has a chance to be the best of the 'Doc Rivers All-Stars'

The long wait for Joakim Noah's return to the NBA is over. On Friday, Noah agreed to a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The 35-year-old center will be joining the Clippers next week according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This move means Noah will be coached by Doc Rivers who of course knows Noah quite well, as he spent over a decade as a coach in the Eastern Conference and coached against Noah and the Bulls in one of the most entertaining playoff series in NBA history. 

Rivers has a penchant for bringing in veteran players who have either played for him or performed well against his teams in past stops. We decided to make a five-man lineup of some of the more memorable (or head-scratching) veteran additions that Rivers has made in his career to see if Noah has a legitimate chance to be the best of the “Doc Rivers All-Stars." Last season he showed that he still has a bit left in the tank:

Rivers has taken a strong liking to the play of center Ivica Zubac, who is the lone “traditional” center on the Clippers’ roster. He recently spoke to the media about Zubac knowing how to utilize size well. Rivers likely decided that he did not like the lack of traditional centers on the Clippers roster with the possibility of postseason matchups against Nikola Jokic or Rudy Gobert looming. 

Noah will not come in and dominate games for the Clippers but his presence will be great in the locker room and he could be big in certain matchups are the “Doc Rivers All-Stars” including Noah as the center. We look over the relation to Rivers for Noah and the four other players that make up the list. 

PG: Nate Robinson 

Chicago fan-favorite Nate Robinson played for a total of eight teams throughout his NBA career, including his exciting run with the Bulls in the 2012-13 season. But the reason Robinson makes the “Doc Rivers All-Stars” is that he actually played for Rivers in three different seasons in his 11-year NBA career. Robinson first played for Doc when he was traded from the New York Knicks to the Celtics for a package including guard Eddie House. Robinson got to play for a pair of very successful Boston teams and later played for the Clippers in 2015 on a pair of 10-day contracts before nagging injuries led to Los Angeles not re-signing him. 

Result: Robinson was a solid contributor to the Celtics in his limited role. He averaged 4.2 points and 1.1 assists per game on 37.5% shooting (33.3% from the 3-point line) in 17 playoff games. In Game 4 of the 2010 NBA Finals Robinson scored 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench to help the Celtics even the Finals at 2-2. Boston would go on to lose in seven games to the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol-led Lakers. 

SG: Sam Cassell

The Celtics were in the midst of their desperate NBA title pursuit in the 2007-08 season when they decided that they needed to add some veteran help to the backcourt. In 2008, Cassell was in his age-38 season with the Los Angeles Clippers, who were heading towards yet another last-place finish in the Pacific Division. Cassell jumped at the opportunity to join Rivers’ Celtics after being released by the Clippers.

Result: Cassell played a total of 17 regular season games for Boston, starting in one. He only played 12.6 minutes per game in the 2008 playoffs but his mere presence was a positive one as the Celtics would go on to win the 2008 NBA Championship.

SF: Jeff Green 

Green’s career was interrupted when he took off the 2011-12 season--when he played for Rivers and the Celtics-- to deal with a heart condition that was thought to be threatening to his NBA career. Thankfully, Green bounced back, reaching a career-high 17.6 points per game with Boston in 2015. Green’s shooting numbers took a dip after that season but despite that, Rivers brought Green to the Clippers in 2016. The Clippers traded Lance Stephenson and a future 1st round pick for Green. He lasted one season with the Clips before continuing to bounce around the league. 

Result: The Clippers were bounced by the Portland Trail Blazers in six games in the Western Conference First Round. Over the sox games, Green averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game on 45.7% shooting.  

PF: Josh Smith 

Josh Smith was an uber-athletic forward who was a defensive menace over his 13 seasons in the NBA. His main weakness was an addiction to the 3-point shot. He shot 28.5% from 3-point range for his career with over 1,500 attempts. Smith was a part of the Houston Rockets squad that staged an enormous comeback to takedown the Doc Rivers-coached Clippers in the Western Conference Finals in 2015.

Smith scored 19 points in Game 6 and 15 points in Game 7. Predictably, Rivers and co. inked Smith to a one-year deal the ensuing offseason. 

Result: Smith averaged 5.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists on 38.3% shooting from the field over 32 games with the Clippers before he was traded back to the Houston Rockets. 

C: Joakim Noah 

On March 6 it was reported that the Clippers had agreed to terms on a 10-day contract with Joakim Noah. He last played for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2018-19 season. Over 42 games with Memphis, Noah averaged 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.7 blocks in 16.5 minutes per game. He showed that he definitely had gotten back into game shape and most importantly, Noah showed that he could still contribute to winning basketball. 

Result: ???

Only time will tell if Noah can, or will even get the opportunity to contribute to the Clippers, who are currently the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. But based on everything we in Chicago know of Joakim Noah, he will do whatever is asked of him-- including being an excellent locker room presence--to help the Clippers NBA Championship chase. 

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Which team will emerge as Bucks biggest threat in the East?

USA Today

Which team will emerge as Bucks biggest threat in the East?

With all the attention given to the battle for supremacy in Los Angeles between the Lakers’ superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the Clippers’ tandem of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, plus the spectacular debut seasons for Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, Milwaukee’s march to the NBA’s best regular season record for the second straight year has gone largely unnoticed.

The Bucks won their 50th game Tuesday night in Toronto, rallying to beat the defending NBA champs one night after surviving an overtime battle in Washington. Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff spot in the East and currently holds an eight-game lead over the Raptors for home court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

We all remember what happened last season when the Bucks won the first two games of the conference finals against Toronto in Milwaukee, then saw their season come crashing to a close by dropping the next four. Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse devised a system to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the lane, and the Bucks were lost when the MVP couldn’t carry the offense as he had done all season.

So, which team will pose the biggest threat to the Bucks in the East this year?

Toronto has been the hottest team in the conference over the last six weeks, winning 17 of their last 19 games. Nurse has done an excellent job of adjusting his rotation to fill in for the extended injury absences of Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and top reserve Norman Powell.

Fourth year guard Fred VanVleet and third year forward O.G. Anunoby are having their best seasons, and Raptors’ President of Basketball operations Masai Ujiri continues to find and develop young prospects that went ignored by the rest of the league. The latest examples are young big man Chris Boucher and versatile wing Terence Davis, who have been key members of the rotation during the current hot streak.

The Raptors have the length up front to give Antetokounmpo problems in a seven-game series, and they certainly don’t fear the Bucks after beating them in the conference finals last spring. Yes, Kawhi Leonard has moved on, but Siakam quickly took over Leonard’s role as an All-Star caliber two-way wing, averaging 23.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. If the Raptors are 100% healthy for the playoffs, they will be a tough out.

Philadelphia was supposed to emerge as a title contender this season after adding Al Horford in free agency to join Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, giving the 76ers the length to challenge Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. But Horford and Embiid have not played well together and now Simmons is expected to be out for multiple weeks because of a nerve impingement in his back. It’s possible the Sixers will get things together by the start of the playoffs, but given their 9-20 road record, it’s hard to imagine them winning a series without home court advantage.

Miami had been the talk of the league for the first half of the season, but the Heat has hit a bit of a road bump lately, dropping six of their last eight games. Pat Riley made a deal at the deadline, giving up former lottery pick Justise Winslow to acquire veteran Andre Iguodala from Memphis, but it’s hard to say how much Iguodala has left in the tank at 36 after all those extended playoff runs with Golden State.

Jimmy Butler will continue to provide scoring and demand maximum effort from the young players on the Heat roster, but it doesn’t look like the Heat have the experience or scoring depth to be labeled a serious contender. Right now, they would have to be considered the underdog in a 4-5 match-up against Philadelphia, with the winner having to face Milwaukee in the conference semi-finals. Not exactly the best path for playoff success.

That leaves the Celtics, who got drummed out of the playoffs by Milwaukee in five games last season. In case you haven’t been watching Boston lately, third year forward Jayson Tatum is making the jump to elite status. Tatum is averaging 30.3 points a game over his last ten, including a 41-point effort against LeBron and the Lakers Sunday, and a 36-point performance in a win at Portland on Tuesday, which included a career high eight 3-pointers in 12 attempts.

Tatum’s emergence gives Boston a clear-cut number one scoring option to match up against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in a potential conference final. Fourth year swingman Jaylen Brown is also enjoying a breakout season, increasing his scoring average by over seven points from a year ago to 20.4, while All-Star guard Kemba Walker has provided stability and leadership at the point, something that was sorely lacking during Kyrie Irving’s tumultuous two seasons in Boston.

Gordon Hayward is 100% healthy again and playing at high level, while defensive specialist Marcus Smart has suddenly emerged as a reliable 3-point threat. Sure, the Celtics have some questions in the middle, where Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter aren’t exactly defensive stalwarts. But second year center Robert Williams is expected to return from a hip injury soon and could emerge as the shot blocker/rebounder the C’s need to go up against Giannis and the Lopez twins.

We’re still about seven weeks away from the start of the playoffs but based on Boston’s scoring depth and the emergence of Tatum as a go-to option late in games, I would give the Celtics a slight edge over Toronto as the Bucks’ top challenger in the East. 

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