Something needed to be done. Red Auerbach had always been a fan of Bill Walton and he had also not forgotten what happened at the end of the '83 season when it seemed like some players, in particular Cedric Maxwell, quit playing for (then coach) Bill Fitch which resulted in the C's getting swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. So, when Auerbach found that he had a chance to aquire Walton from the Clippers he killed two birds with one stone by getting the big redhead and paying back Maxwell by shipping him off to basketball purgatory in return.
The stage was now set for one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. The revamped Celtics with a rejuvenated Walton coming off the bench went 67-15 in the regular season while losing only one game at home all year. Bird had what could arguably be called his best season as he and Walton tore up defenders with an array of mind-blowing pinpoint passes. There was often laughter on the floor and a look on the faces of the players that said "Is this really happening?". Yes it was.
The Celtics lost only one playoff game (in the second round to the Hawks) on their way to their third straight Finals appearance. The much hoped-for rematch with the Lakers, however, never occurred as LA was eliminated by the Houston Rockets and their "Twin Tower" combination of Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwan. No matter, the Celtics dispatched the Rockets in six games and claimed their third title of the Bird era. Bird won his third straight MVP award and Bill Walton, who'd spent much of the last 10 years sitting injured on various benches, made it through the entire year without hurting himself and won 6th Man of the Year.
Here are the Celtics and the incomparable Larry Bird picking apart the Rockets in game 6 to win the 1986 NBA Championship.
All of the main pieces were under contract to return for the '87 season and the Celtics had the 2nd pick in the upcoming NBA draft as well. It seemed that Celtics fans were in for 5-10 more years of championship basketball. But the '86 team, as well as being perhaps the greatest basketball team ever assembled, was also the last Celtic team that would raise a banner for the next 22 years. I'll get to the '87 season and the collapse of the dynasty in a future post.