Wednesday, March 19, 2008

1985 Boston Redux

The 1980's were a good time for Boston fans with all of the city's Big Four sports franchises making post-season appearances. Favorite sons the Red Sox made three post-season appearances from 1986 to 1990, winning the American League East in '86, '88, and 1990, and appearing in the 1986 World Series before bowing to the then Boston tradition of losing in game seven.

The often sad-sack Patriots even made three appearances in the post-season, the first coming in the strike shortened 1982 season with a less than impressive 5-4 record. They then had back to back appearances in 1985, and 1986, including their utter destruction at the hands of the bears.

The Bruins dominated the ice, achieving the a playoff berth every year of the decade, winning the Adams Division three times, but failing to seal the deal in two appearances in the Finals against Edmonton.

Without question, the city's most successful franchise then (and throughout the history of pro sports in Boston), was the Boston Celtics. Like the Bruins, the Celtics appeared in the post-season every year in the decade. Unlike the Bruins, the Celtics won three of their five appearances in the NBA finals, twice beating Houston, once Los Angeles, and twice losing to the Lakers.

I bring this up because this year's edition of the Green and White bear some striking parallels to the 1985 squad.

While the differences are glaring - the Celtics of then already had two championship banners on the decade hanging in the rafters of Boston Garden, and two of the Big Three were drafted by the team - some of the parallels are eerie.

The 1985-86 squad was put over the top with the off-season acquisition of Bill Walton, a future Hall of Famer and, at this point in his career, often injured veteran. Used off the bench, Walton was a key component in bringing that season's banner to the rafters of the Gahden. Walton was brought in out of the frustration experienced at the disappointing end to the '84-85 season.

That team won (franchise second best) 67 games on the backs of Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, and Kevin McHale on its way to that year's title. Roll player starters like Dennis Johnson and M.L. Carr were key, making important defensive contributions to the team, just as Walton made major contributions to the team as a bench player.

In an effort to recreate the magic of the 1980's, then player, now GM Danny Ainge spent the last off-season acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to give the Celtics a new Big Three. Currently on a pace to win 66 games with 54 wins, the Celtics have an opportunity to at least challenge the regular season record of the 1985 squad. With 15 regular season games left, the Celtics will need to go 13-2 in order to tie that team, and 14-1 to tie the franchise record for wins in a season.

This season, in the Bill Walton roll is the oft-injured veteran (primarily groin issues) Sam Cassell. The 38-year old veteran is at the tail-end of a very solid and respectable NBA career which includes two championships. Cassell, like Walton, has been compared to aliens (though for very different reasons), was brought in to provide an additional veteran presence, and to put the team over the top.

While it's still three months before we will find out if the parallels between this year's and 1985 squad will expand to include a championship, the team's ability to take on all comers thus far, makes it look like there will be more comparisons to be made.


Suldog said...

The best part is that this Celtics team seems better poised for the future than the 85-86 squad. The bench includes a couple of guys who appear to be in for lengthy and productive careers - Powe and Davis. Rondo at PG is so much younger than the guards DJ and Ainge. Perkins, while not a superstar by any means, is certainly solid enough to keep in the middle for 10 or 12 years. And if Tony Allen can stay healthy...

Even when Garnett, Pierce and Allen hang 'em up, this may be a fine team.

Kevin Smith said...

The parallel with the acquisition of Cassell really caught me tho. I agree, this is, as a whole, a younger team, more in development than the 85 squad, and possibly poised for a long run, putting them at the beginning of the run that the 85 team was finishing (that was the last time the team won a championship, after all).

David Sullivan said...

No city can boast the success of Boston's four franchises. I just wish the Bruins would get their shit together. They can be fun to watch, but need to get more physical. The Celts are for real.