The 1985-86 Boston Celtics Suffered a Late-Season Loss to the Nets, and Kevin McHale Taunted Bill Walton the Following Day
Losses were hard to come by for the 1985-86 Boston Celtics. Somehow, the New Jersey Nets pinned two of them on a Celtics team that won 67 games and was crowned NBA champions.
Many put that Celtics team among the best in NBA history, while the Nets finished the season below .500 at 39-43. After a late-season loss to the Nets, Celtics forward Kevin McHale roasted newcomer Bill Walton the next day at practice.
The 1985-86 Boston Celtics had a magical season
The Celtics couldn’t quite pull off the repeat after knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals. The Lakers got their revenge in the ’85 Finals when the teams met again, winning in six games. Boston’s bench was a problem in the series, and they addressed the issue in the offseason.
The Celtics pulled off a trade for Walton, the oft-injured veteran center. Boston sent veteran forward Cedric Maxwell and a first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for Walton.
Things didn’t start well for the Celtics, who lost in overtime to the Nets in the season opener. They followed that up by winning eight straight and 17 of 18 games. Boston finished the season with a 67-15 record. They lost one game at home, that coming in December against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Celtics continued their dominance throughout the playoffs, sweeping the Chicago Bulls, defeating the Atlanta Hawks in five games, and then sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks.
Boston never got its chance at revenge against the Lakers in the Finals as the Houston Rockets shocked them in the conference finals. The Celtics finished off the Rockets in six games to win their third championship of the decade.
Kevin McHale roasted Bill Walton after a late-season loss to the Nets
The Celtics only lost to two teams more than once during the 1985-86 season. One of those teams, the Philadelphia 76ers, wasn’t a surprise as they finished with a 54-28 mark. The other was the lowly Nets.
Boston’s second loss to the Nets came as the season wound down. Boston wrapped up a three-game road trip with a 108-98 loss in New Jersey. The game meant nothing to the Celtics, but McHale used it as a way to taunt Walton at practice the following day.
During the game, Walton got a few minutes of extra playing time, playing four minutes above his season average of 19. In his 23 minutes of action, Walton had a decent game with 15 points and four rebounds. New Jersey center Mike Gminski, however, had a career night with 41 points and 22 rebounds. Gminski averaged 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds in his 14-year career.
“We lost our concentration and lost to some bad teams,” McHale recalled, per NBC Sports Boston. “Mike Gminski tortured Bill Walton in New Jersey, and I wore a Mike Gminski jersey the next day in practice to bust his balls about it.”
Team chemistry was key for those ’86 Celtics. Yes, they had the talent, but as well as they played together on the court, they were just as close off it.
“We had a great team, and we loved each other,” Walton said during a 2020 interview with Brian Scalabrine. “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.”