This is a picture of Larry Bird beside the words: Re-watching the 1986 Boston Celtics

Re-Watching the 1986 Boston Celtics 2

The 1986 Boston Celtics are considered one of the best basketball teams in the history of the NBA. I was a kid when they played. I am re-watching their games to see what I think as an adult. This was a regular season game between the Hawks and the Celtics in January of 1986.

Game Details

Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks 1/18/86 at the Omni Arena in Atlanta

Box Score Available here.

Final Score: Celtics 125 – Hawks 122

Coaches: Mike Fratello vs K.C. Jones

Pre-Game Thoughts

As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you

Celts come in 29-8. The Hawks were 29-16.

The Omni arena had a sellout. It was their earliest sell out ever and biggest crowd ever – the arena had added seats and the C’s filled them up. 

Celts starters: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge.

Hawks starters: Dominique Wilkins, Tree Rollins, Kevin Willis, Doc Rivers and Randy Wittman. 

The Hawks had a nice frontcourt but, on paper, it’s an ugly mismatch vs the Celtics frontline, which is probably the best in the history of the game. C’s frontcourt finished with 83!!! 

Cousy talking about free throw shooting difference: 68% Hawks vs 85% for C’s.

Celtics had won all four previous matchups between the teams that season. 

Gil Santos had lunch with McHale – there were questions on if he’d play because of an injury but he expected to play. 

Broadcast Thoughts

As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you

Gil Santos and Bob Cousy are the announcers. The game was aired on WLVI Sports – Channel 56. I remember watching C’s games on 56. I remember channel 38 more though. Am I wrong? 

I have no memory of Gil Santos calling Celtics games. I listened to him and Gino Cappelletti call Pats games for years. He is a real pro. I remember Cousy as the color guy. I love him. He was critical of both teams and would try to teach the game. 

Gil read an ad for Benson airing on Channel 56. I watched Benson! 

Cousy: “Dominique said Bird may not be the quickest guy in the league but he sure can shoot” Cousy then points out that Bird is the only forward in the top ten in the league in steals and says he must be quick enough. Then says “Maybe he’s not sure what number Bird is”. 

Cousy opened after that timeout by saying something similar publicly to what he said privately during the break about lackadaisical defense from the C’s. Gotta respect that authenticity. I always loved that about Cooz as the C’s announcer. He kept it real. 

Gil and Cousy wore unbelievable green blazers. It’s straight out of the Masters.

No score or clock on the screen. You never know the score or time left. It’s tough for a modern fan used to knowing at all times. Gil announces it a lot in his defense. 

No commercials: SAD. That was the best part of the first game I re-watched. You could listen to the announcers talk during the breaks. 

Cousy on Fratello quickly stopping a near-fight: “When you’re twenty points down, you might say ‘Let the boys fight’ but not when you’re up 20.”

Cousy: “Haven’t seen Tree Rollins this active since high school”. 

Santos about Tree Rollins: “Offensively, it’s like he doesn’t exist”. LOL. 

Game Thoughts

As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you

The game was back and forth early. Bird hit a couple threes while Randy Wittman missed three shots in a row. 

There was little defense early. 

Gil says Atlanta is slowing down the pace (which is not what I’m seeing) and Cousy agrees that is the way to beat the C’s – you can’t run with them. 

There were only two refs back then. 

It’s so funny for a modern fan to see guys take two quick dribbles inside the three point line then pull up. Third shot like that so far early. You’d be pulled for that in today’s game. That is considered the worst shot in the game now!

Similarly weird to see such casual defense vs threes. Meanwhile the lane was always completely packed with guys. Spacing is so different today. Back then, they’d give you the three but dare you to drive! 

Bird scored 8 of the first 14 points for the C’s. 

C’s passing in the low post was so good. Bird, Parrish, McHale all willing and talented passers. 

Let’s Hear it for the Boy playing during timeout. You ca ould listen to Cousy and Gil talk: Santos was impressed with the Hawks game so far. Not sure what he was seeing. Game seemed sloppy to me. 

Bird hits another three. He uses the three to drive on the defender. He’s the only player on the floor using the three point shot to his advantage.

C’s turning it over left and right: 6 with a lot of time left in 1st. 

Wilkins has 14. Hawks on 8 point turn to lead 24 -16. 

Gil during 2nd commercial: “Celtics are being very careless with the ball”. 

Cousy “They’re also not digging in defensively”. 

The Hawks mascot (a Hawk) is dancing on roller skates during timeouts. 

Scott Wedman and Bill Walton in for Bird and Parish. John Koncack in for Hawks. 

McHale started really cold. Beautiful up and under vs Willis but missed the bunny. His post moves were crazy and even when he missed. 

As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you

Spud Webb checks in late in the 1st. Cousy mentions a standing O he got the week before at the Boston Garden. He hit a quarter-ending runner over two. 

34-25 Hawks at the end of 1. Wilkins with 14. 

Break talk: Santos says he doesn’t think the Hawks can continue their hot shooting. Cousy says C’s have been careless. 

The 1986 C’s really were a noticeably white team: David Thirdklll played 3 minutes. He was the only non-white sub. 11 guys played. 3 were non-white. I’m not making some political or cultural point here. But I know why some people thought of the ‘86 C’s as the white team: they mostly were in a league that mostly wasn’t. 

Spud Webb pushed the ball and is hard to defend in the open court. 

The Hawks have a pretty deep team: Cliff Levingston, Spud Webb, Eddie Johnson, Antoine Carr off the bench. 

The Hawks ran away with it in the 2nd quarter. K.C. Jones comes out of a timeout with all subs including David Thirdkill because of the lackluster effort of the team so far. 

Hawks up 19 with 4 minutes to go in first half. 

Danny reached for the ball on an outlet pass and poked Doc hard in the eye. Doc went down hard and pounded the ground. Ainge seemed apologetic. Ainge and Doc are future championship partners with the C’s off the court. 

Doc looked like a boxer with a hugely swollen eye. He missed both free throws then came out of the game. 

McHale having a tough first half: Just got blocked by Tree Rollins. 

Just a god-awful first half for the C’s. Down 22 with a couple to go. 

Eddie Johnson and Dennis Johnson got into a pushing match. Teams gather

Dominique is so athletic. Just driving toward the hoop and bailing himself out by being an athletic freak. 

C’s look like they were out late in Atlanta the night before: Eddie Johnson just pushed the ball straight by the whole team for an easy transition hoop to put the Hawks up by 23 late in the first half. 

Standing ovation at the Omni at the half: Hawks 70 Celts 48. 

Cousy: “This is a good old fashioned beating up to this point”. Discusses Atlanta guarding McHale with a center but focuses mostly on the C’s lack of intensity.  You remember the playoffs but forget that every team has ups and downs. Nobody plays hard in every half of the whole season. 

Cousy interviewed Spud Webb for the halftime show. Cousy talks about getting letters when he was close to the smallest guy in the league from kids. Spud is so monotone it’s tough to listen to him. 

Cousy feeds him the idea of being quicker than other players. Cousy says he used to call for help immediately from Bill Russell when bigger guys tried to post him. Spud Webb is a remarkably boring interview. 

Half time behind the scenes: Gil brings up Hawks were up 20 last game and gave up nearly 20 straight.

You might be wondering: How did the C’s come back from 22 down at the half to win this thing? Me too! These old games get taken down from Youtube left and right. I got distracted by my kids and wrote down when to re-start. By the time I came back, the video was gone! 

Bird finished with 42 points but 7 turnovers. The starting frontcourt for the C’s finished with 83 total! Must have been a fun second half for C’s fans!

Check Out the Other C’s Games I’ve Re-Watched

Only 1 so far: Check out the C’s vs Charles Barkley, Moses Malone and Dr. J here.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Adapted from: “Bernard Cardinal Law, Larry Bird and Mayor Raymond L. Flynn” by Boston City Archives is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.