Another Lost Season
Three days after watching the Patriots get eliminated from the playoffs, your Uncle Buck can't help this nagging feeling that the Pats early exit, from what could have been a historic 3rd strait Super Bowl, is eerily similar to another Boston dynasty.
In the 1980s the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers were the dominant dynasties in sports. The Celtics were really continuing a dynasty that began in 1957 when the franchise won the 1st of 16 NBA titles. Falling back to earth following championship teams in 1974 and 1976, the Celtics used their 1978 draft to select Larry Bird out of Indiana State. After returning to school that fall, Bird signed on with the Celtics for the 1979-80 season. Larry won the rookie of the year, while his college rival Ervin "Magic" Johnson lead the Lakers to the NBA title over the Philadelphia 76ers. That season the Celtics won the East by 2 games over Philly, but fell to Dr. J's 76ers in 5 games in the Conference Finals.
During the 1980-81 season Bird lead the Celtics to the best record in the East and then lead them back from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate Philadelphia in the Conference Finals. The Celtics then went on to defeat Houston in 6 games to capture their 14th title. Although the Celtics would fail at a 3-1 series comeback in the 1981-82 playoffs, the team had all the pieces to make a run at several titles, and had made their 3rd strait Conference Finals appearance. (Philadelphia lost to the Lakers in the finals.)
When the 1982-83 season rolled around the Celtics ended the regular season 9 games behind the 76ers, but appeared to be headed for another showdown with Philadelphia or hopefully the Lakers.
In the first round of the playoffs the Celtics took on Atlanta and beat them 2 games to 1.
(Game 1: Atlanta 95 at Boston 103; Game 2: Boston 93 at Atlanta 95; Game 3:Atlanta 79 at Boston 98).
In the second round the Celtics took on the Milwaukee Bucks, who won the Central Division, but finished 5 games behind the Celtics. The series started with a 116-95 Milwaukee win at the Boston Garden. The Bucks won Game 2 95-91 also at Boston Garden. When the scene switched to Milwaukee the Bucks stunned the rest of the field by winning the final two games 107-99 and 107-93, to complete the sweep. Milwaukee went on to lose to Philadelphia in 6 games before the 76ers defeated the Lakers in the Finals.
The sweep at the hands of the Bucks created swift change as Bill Fitch was let go and assistant K.C. Jones took over. From there the Celtics won NBA titles in 1984 and 1986 and reached the finals in 1985 and 1987. (UB says the Celtics could have won the '85 finals had the league not switched to the 2-3-2 format. Unlike the previous 2-2-1-1-1 format, the Celtics played Game 5 at LA after tying the series 2-2 in a dramatic game 4. Had the Celtics returned home for Game 5 the home crowd may have given them the edge to take a 3-2 series lead and ensuring them a home Game 7. Instead the Lakers took Game 5 at home and seized the opportunity to finish the series in Boston in Game 6. UB also thinks the '87 Celtics could have defeated the Lakers in that year's finals as well, had several key players including Kevin McHale and Bill Walton not been hobbled by injuries. They took the series to 6 games, and would have had a 3-2 lead going back to LA for Games 6 and 7 had Bird's 3 hit at the buzzer in Game 4.)
So like the 1982-83 Celtics, the 2005-06 Patriots have all the pieces in place to continue to make a run and capture more championships, but part of their dynasty will forever be a lost season that makes UB scratch his head and say "What happened?"