LEEInks list: Top single-game playoff performances against Celtics
|06.15.10 at 7:29 am ET|
Although we normally think of the Celtics in terms of NBA rings and playoff dominance, there have been some great individual performances against the Green in their storied postseason history. From Michael Jordan dropping 63 on the 1986 Celtics, to Jerry West notching a triple double in Game 7 of the 1969 finals, the Celtics have been on the wrong end of some historic performances. On the heels of Kobe Bryant’s impressive 38-point outburst Sunday night in Game 5, here is a list of the top single-game playoff performances against the Celtics.
10. Andrew Toney, 1982 Eastern Conference finals, Game 7
Known for playing some of his best basketball against the top teams in the league, Toney almost singlehandedly knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs with his impressive performance in his team’s 120-106 series-clinching victory. Dubbed the “Boston Strangler” during the 1980s, Toney lead the 76ers with 34 points in Game 7 to send the Celtics packing on their home court. The two-time All-Star lead the Sixers in scoring during the series (22.1), and proved to be one of the best clutch players in the game.
9. LeBron James, 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals, Game 7
Although there were eight other players on the court during the fourth quarter of this epic Game 7 at TD Garden, most people saw LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce. The two shined during this thrilling 97-92 Celtics victory, with LeBron scoring 45 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds. This classic shootout came down to to very end, with Pierce (41 points) ultimately hitting two clutch free throws.
8. Wilt Chamberlain, 1965 NBA finals, Game 7
It will forever be known as the game in which “Havlicek stole the ball!” But there were some impressive individual performances that lead to the famous final seconds. Wilt Chamberlain, in his first season with the 76ers, found himself in a battle with his nemesis, Bill Russell. Chamberlain shined, scoring 30 points to go along with 32 rebounds, but once again found himself losing to the inimitable Russell, 110-109.
7. Magic Johnson, 1987 NBA finals, Game 1
The rested Lakers took advantage of an extremely tired Celtics team — one that was coming off a tough seven-game series with Detroit — with Magic setting the tone for the game and the series with an impressive 29-point, 13-assist, eight-rebound performance. To top it off, he had two steals, one block, and zero turnovers en route to guiding the Lakers to a dominating 126-113 victory in Boston.
6. Dominique Wilkins, 1988 Eastern Conference finals, Game 7
Like the aforementioned Pierce-LeBron showdown, this head-to-head battle was simply amazing to watch. Arguably the best one-on-one performance in NBA history, Wilkins and Larry Bird traded baskets in the final minutes of a thrilling 118-116 Celtics victory. Making a variety of pull-up jumpers and difficult leaners, Wilkins finished with 47 points, capping off the most impressive season of his career. Bird had 34 points, 20 of which came in the fourth quarter, and helped the Celtics escape with a series-clinching win.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1985 NBA finals, Game 2
After getting thoroughly demolished by the Celtics in Game 1 — the “Memorial Day Massacre” — the Lakers stepped up big in Game 2, winning 109-102. Abdul-Jabbar played tremendously, scoring 30 points, grabbing 17 rebounds, blocking three shots and dishing out eight assists.
4. Michael Jordan, 1986 Eastern Conference first round, Game 2
In the second game of the eventual NBA champion Celtics’ first-round series against the up-and-coming Bulls, Michael Jordan shined in Chicago’s 135-131 double overtime loss. His 63 points still stands as a playoff record, and his performance against arguably the best team ever will live on for the ages.
3. Magic Johnson, 1987 NBA finals, Game 4
In the closing minute of Game 4, Larry Bird hit a dagger of a 3-pointer in front of the Lakers bench to put the Celtics up 106-104. After Abdul-Jabbar was fouled and missed his second free throw, the ball was knocked out of bounds and ruled Los Angeles ball. Then Magic made one of the most famous plays in NBA history, driving to the key and lofting a hook shot over the fingertips of Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for a 107-106 victory. Bird had a chance to win it at the end, but his 3-pointer rimmed out, and Magic and his game-high 29 points prevailed.
2. Jerry West, 1969 NBA finals, Game 7
Averaging 38 points in the series, West had one of the best playoff performances ever in Game 7, recording a triple double (43 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) in a losing effort. The Celtics won their final championship with Bill Russell, but West was named finals MVP, the only time a player from a losing team won the award.
1. Elgin Baylor, 1962 NBA finals, Game 5
Although the Celtics won the 1962 NBA finals, the best individual performance came from Lakers legend Elgin Baylor, who notched 61 points (an NBA finals record) in the Lakers’ Game 5 victory. Almost as impressive as the point total was his 22 rebounds, making this arguably the greatest individual playoff performance in the history of the game.
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