The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors don’t often meet up. Typically, just twice a year, but the two teams will see quite a bit of each other during the next couple of weeks. The Celtics outlasted the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, earning a date with Stephen Curry and the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The teams met one time before in the postseason, that coming in 1964 when Golden State was the San Francisco Warriors. They also met before the 1980 NBA Draft. It was off the court, and the teams pulled a trigger on a deal that helped reshape the future of the Celtics and send a few more banners to the rafters.
The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors took different paths to get to the NBA Finals
The Celtics capped one heck of a turnaround by knocking off the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday. Midway through the 2021-22 season, the playoffs were an uncertainty for the Celtics, never mind a berth in the NBA Finals.
The Celtics were a mess. Inconsistency was the norm. At times, they looked like the best team in the NBA, but then they’d blow a 20-point lead in the same game.
Frustration mounted. Marcus Smart called out Boston’s star players early in the season. First-year coach Ime Udoka questioned his team’s effort several times during the early part of the season. More than halfway through the season, the playoffs weren’t even a certainty for the Celtics. Through 50 games, they were 25-25.
When January came around, so did the Celtics. They started to piece things together. Boston strung together nine straight wins before All-Star Weekend and finished the regular season with a 26-6 mark.
The Warriors were quite the opposite. They jumped out to an 18-2 record and were 41-13 at one point, gaining steam after the return of Klay Thompson, who missed the last two seasons with injuries. In Thompson’s absence, third-year guard Jordan Poole stepped up. He started 51 of the 76 games he played and averaged 18.5 points, giving them another offensive threat.
The Warriors had two rough stretches at the end of the season. From Feb. 9 to March 7, the Warriors went 2-9. From March 16 to March 30, they went 1-7, largely due to an injury suffered by Curry in a loss to the Celtics.
The Celtics can thank the Warriors for making them a 1980s dynasty
Both the Celtics and Warriors have had their dynasty years. The Celtics have had a couple. Boston owned the late ’50s and the entire ’60s, reaching the NBA Finals 10 straight times. They appeared in the championship round 12 of 13 years from 1957 to 1969. They also reached the NBA finals five times in the ’80s, winning three titles.
The Warriors made five straight appearances in the NBA Finals from 2015 to 2019. They won in 2015 and then again in 2017 and 2018.
The Warriors are also partly responsible for that ’80s Celtics dynasty. In June, just before the 1980 NBA Draft, the teams got together to pull off a blockbuster of a deal. The Celtics owned the top pick in the draft and put a package together in a deal to acquire Golden State center Robert Parish.
Celtics president Red Auerbach said there were three players in the draft that he liked — center Joe Barry Carroll, forward/center Kevin McHale, and guard Darrell Griffith. Boston needed size to compete in the more physical Eastern Conference. Auerbach eyed Parish, a four-year veteran who averaged 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds during the 1979-80 season.
Auerbach traded the No.1 pick and Boston’s 13th pick in the 1980 draft to the Warriors in exchange for Parish and Golden State’s top pick, which was the third overall selection. With that pick, the Celtics took McHale.
“In this draft, and there are exceptions and players can come out of the woods, there seem to be three players who are outstanding, and the rest fall after that,” said Auerbach then, per The Washington Post. “We didn’t particularly care from the beginning which one of the three we got.”
The rest is history.
The Celtics won their first title of the decade the following season. Parish and McHale teamed with Larry Bird and eventually formed arguably the best frontcourt in NBA history. They also won titles together in 1984 and 1986. They played in four straight championship series from 1984 to 1987.
The Warriors selected Carroll with that first pick. Carroll had a solid NBA career, but Parish and McHale went on to become members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.