Irish Coffee: Top 10 opening-night Celtics efforts
|11.01.11 at 1:24 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
It’s a sad day for basketball fans. The NBA was supposed to debut on Tuesday night with back-to-back nationally televised games between the Bulls and defending world champion Mavericks, followed by the Thunder and Lakers in the nightcap. Then, the Celtics were slated to host the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Instead, Monday represents the day the NBA begins robbing its fans of professional basketball, so now is as good a time as any to remind everyone what we could be missing. Without further ado, we present the Top 10 opening-night performances of the past 25 years by Celtics (Rule No. 1: no repeats).
10. Nov. 3, 1995: The Dino Radja era was a brief but legendary time in Celtics lore. How he didn’t crack the 1996 All-Star game roster is beyond me, considering the Eastern Conference squad featured Terrell Brandon. Radja averaged 19.7 points (50 FG%), 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 57.2 cigarettes a night that season, beginning with 18 points (9-12 FG), 11 rebounds and four blocks in a 101-100 loss to the Bucks in the opener.
9. Nov. 3, 1989: All I really remember about John Bagley is my father calling him “Bag Lady” and how appropriate the nickname seemed, even to a 9-year-old. Never in my wildest imagination did I think Bagley would have produced 13 points and 16 assists on the same night in a Celtics uniform. Believe it or not, he did, in a 127-114 opening-night victory against the Bucks no less.
8. Oct. 2, 2005: To start the second season of Doc Rivers‘ coaching tenure, Delonte West shone brightest among the C’s young guns, compiling 14 points, nine assists, nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals as all five starters reached double digits (Paul Pierce 30, Ricky Davis 27, Mark Blount 19, Raef LaFrentz 14) in a 114-100 win over the Knicks. Unfortunately, the night marked the onset of a two-year playoff absence.
7. Nov. 2, 1999: In just 17 minutes off the bench, Walter McCarty scored 20 points on perfect 6-for-6 shooting from 3-point range in a 103-90 victory against the Raptors. There’s no telling how many times Tommy Heinsohn screamed “I love Waltah!” that night in Toronto.
6. Nov. 2, 1990: Plenty of signs that Reggie Lewis would carry the torch for the Celtics into the 1990s materialized in his first three seasons, and this night was no different. Lewis began his first season as a full-time starter in fine fashion, collecting 32 points (13-18 FG), five assists, four rebounds and three blocks in a 125-101 destruction of the Cavaliers. Of course, Larry Bird‘s 18 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds didn’t hurt.
5. Nov. 4, 1988: An aging Celtics core (sound familiar?) made a statement in a 122-115 overtime victory against the Knicks on opening night of the 1988 season, and the oldest of the bunch spoke loudest. A 35-year-old Robert Parish amassed 21 points, 22 rebounds and three blocks to lead the charge. Kevin McHale and Bird combined for 54 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists to seal the deal.
4. October 31, 1997: In his sophomore season with the Celtics, a 21-year-old Antoine Walker (31 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 blocks, 2 assists) outperformed Michael Jordan (30 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) as the C’s upset the Bulls, 92-85, before MJ & Co. rolled to their sixth NBA title in eight seasons.
3. Nov. 2, 2007: In his Celtics debut, Kevin Garnett set the tone for the 2008 NBA title run with 22 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks in a 103-83 win over the Wizards.
2. Nov. 25, 1985: Believe it or not, the greatest team in NBA history started the season 0-1, by no fault of Bird‘s; the Legend nearly produced a quadruple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 8 steals) in a 113-109 overtime loss to a sub-.500 Nets team. Bird almost had triple-doubles in two other season openers over the next five seasons (1987: 28 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists; 1990: 18 points, 15 assists, 9 rebounds).
1. Nov. 1, 2000: Not two months earlier, Pierce got stabbed 11 times in the face, neck and back at Boston’s Buzz Club, but that didn’t stop him from dropping 28 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals in the first of 82 starts that season, a 103-83 blowout of the Pistons. Walker added 33 points, 12 boards and four assists. The Truth has had other great opening-night efforts (2004: 35 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists; 2006: 29 points, 19 rebounds, 4 assists), but the circumstances around this one make it truly special.
PIERCE, GARNETT PRACTICE TOGETHER
Rather than preparing for opening night at the Garden on Wednesday, Pierce and Garnett are playing pickup basketball games with — of all people — Lakers big man Pau Gasol, among others. Here’s what Tyson Chandler, sure to be one of the next free-agency period’s hottest targets, told ESPN.com in a recent interview:
“I’ve been working out in the Valley,” said Chandler, who lives in Southern California during the offseason. “The other day, myself, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ricky Rubio, Danny Granger, the Gasol brothers and a couple of young draft picks were playing pickup in L.A.
“I wish I had a few more of my teammates there to take on those Celtics.”
“Or he could just become one of those Celtics teammates,” said every C’s fan everywhere ever. Just saying.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)