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On This Date in Sports June 8, 1986: Sweet 16

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

With a 114-97 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the Boston Garden, the Boston Celtics capture their 16th NBA Championship. It is the Celtics' third title of the decade and the second in three years. Larry Bird is named NBA Finals MVP as Boston completes a dominant 50-1 season on their home floor. It is the best home record in NBA history. 

In 1985, the Los Angeles Lakers ended the Celtics curse, beating their archrivals in the NBA Finals for the first time after Boston won the previous eight meetings with the championship on the line, including a bitter seven-game series in 1984. The Lakers benefited greatly from a switch from traditional 2-2-1-1-1 format to a 2-3-2 format, as the Celtics were especially dominant on their home floor at the time. 

That dominance was on full display in the 1985/86 season, as the Celtics won 40 of 41 regular-season games on the parquet floor of the Boston Garden. Under coach K.C. Jones, the Celtics had one of their finest seasons, posting a record of 67-15 as Larry Bird joined Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the third player to win the NBA MVP award in three consecutive seasons. The Celtics also benefited from a rejuvenated Bill Walton, who won the sixth man award as he was healthy for the first time in years. The Celtics rolled to the NBA Finals, sweeping the Chicago Bulls despite a 63-point game by Michael Jordan in the first round. They needed five games to hunt down the Atlanta Hawks as they swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Everybody anticipated a third straight showdown between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the NBA Finals for the Los Angeles Lakers. Again the Lakers dominated in the West, posting a record of 62-20 for Pat Riley. The Lakers swept the San Antonio Spurs and beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games. However, trying to complete the Texas trifecta, the Lakers were stunned by the Houston Rockets in five games in the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets won the series on a dramatic last-second shot by Ralph Sampson. Sampson teamed with Hakeem Olajuwon to form the "Twin Towers" as the Rockets posted a record of 51-31 for Bill Fitch. Houston swept the Sacramento Kings in the playoffs and beat the Denver Nuggets in six to reach the Western Conference Finals before their upset in Los Angeles.


The Celtics asserted their home court dominance in Game 1, winning 112-100. Hakeem Olajuwon kept Houston in the game, with 33 points to lead all scorers. However, the Celtis' big three all topped 20 points, with Robert Parish scoring 23 points, while Larry Bird and Kevin McHale each scored 21, with Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge leading a third quarter spurt and scoring 19 and 18, respectively. The Celtics dominated Game 2, winning 117-95, as Bird scored 31 points to lead all scorers. 

The Rockets went home to the Summitt on a wing and a prayer, hoping to get back in the series. Rallying from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Houston won 106-104 as Ralph Sampson had 24 points and 22 rebounds, while Olajuwon scored 23, with Robert Reid adding 20 points off the bench. Game 4 was close throughout, as the Celtics defense clamped down in the fourth quarter, with Boston taking a 3-1 series lead, with a 106-103 win. The Rockets recorded a 111-96 win in Game 5, as the Celtics seemed content to go home to win the championship in front of the home fans at the Boston Garden. 

Game 6 at the Boston Garden was a coronation as the Celtics dominated from the start, leading by as much as 30 points, before cruising to a 114-97 as Larry Bird and Kevin McHale each scored 29 to lead all scorers. It was the 16th Championship for the Celtics and legend Red Auerbach, who had been the team's president since stepping down as coach in 1966. Auerbach called the 1986 Celtics the best team he had ever seen. The Celtics would fall to the Lakers in 1987 before going into a two-decade dry spell.