Sam Joness glorious Hall of Fame career was notable for how late it started and how Jones performed late in games. To see just how great Jones was in the clutch, I went to basketball-reference.com and looked up every playoff elimination game Jones played in. Granted, this isnt the surefire way to gauge his whole capacity for clutch play, but its the best quick look we can take.
ESF: Eastern Division Semi-Finals
EDF: Eastern Division Finals
GX: Game X of series
Result: Celtics win/loss margin for that one game
Sam the Reserve (1958 to 1961)
From the 1957-58 season through the 1960-61 season, Jones backed up Bill Sharman as the Boston Celtics two-guard. As Jones matured, he carved out a bigger role after getting a DNP in his first chance at playing in an elimination game and being used sparingly his rookie season.
Regular Season PPG (1958 to 1961): 11.0 PPG
Postseason PPG (1958 to 1961): 9.1 PPG
Elimination PPG (1958 to 1961): 10.8 PPG
Year Game Opponent Points Result 1958G4
EDFWarriors DNP-15G5 EDFWarriors05G6 FinalsHawks311959G6 EDFNationals10-12G7 EDFNationals195G4 FinalsLakers251960G5 EDFWarriors9-21G6 EDFWarriors92G6 FinalsHawks16-3G7 FinalsHawks18191961G5 EDFNationals1721G5 FinalsHawks169
Joness first big game came in 1959 against the Syracuse Nationals in the 1959 EDF. The Celtics survived the Nats attack thanks in no small part to Jones scoring 19 points. However, Jones didnt truly arrive as a big game player until the 1960 postseason in the Finals against the St. Louis Hawks. From there on out, Jones would ratchet up his big game play to heights few could have predicted in 1958.
Sam Hits the Big Time (1962 1965)
During this period, Jones became a perennial All-Star and was named to his first of three All-NBA 2nd Teams. He was Bostons starting shooting guard and became their go-to player in pressure situations. Jones without fail raised his scoring output as the heat was on in the playoffs.
Regular Season PPG (1962 to 1965): 20.9 PPG
Postseason PPG (1962 to 1965): 23.9 PPG
Elimination PPG (1962 to 1965): 26.3 PPGYearGameOpponentPointsResult1962G6 EDFWarriors15-10G7 EDFWarriors282G6 FinalsLakers3514G7 FinalsLakers2731963G6 EDFRoyals2210G7 EDFRoyals4711G5 FinalsLakers36-7G6 FinalsLakers531964G4 EDFRoyals33-9G5 EDFRoyals236G5 FinalsWarriors1861965G6 EDFSixers20-6G7 EDFSixers371G5 FinalsLakers2233
Well, sometimes even the great Sam Jones fails. Game 6 of the 1963 NBA Finals was a big dud for Jones as he scored just 5 points. But holy molely did he tear up the other games. In particular his 47-point outburst against the Cincinnati Royals in 63 remains monumental. It was also one of the great duels in NBA history as Oscar Robertson put up 43 points of his own in that game.
The 1965 season was the best of Joness career as he averaged a career-high of 26 points per game at age 31. For the next few seasons, hed maintain that crest before finally dipping in his final year in 1969.
Sam with the Encore (1966 – 1969)
Jones was still flying high as this period began, but the Celtics were aging and found it harder to finish off opponents in the postseason. More elimination games presented themselves as Boston often fell behind late in a series and actually were dethroned by the Sixers in 1967.
Regular Season PPG (1966 to 1969): 20.8 PPG
Postseason PPG (1966 to 1969): 21.5 PPG
Elimination PPG (1966 to 1969): 23.3 PPGYearGameOpponentPointsResult1966G4 ESFRoyals3217G5 ESFRoyals349G5 EDFSixers308G5 FinalsLakers154G6 FinalsLakers238G7 FinalsLakers2221967G3 ESFKnicks1911G4 ESFKnicks519G4 EDFSixers324G5 EDFSixers19-241968G6 ESFPistons228G5 EDFSixers3718G6 EDFSixers208G7 EDFSixers224G6 FinalsLakers12151969G4 ESFSixers19-3G5 ESFSixers163G5 EDFKnicks3-8G6 EDFKnicks291G6 FinalsLakers99G7 FinalsLakers242
Sam hit his all-time elimination game high in a 51-point outburst against the New York Knicks in the 1967 ESF. In the 1966 postseason, he strung together three straight 30+ point performances in potential elimination games.
But by 1969, old man Jones was feeling creaky. In four of the six elimination games, he scored under 20 points and had two games under 10 points. However, he still strung up the biggest points for the biggest moments. To silence the Knicks in the EDF, Jones scored 29 points to pull out the one-point victory. In Game 7 of the NBA Finals, in the final game of his career, Jones scored 24 points as the Celtics won by two to defeat the Lakers.
Those 24 points matched Sams jersey number and gave him his 10th and final NBA title. An outstanding haul for one of the NBAs most clutch players.
Read also: The Historical Record of Clyde Lovellette