Sam Jones (# 24) combined with K.C. Jones to form a strong backcourt after Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman retired.
At number three, the 1964-’65 Boston Celtics were able to withstand the retirements of Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman to register the most victories in a single season (62) and then capture their seventh consecutive championship. The Celtics finished 62-18 and they only received one stiff test throughout the season.
The Celtics replaced Cousy and Sharman with K.C. Jones and Sam Jones. Defense became the calling card for this backcourt tandem with K.C. Jones as a lockdown defender who used pressure defense and a cautious fast break approach. Sam Jones was a solid defender, but he was more of a scorer than K.C. Jones. The Celtics led the league in points allowed (104.5). They remained among the best at scoring finishing as the third best team (112.8 points per game).
Bill Russell filled the interior with his exceptional defensive ability while also blocking shots to create transition baskets. Tommy Heinsohn started at power forward and he was the scorer inside who used a quick shot to neutralize his opponents. John Havlicek’s versatility was unmatched off the bench. He was a super sub who averaged 18.3 points per game as the Sixth Man. Sam Jones (25.9 points per game) was fourth in the league in scoring trailing Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Oscar Robertson.
The Celtics’ bench consisted of Havilcek, forward Willie Naulls, guard Larry Sigfried, and backup center John Thompson. These four reserves played heavy minutes because the Celtics were blowing away their competition. Every sub put in at least 10 minutes per game. Naulls scored 10.5 points in 20.6 minutes off the pine.
Six players averaged double figures in points. Even though K.C. Jones scored just 8.3 points, he accumulated 5.6 assists per game. Russell was such a good passer that he posted 5.3 assists. He also posted 24.1 rebounds per game.
Overall, the Celtics had six (Russell, Heinsohn, Havlicek, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, and Tom “Satch” Sanders) future Hall of Famers.
Prior to the start of the 1964- ’65 season, then-Celtics owner Walter Brown passed away. Thus, the organization dedicated the year to their beloved owner. The team did not disappoint as they jumped out to an 11-0 record. They had 14 more wins than the Eastern Division runner-up (Cincinnati Royals) and the Western Division leader (Los Angeles Lakers).
The Celtics went on winning streaks of 16, 11, 7, and 4. Meanwhile, they only lost three straight games on one occasion from March 3rd through the 6th when they were defeated by the Lakers, Baltimore Bullets, and Philadelphia 76ers. There was only one other time when the Celtics lost consecutive contests.
Despite running away with their Division during the season, the Celtics struggled against the 76ers. The 76ers executed a midseason trade with the San Francisco Warriors for Chamberlain. They were able to go on a run in the second half and got by the Royals in the first round of the playoffs. The Celtics had a bye and were forced to wait until they played the winner. In their matchup with the 76ers, the Celtics escaped in Game 7 after Havlicek tipped a Hal Greer inbounds pass that went to Sam Jones. The Celtics held a 110-109 advantage at the time. This would lead to Johnny Most’s infamous “Havlicek stole the ball” call. Then the Celtics would stomp through an Elgin Baylor-less Lakers squad in the NBA Finals in five games. Baylor was forced out of action by a knee injury.
The Celtics continued to stay dominant despite losing two Hall-of-Famers on their roster because they continued to play as a team.