The 1985-86 Boston Celtics Lost 1 Game at Home All Year, and It Was No Star Who Did the Damage
During their run of four straight appearances in the NBA Finals in the 1980s, the Boston Celtics put together their best team during the 1985-86 season. The previous year, the Celtics failed at a championship repeat in the 1985 NBA Finals. The Los Angeles Lakers ousted them in six games.
The Celtics bolstered their bench with the addition of Bill Walton in an offseason trade. The veteran center was instrumental in Boston winning 67 games and cruising to their third title of the decade. The Celtics did most of their damage that season at the Boston Garden, where they lost just once the entire year.
The 1985-86 Boston Celtics could match up with anyone
Larry Bird once said he’d put the 1985-86 Boston Celtics team up against anyone. Why wouldn’t he? That team had five future Hall of Famers, four in the starting lineup.
Along with starters Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson, Walton was the fifth HOFer. Walton came over in a risky trade that sent veteran forward Cedric Maxwell to the Los Angeles Clippers. Walton, a former NBA champion and MVP with the Portland Trail Blazers, missed three seasons and played a total of 14 games in four years because of foot problems.
With Boston, however, he wasn’t asked to carry the load. His job was to spell Parish and McHale, and he played his role to perfection. Walton played 80 games that year, the most ever in his 10 NBA seasons. He averaged 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19.3 minutes. Count Walton as one of those former Celtics players who would also put up that 1986 Celtics team against anyone.
“We had a great team, and we loved each other,” Walton said. “We loved the way we played and we knew we could get the job done. We’ll take our chances. We’ll take our chances anywhere against anybody, anytime. We had it all. We had size, strength, power, finesse, skill, discipline, talent.
“And at the end of the day, we had Red Auerbach, K.C. Jones, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and nobody else did.”
Only the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Celtics in Boston that season
Despite going 67-15 that season, the Celtics got off to a tough start. Walton lost in his Celtics debut as the New Jersey Nets outlasted Boston 113-109 in overtime at the Brendan Byrne Arena. Walton struggled in his debut, finishing with four points and seven turnovers. After the game, the long-winded Walton stood up and took the blame. He was in the middle of a heartfelt apology to his teammates about his performance. In typical Bird fashion, he interrupted Walton’s speech.
“I remember Larry taking off his shoes and Bill standing up and going, ‘I would like to apologize to everybody who ever put on a Boston Celtics uniform…'” McHale recalled, according to NBC Sports.
“I remember Larry getting about halfway through his shoe, and he goes, ‘I sure as hell hope we play better because I can’t stand listening to that 81 more times.’ We all just started laughing.”
The Celtics responded by winning the next eight games and 17 out of 18. On Friday, Dec. 6, 1985, the 17-2 Celtics hosted the Portland Trail Blazers, led by their star guard Clyde Drexler. Although Drexler finished with 19 points to lead Portland’s starters, it was a pair of reserves who carried the load in the Blazers’ 121-103 victory.
Steve Colter and Jerome Kersey both came off the bench and recorded 22 points each to finish as the game’s high scorers. Bird, who had an off night with a 9-for-26 shooting performance, led Boston with 20 points.
Colter, a 6-foot-3 guard who played eight years with six different teams, played 27 minutes and got 12 of his 22 points from the free-throw line, making 12 of 14 attempts. He went 5-for-9 from the floor and dished out five assists.
Kersey played 22 minutes and made the most of them, connecting on 11 of 15 shots from the floor. He added four rebounds and five steals.
The loss to Portland was the beginning of a tough stretch for Boston, which lost five of nine games to fall to 21-7. The Celtics quickly got back on track by winning 17 of 18 games. In the playoffs, they lost one game before the NBA Finals, falling in Game 4 at the Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals and then lost twice on the road to the Houston Rockets in the championship round.