A Look Back at Boston's Most Memorable Game 7 Performances
BOSTON – This is what it’s all about. Win and move on, or lose and go home.
That’s the definition of a Game 7, a scenario with which the Boston Celtics are all too familiar.
Boston has participated in 32 Game 7s in its history and owns 23-9 record overall in those contests. Eleven of those deciding games have been played since 2000, during which the Celtics went 6-5.
This Celtics team has quite a bit of experience in win-or-go-home contests. Seven of the team’s players have been involved with a Game 7, including all five starters. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart lead the way in that department with three such appearances.
With all of this information on hand, what better way to look forward to tonight’s impending matchup than to look back at some of the top Celtics performances from previous Game 7s? Enjoy a brief look into history that the C’s will hopefully add to tonight.
Kelly Olynyk – 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Washington
Kelly Olynyk will never have the same cachet as the other names on this list, but he provided Boston with one of the most unexpected and downright necessary Game 7 performances in the franchise’s history.
Back in 2017, the overachieving Celtics were in a back-and-forth series with the up-and-coming Wizards. During the final game, Olynyk came off the bench and went nuts, pouring in 26 points – 21 more than all of Washington’s reserves combined.
The craziest piece of this puzzle is that Olynyk scored 12 of his points during the fourth quarter alone to lead Boston to the 115-105 victory.
Paul Pierce – 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Cleveland
Paul Pierce scored 41 points during this game, and Boston needed every one of them to overcome an incredible performance from 23-year-old LeBron James. James, who has gone on to become arguably the top basketball player in the history of the game, totaled 45 points, six assists and five rebounds. Pierce answered him with 41 points, five assists and four rebounds while shooting 11-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Oh, and did we mention that the final score of this game was 97-92? That means Pierce scored 42.3 percent of Boston’s points and accounted for 52.6 percent of the team’s points when his assists are included.
Pierce went on to ride this wave to the NBA Finals, where he led the C’s to the title and won the Finals MVP award.
Larry Bird/Kevin McHale – 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Atlanta
Some call this the best playoff game that was ever played thanks to the battle between Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins.
Bird scored 34 points overall, including 20 during the fourth quarter of Boston’s 118-116 win. Wilkins, meanwhile, scored 47 during the game including 12 during the fourth quarter. It was Bird’s final basket of the game that loomed most critical, as he drove past Wilkins for a driving layup with 26 seconds left to push Boston ahead by five. The basket prompted play-by-play voice Brent Musburger to comment, “You are watching what greatness is all about.”
We can’t forget Kevin McHale in this section! He was right there with Bird on the scoreboard with 33 points of his own on 10-for-14 shooting. McHale also hauled in 13 rebounds to lead all players.
Cedric Maxwell – 1984 NBA Finals vs. Los Angeles
Cedric Maxwell won the 1981 NBA Finals MVP award, and he made a case for the 1984 award during this contest.
Max, as he’s known throughout Boston, led the Celtics in minutes played (43), points scored (24), assists dished (eight), and free throws made (14) and attempted (18), all while adding in eight rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Los Angeles had no answers for his versatile play, which led to his constant trips to the line. Maxwell’s 14 made free throws fell just four shy of LA’s team total of 18.
We must serve our readers a reminder after highlighting that Maxwell led the C’s in so many different categories. The reminder is that he was playing on a team that was led by three future Hall of Famers in Bird, McHale and Robert Parish, yet he was the star of this game.
John Havlicek/Sam Jones – 1969 NBA Finals vs. Los Angeles
Another Game 7, another win over the Lakers. How sweet it is to be a Celtics fan.
John Havlicek and Sam Jones combined for 50 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists during this game to answer Jerry West’s incredible 42-point, 13-rebound, 12-assist triple-double. Havlicek led the way for Boston with 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Jones tallied 24 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
This contest, which Boston won by a count of 108-106, doubled as quite the send-off to both Jones and Bill Russell, who each retired after the season. It also capped what is considered by many to be the most dominant stretch in sports history, as it was Boston’s ninth title in 10 years of the 1960s.
Tommy Heinsohn – 1957 NBA Finals vs St. Louis
Remember Boston’s first-ever NBA championship? Tommy Heinsohn certainly does, because he led the Celtics straight to it.
Heinsohn, who won the Rookie of the Year award in 1957, was magnificent in the series-clincher, scoring 37 points on 17-for-33 shooting to go along with 23 rebounds. Those numbers far surpassed his regular-season averages of 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds.
Heinsohn’s performance was critical to Boston’s ability to overcome an outstanding performance from St. Louis’ Bob Pettit, who tallied 39 points and 19 rebounds of his own during the contest.
This game went down to the wire, with Boston fending off the Hawks in double-overtime for a 125-123 victory.