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Dan Shaughnessy

Road to glory

These trips sealed the deal

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / June 15, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — The Celtics love the road. Then and now.

The 2009-10 Green were rather ordinary at home (24-17), but compiled the second-best road record in the NBA (26-15, topped only by Dallas) during the regular season. In the playoffs, the Celtics are an impressive 6-4 away from home, including two wins in both Cleveland and Orlando.

Beating the other guys in their own gym demoralizes the home team, which is exactly what the Celtics did at Staples Center in Game 2 of these Finals. Now the Celtics need one more road victory to win the franchise’s 18th championship.

“There’s nothing like winning a championship on the road,’’ said Cedric Maxwell, MVP of the 1981 Finals. “You get to shut up the home crowd and have your own little celebration. You get to party with your teammates and you have a great flight home. Then you get to celebrate all over again with your own fans.’’

Winning championships away from Causeway Street is a Celtic specialty. Seven of the Celtics’ 17 crowns were taken on enemy hardwood — the last one 29 years ago, when Maxwell dropped the hammer on the Rockets.

Here’s a clip and save guide to Celtics road clinchers in the NBA Finals:

■1959 — Game 4 vs. Lakers at the Minneapolis Auditorium. This was the second championship for Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, the first of eight straight. It was the first 4-0 sweep in Finals history. “That was a terrible building they had,’’ remembered Tommy Heinsohn. “The fans were great, but there was a balcony hanging over the court and it was hard to shoot from the corners. It was a big deal for us to sweep them.’’ Heinsohn, Jim Loscutoff, and K.C. Jones carried Red off the court in the land of 10,000 lakes.

■1963 — Game 6 vs. Lakers at Los Angeles Sports Arena. This was in the days when Doris Day was the Lakers’ A-list fan. The Sports Arena’s finest hour was the 1960 Democratic National Convention when Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy bagged the nomination. The ’63 NBA finale is best remembered as Bob Cousy’s last game. Cooz sprained his left ankle as the Celtics built a 14-point lead. The Lakers cut the margin to 1 late in the game and Cooz returned to dribble out the clock. Cousy heaved the ball into the rafters at the buzzer, but there was no champagne in the locker room. Kentucky colonel Frank Ramsey brought a bottle of bourbon aboard the flight home.

■1968 — Game 6 vs. Lakers at the Los Angeles Forum — Doris Day never made it to the Forum; she didn’t want to pay for her seats when the Lakers left the Sports Arena for Inglewood. John Havlicek played all but two minutes of this series and scored 40 in the clincher. Bailey Howell led the team in prayer after the final game and Wayne Embry fell asleep in the hallway of the Los Angeles hotel after celebrating all night.

■1969 — Game 7 vs. Lakers at the Los Angeles Forum. The ultimate final. The infamous “balloon’’ game. A fourth-place Celtic team on its last legs beat the Lakers yet again with Russell and Sam Jones finishing their careers in a Game 7 victory over Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor. It was effectively over when the Celtics got wind of the postgame celebration planned by Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke. There were balloons waiting to be released from the Forum ceiling after the Lakers won. Auerbach was particularly gleeful, taunted the Lakers on national television, and wore his 1969 ring the rest of his life.

■1974 — Game 7 vs. Bucks at the Mecca in Milwaukee. Dave Cowens scored 28 and had 14 rebounds and held Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scoreless for 18 minutes. The game was played early on Sunday afternoon and the Celtics were back in Boston before 8 p.m. (after changing planes in Chicago en route to the Hub). Cowens went out on the town, visiting many friends, and woke up on a park bench in the Public Garden. Monday morning commuters could not believe their eyes. Imagine seeing a champagne-soaked Big Baby snoring on a bench near Park Street station tomorrow morning.

■1976 — Game 6 at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum (a.k.a. The Madhouse on McDowell Street). Everyone was still spent after the Celtics’ triple-overtime victory at the Garden two nights earlier. It was 100 degrees on the streets of Phoenix and the Arizona crowd had nothing. Charlie Scott led the Celtics with 25 points — he was the only rested player because he’d fouled out early in the Game 5 marathon.

■1981 — Game 6 at the Summit in Houston. In the winner’s locker room, young Larry Bird (27 points in the clincher) took a cigar from Auerbach, put it in his mouth, and flashed the “V’’ sign for victory. Hours later, partying at their downtown hotel in Houston, Bird tossed cheeseballs into the open mouth of Rick Robey after Robey fell asleep.

Here we are 29 years later and the Celtics have a chance to do it again on the road, starting tonight in Game 6 at Staples Center.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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