Scott Cavanagh
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Celtics' 60th Raises Memories of Bird Era

Thursday, April 3, 2008 

By Scott Cavanagh
The Boston Celtics picked up their NBA-best 60th win last night. The victory is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it sets a league record for biggest one season turnaround.  It's also the first time any Eastern Conference team has won 60 in a decade and the first time that the storied Boston franchise has won as many as 50 games since the retirement of Larry Bird 16 years ago. They last won 60 (67 to be exact) in the championship season of 1986.

The sudden rise from 24-win doormat to title favorite can be directly attributed to the off-season acquisition of star forward Kevin Garnett, whose arrival immediately changed the fortunes of the Green and White and made basketball matter again in Beantown. Ironically, it was the arrival of Bird from Indiana State in 1980 that had produced the league's previously largest 60-win turnaround. That year, the rookie forward led a team of castoffs and veterans that had won just 29 games in '79 to a league-best 61 wins and the conference finals.

With 60 already under their belt and seven more games to play, the 2008 Celtics will certainly win more games than the 1980 model and are expecting bigger things than the conference finals, but they will be hard-pressed to come near the amazing run of excellence produced during the Bird era.

Following up Bird's 61-win rookie campaign with a 64-win championship season in '81, the Celtics would AVERAGE 63 wins a year for the next six seasons. In Bird's first seven seasons, the Celtics won sixty or more games six times. In his first nine seasons, the Celtics won eight division titles, reached the conference finals eight times, the league finals five times and won three championships--all while playing in the same era as the Dr. J/Moses Malone Sixers and the Showtime Lakers. In 12 seasons (he sat out all but six games of the 1988-89 season) the Bird-led Celtics averaged 61 wins every year.

Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have produced an incredible regular season, but as the numbers and banners show, they have a long way to go to become real Boston legends. Don't even get me started on Bill Russell.

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