The Celtics have appeared in the NBA Finals 21 times prior to the 2011-2012 season. They have won the NBA title a record 17 times. Take a look back at their performances on the NBA’s biggest stage:
2010: Lakers beat Celtics, 4-3
Team records: Celtics: 50-32 under Doc Rivers; Lakers: 57-25 under Phil Jackson
About the series: The Celtics took a 3-2 series lead after back-to-back wins in Games 4 and 5 in Boston. Heading to Los Angeles, they needed to win just one of the final two games to clinch the title. But the Lakers blew them out in Game 6 89-67. And in Game 7, one game after an injury to center Kendrick Perkins seemed to throw the Celtics out of rhythm, they blew a fourth-quarter lead and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to an 83-79 win and the title.
2008: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 66-16 under Doc Rivers; Lakers: 57-25 under Phil Jackson
About the series: While the Lakers impressed in the decade, the Celtics regressed, until the additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen launched Boston back into the spotlight. Defense carried the Celtics to the league’s best record. The Celtics’ signature wins were in Game 4 (rallying from 24 points down in LA) and Game 6, when the lead peaked at 43 and the final margin was 39.
1987: Lakers beat Celtics, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 59-23 under K.C. Jones; Lakers: 65-17 under Pat Riley
About the series: Injuries robbed the defending champion Celtics of their full complement, and it really wasn’t much of a series despite its length. The Lakers toyed with Boston in Games 1 and 2, winning by 13 and 19 points. The Celtics had a chance to square the series at home, but Magic’s baby hook stole Game 4, 107-106, and the Lakers’ charismatic leader secured his MVP trophy with 16 points, 19 assists, and 8 rebounds in the Game 6 clincher.
1986: Celtics beat Rockets, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 67-15 under K.C. Jones; Rockets: 51-31 under Bill Fitch
About the series: The Celtics lost only three games the entire postseason, two of them to the Rockets in the finals. And Larry Bird’s 1985-86 Celtics were especially dominant in the Boston Garden. They went 50-1 over the course of the season, with the lone loss coming to the Rockets in the finals. Bird was regular season and finals MVP, throwing down a triple-double in the clincher.
1985: Lakers beat Celtics, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 63-19 under K.C. Jones; Lakers: 62-20 under Pat Riley
About the series: It took nine matchups for the Lakers to finally get the better of the Celtics, and it took two games for LA to show this time would be different. After losing the opener by 34 points, the Lakers took the next two by 7 and 25 points. Series MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 36 and 29 points in Games 5 and 6, and Los Angeles celebrated its breakthrough in the Garden, the site of so many Lakers letdowns.
1984: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-3
Team records: Celtics: 62-20 under K.C. Jones; Lakers: 54-28 under Pat Riley
About the series: With the teams having combined for three titles in four years, it was time to renew the rivalry. The casts revolved around the NBA’s biggest stars, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and what resulted was one of the fiercest, closest, and most physical Finals in history. Outside of LA’s 33-point massacre in Game 3, the overall difference was negligible; the Celtics just happened to be the better team in Game 7, winning, 111-102, behind Cedric Maxwell’s 24 points.
1981: Celtics beat Rockets, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 62-20 under Bill Fitch; Rockets: 40-42 under Del Harris
About the series: Larry Bird joined the ranks of Celtics champions for the first time as the Celtics defeated the Rockets in their first finals meeting. Moses Malone and the Rockets won two games, including one at the Boston Garden. But the Celtics won the final two games by an average margin of 20 points. Cedric Maxwell was named finals MVP.
1976: Celtics beat Suns, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 54-28 under Tom Heinsohn; Suns: 42-40 under John MacLeod
About the series: The Celtics’ win was hard-fought and included a triple-overtime victory in Game 5 that some consider the greatest NBA game ever played. Jo Jo White led the Celtics with 33 points in 60 minutes in the 128-126 Celtics win in the triple-overtime thriller. The Celtics returned to Phoenix two days later to wrap up the series with an 87-80 win in Game 6.
1974: Celtics beat Bucks, 4-3
Team records: Celtics: 56-26 under Tom Heinsohn; Bucks: 59-23 under Larry Costello
About the series: The Celtics faced league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Bucks for the first time in the finals. Neither team managed to win back-to-back games in the grueling series. The Celtics lost Game 2 105-96 in overtime and Game 6 102-101 in double overtime. Boston prevailed in the seventh game on the road, with 33-year-old John Havlicek leading the way (27.1 ppg, 45.1 minutes/game).
1969: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-3
Team records: Celtics: 48-34 under Bill Russell; Lakers: 55-27 under Butch Van Breda Kolff
About the series: The Lakers were the clear-cut favorite for the first time, yet nothing changed, not even with Wilt Chamberlain joining LA’s collection of stars. West remained the biggest star, piling up 53 and 41 points as the Lakers opened a 2-0 lead. The Celtics evened the series, and eventually forced an iconic seventh game, which ended with West winning the MVP on the losing team, Russell winning his 11th and final ring, and thousands of balloons left high above the Forum floor, lingering over another Laker failure.
1968: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 54-28 under Bill Russell; Lakers: 52-30 under Butch Van Breda Kolff
About the series: Russell’s second season as player-coach went much better than the first, when the Celtics’ title run was stopped at eight. Boston pulled out a 120-117 home win in overtime in Game 5, with John Havlicek scoring 4 of his 31 points in OT. One game later, Havlicek went for 40, the Celtics had their 10th championship, and Russell became the first black coach to win a ring.
1966: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-3
Team records: Celtics: 54-26 under Red Auerbach; Lakers: 45-35 under Fred Schaus
About the series: Auerbach’s final series as coach didn’t open favorably, with the Celtics blowing an 18-point lead at home and losing in overtime. Auerbach’s response was to formally announce Russell as his successor, and the Celtics suddenly seized the momentum with three straight wins. The Lakers pushed back to force Game 7, which Russell dominated with 32 rebounds and an inspirational defensive effort.
1965: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-1
Team records: Celtics: 62-18 under Red Auerbach; Lakers: 49-31 under Fred Schaus
About the series: The Celtics, who set a league record with 62 wins, got their biggest scare from the .500 Sixers, who pushed the Eastern Division finals to seven games. The NBA Finals were devoid of drama, with the Lakers missing an injured Baylor. It started with a 32-point romp in Game 1 at the Garden and concluded a week later with a 33-point win in the same building.
1964: Celtics beat Warriors 4-1
Team records: Celtics: 59-21 under Red Auerbach; Warriors: 48-32 under Alex Hannum
About the series: The Celtics’ lone loss in the series came on the road, and lost just two games in two playoff series against Cincinnati and San Francisco. During the season, the Celtics relied on defensive dynamos KC Jones and Bill Russell, who led the league in rebounds, to fill Bob Cousy’s shoes after his retirement in 1963. Sixth man John Havlicek led the team in scoring with 19.9 points per game, as the Celtics had five players averaging more than 10 points per game and three more over eight.
1963: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 58-22 under Red Auerbach; Lakers: 53-27 under Fred Schaus
About the series: Bob Cousy’s retirement party doubled as a Celtic coronation for the fifth straight spring. The series tilted irreversibly in Boston’s favor with a 108-105 victory in Game 4 in Los Angeles. The Lakers extended their season a few more days with a road win in Game 5, but Cousy had the honor of dribbling out the clincher at the LA Sports Arena.
1962: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-3
Team records: Celtics: 60-20 under Red Auerbach; Lakers: 54-26 under Fred Schaus
About the series: The addition of Jerry West helped the Lakers push the rematch to seven games, and had Frank Selvy not missed an open jumper in the final seconds of regulation in Game 7, the Celtics wouldn’t have won their fourth straight championship. Boston was the better team regardless, winning Games 1, 4, and 6 by an average of 13.3 points; Los Angeles took Games 2, 3, and 5 by an average of 4.7 points.
1961: Celtics beat Hawks, 4-1
Team records: Celtics: 57-22 under Red Auerbach; Hawks: 51-28 under Paul Seymour
About the series: The Hawks did not provide the same level of competition as in the previous season. The Celtics, averaging 121 points in their four wins, moved to their third straight title in five games.
1960: Celtics beat Hawks, 4-3
Team records: Celtics: 59-16 under Red Auerbach; Hawks: 46-29 under Ed Macauley
About the series: The Celtics and Hawks traded wins in this seven-game series. But in Game 7 in Boston, Bill Russell starred while scoring 22 points and grabbing a stunning 35 rebounds, giving the Celtics their first back-to-back titles.
1959: Celtics beat Lakers, 4-0
Team records: Celtics: 52-20 under Red Auerbach; Lakers: 33-39 under John Kundla
About the series: The Lakers’ penultimate season in Minneapolis ended with a surprise Finals appearance after an upset of defending champ St. Louis in the West finals. The Celtics’ balance offset the brilliance of Lakers rookie star Elgin Baylor, and Bill Russell had three 30-rebound games as Boston notched the first sweep in Finals history — a clear sign the Celtics were about to usurp the Lakers as the league’s marquee franchise.
1958: Hawks beat Celtics, 4-2
Team records: Celtics: 49-23 under Red Auerbach; Hawks: 41-31 under Alex Hannum
About the series: The Celtics and Hawks were tied 2-2 after four games, with the teams having traded wins on each others’ home courts. But the Hawks stole Game 5 102-100 in Boston and then took the title with a 110-109 win back home in St. Louis. Their wins, by a cumulative 3 points in those two games, gave St. Louis its only series win against the Celtics in four NBA Finals meetings.
1957: Celtics beat Hawks, 4-3
Team records: Celtics: 44-28 under Red Auerbach; Hawks: 34-38 under Red Holzman, Slater Martin, and Alex Hannum
About the series: The Celtics’ 11th NBA season marked the beginning of a sports dynasty. Led by Red Auerbach, the green began a string of 11 championships in 13 years. Auerbach traded for the draft rights of a center named Bill Russell, and chose Holy Cross’s Tommy Heinsohn, who would become Rookie of the Year in 1956-57. In the Finals, Game 7 against the St. Louis Hawks went into double overtime, with the Celtics coming out on top, 125-123. Bob Cousy was named the league MVP, while All-NBA first teamer Bill Sharman led the league-best Celtics (44-28), averaging 21.1 points per game.