Celtics, 76ers re-energize longstanding NBA rivalry

The Celtics-76ers rivalry was perhaps at its best in the 1960s when Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain faced off.
Dick Raphael/Globe Staff
The Celtics-76ers rivalry was perhaps at its best in the 1960s when Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain faced off.

The Celtics and the 76ers will be renewing one of the NBA’s fiercest and longest-running rivalries when they meet in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The teams have met in the postseason 14 times since the 1957-58 season, and the Celtics have won 10 of those matchups.

They last met in the first round of the 2001-02 playoffs, when the Celtics -- led by Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker -- beat an Allen Iverson-led 76ers team that had been to the NBA Finals the previous season.


From May 4, 2002: Celtics rout 76ers to send Allen Iverson & Co. home

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Prior to that, the Celtics and 76ers met in the Eastern Conference Finals four times between 1980 and 1985, with each team winning two series.

In 1985, Globe columnist Bob Ryan examined the memorable moments from the 12 previous Celtics-76ers playoff series.

From May 12, 1985: Celtics-76ers has been playoff tradition

Said Ryan, “Like Harvard vs. Yale, Hedda vs. Louella, McDonald’s vs. Burger King (sorry, Wendy’s), ‘Dallas’ vs. ‘Dynasty’ and Liz vs. Natalie, the Celtics vs. the 76ers is not just a competition, not merely a matter of Life and Death. It is More Than That.”



This season: More recently, the Celtics finished four games ahead of Philadelphia in the 2011-12 season. But the 76ers won two of the teams’ three meetings this season.

A look at their matchups:

A loss March 7 of this year in Philadelphia had the dragging.

March 7: 76ers 103, Celtics 71

Boston’s five-game winning streak came to a halting end. In their third game in four nights (and after consecutive overtime wins), the Celtics simply ran out of gas in the blowout loss.

March 23: 76ers 99, Celtics 86

The schedule again took a toll on the Celtics in their final contest of an eight-game, two-week road trip. Mickael Pietrus’ scary injury -- he was taken off the court in a stretcher, but would return on April 11 -- helped throw the Celtics off their game.

April 8: Celtics 103, 76ers 79


The Celtics shot 58.8 percent from the field and helped soothe the memories of their first two losses to Philadelphia. The win helped the Celtics cement their hold on the Atlanta Division en route to the division title.


A look at the best: Examine some of their most memorable contests of the Celtics-76ers playoff rivalry:

1964-65 Eastern Division Finals, Celtics won 4-3

Charles Krupa/AP
Paul Pierce, left, and Antoine Walker were all smiles as they closed out the 76ers in 2002.

The Celtics won Game 7 by a point when John Havlicek deflected the inbounds pass of Hal Greer to Sam Jones, who dribbled out the last five seconds of the clock. This prompted announcer Johnny Most’s most famous call: “Havlicek stole the ball.’’

1966-67 Eastern Division Finals, 76ers won 4-1

After losing to the Celtics in the division finals for two straight seasons, Philadelphia finally broke through and went on to win the NBA championship.

1967-68 Eastern Division Finals, Celtics won 4-3

The 76ers led 3-1, but Boston rallied to take the series in seven games.

1976-77 Eastern Conference Semifinals, 76ers won 4-3

In his first season in the NBA, Julius Irving led Philadelphia past the defending champions. The Sixers would lose the NBA finals to Portland.

1980-81 Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics won 4-3

Again the 76ers held a 3-1 lead only to see Boston come back to win the series in seven games.

1981-82 Eastern Conference Finals, 76ers won 4-3

This time Philadelphia refused to lose. After blowing another 3-1 series lead, the Sixers held off the Celtics in Game 7 at Boston Garden as the crowd serenaded Philadelphia with chants of “Beat LA’’.