Tag Archives: 86 finals

Notes on the ’86 Finals

Best Bird Celtics Team

We bought a treadmill earlier this year. Treadmills were one of the only reasons we paid for a gym membership. With the snow and general drudgery, it’s nearly impossible to run year round in New Englad. When the (admittedly) low rent gym we belonged to continued to let equipment wear out or remain broken, there seemed little incentive to renew. So we just bought our own. A pretty low rent, budget model itself, but we only plan to use it for these extreme winter months (which seem never ending this year). And we would actually fix it if it broke.

After the first session of jogging and staring at the side of our old yellow refrigerator, it became clear a better distraction was necessary to get through the hamster sessions. There was no cable in the basement, but we did have a DVD player and an old dorm television.

The rather stunning selection of sports DVDs at the library provided ample distraction and the whole point of this post (two long paragraphs later). Here are some random notes after watching a number of 1986 NBA Finals games.

Tommy Heinsohn
This one might not make sense to non-Celtics fans, but holy crap. Actual analysis. Balanced analysis. Intelligent and articulate comments. I can actually see how Tommy was a coach now. I much prefer this Tommy to the homer-ism and caricature he’s become now as the part time C’s color man.

Less graphics on screen at once for better or worse
Some clues in the broadcast lead me to believe that this one was more due to the feed they used for the DVDs than the actual production of the telecast. Still, at first, I found the clutter free screen refreshing, but I soon started to miss some of the information 21st century viewers are accustomed to seeing. Not the constant ticker across the bottom or big ESPN logo, but at the very least having the score visible along with the game and shot clocks.

Less time just dribbling
Not that the shot clock was all the necessary. There were only a handful of occasions were the shot clock ran down to single digits, never mind hit zero. While each team worked to get their players the ball in plum post spots, there seemed to be a lot less clear outs and dribble isolation. At times it felt like a college game with each point guard actually calling out plays each time up the floor.

Less threes
A lot, lot, lot less three pointers taken. Dick Stockton almost sounded shocked when someone had the audacity (usually Bird) to actually shoot one. I’m not sure the Rockets even took one. The rule was six seasons old by this point. I was surprised at the lack of outside shooting.

It's Fantastic

Less talking to the refs
This likely had to do with the number of available cameras because I’m sure there was woofing going on. DJ gets annoyed or frustrated a few times on camera, but it seemed more the exception than the rule today where every drive results in hand gestures and incredulous facial expressions if a whistle blows (or doesn’t blow).

More coordinated fast breaks
Again, this felt more like a college mentality with each guy filling a lane and a concentrated effort to push the ball off crisp outlet passes (this becomes more evident watching the Celtic/Lakers DVDs). Much more evident with the Rockets. The Celtics had little interest in fast breaking.

Less athletic
The game always look slower on television, but I’m pretty sure I’m not imagining this one. The hyper-tuned athlete we know today was a definite exception in the league in the mid-eighties. With Jordan’s emergence (this was the year he went for 63 against the Celts in the first round) this was probably the start of a transition period, but the game seemed more sedate and played much more below the rim. Maybe it was just the constricting shorts.