Celtics hit milestone not reached since Larry Bird era in Clippers win

Darren Hartwell
NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics needed their best players to be at their best Thursday night.

Mission accomplished.

The Celtics defeated the talented Los Angeles Clippers 141-133 in double overtime thanks to an exceptional effort from their starting five, who combined to score 122 points -- or 86.5 percent of Boston's total.

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When is the last time the Celtics' starting five scored 120 points or more? You have to go back to the late 1980s, when Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were running the show.

Four of the five Celtics players in that Feb. 10, 1988, lineup are in the Basketball Hall of Fame, with Danny Ainge as the lone exception. Not a bad group to compare yourself to (although the 1987-88 Celtics lost to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals).

Celtics fans will be pleased to know that Jayson Tatum matched Bird with 39 points, while Marcus Smart went off for 31 and Gordon Hayward chipped in 21.

Tatum certainly channeled his inner Bird on Thursday night, hitting several clutch shots and out-dueling Clippers star Kawhi Leonard to help carry the Celtics to victory.

What makes Boston's feat more impressive is that its starting five didn't include Jaylen Brown, who is the Celtics' third-leading scorer at 20.2 points per game.

But the Celtics' effort without Brown is further proof they have a wealth of quality offensive options -- they're the only team in the NBA with three players averaging 20-plus points per game -- that could make them very dangerous come playoff time.

This unit is hardly on the level of Bird, McHale, Parish, Dennis Johnson and the 1980s Celtics, but they belonged the same breath as that legendary squad for one night, at least.

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Celtics hit milestone not reached since Larry Bird era in Clippers win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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