Celtics at Home on Orlando's Court
The storied Boston Celtics must have been laughing. Being whole was much more important than being home. They went to Cleveland and wiped their muddy shoes on the carpet. They went to Orlando and made a mess there, too.
The Celtics are making a mockery of the regular season and its relevance.
The No. 4 seeded Celtics won their fourth consecutive road game Tuesday night against those higher seeded teams, whipping the Magic, 95-92, to take a very secure 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
In the long and illustrious Boston basketball history, the Celtics have led 2-0 in a best-of-seven series 36 times and never once lost a series.
"It doesn't matter what building we go in,'' said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "That's really nothing that fazes us, going on the road. It's the way we play.''
The Celtics could be well on their way to becoming the first team since the "heart of a champion" Houston Rockets in 1995 to win a title by going through a pair of No. 1 seeds and a No. 2.
"Until you win a championship, it's hard to rank this with other teams,'' Pierce said. "Right now, we're just the second best team I've played on. If we win a championship, than I guess that conversation can be brought up.''
The Celtics finished their first two series with a win at home, but they did it by first winning on the road. They won Game 3 in Miami, then finished the Heat in Game 5. They won Games 2 and 5 in Cleveland, then closed the Cavs in Game 6.
After winning Games 1 and 2 in Orlando, the Celtics are poised to finish this one in Game 4.
"This a pretty unique situation, and probably the first that I have been in to go on the road and really take care of business like this,'' said Celtics veteran Ray Allen. "But we still have some work to do.''
The Celtics won 50 games in the regular season, struggling with key injuries and awful inconsistencies. At times they looked good, but at times they were dreadful, blowing big leads and bickering among themselves. At midseason, they looked too old to be taken seriously anymore.
The championship they won with much the same team in 2008 seemed so distant during the regular season. Now it seems so real, and so does a rematch with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.
Going from regular season to postseason was like going back in time -- like it's 2008 all over again.
"I know it's starting to look that way,'' Pierce said. "But I think we saw this coming late in the season. It's the way we play on the road. We have bigger goals than this. We want to win a championship again.''
Pierce had a team-high 28 points Tuesday, including 22 in the first half when the Celtics set the tone for the game. The Magic came out considerably more energized than in Game 1, but they still trailed most of the way.
Dwight Howard recovered from a rough Game 1 to score 30 points, but forward Rashard Lewis was not a factor again, fading away under the coverage of Garnett.
The Magic rallied from 11 down to take their only lead in the fourth, 90-89, when Vince Carter hit a jumper with 3:36 remaining, sending the raucous crowd into a frenzy.
But it didn't last. Just like the roaring crowd in Cleveland was silenced so easily, Kevin Garnett hit a fade-away to regain the lead. Rajon Rondo hit a jumper and Pierce added a couple of free throws to send everyone home unhappy.
"This team has been together. We know how to play, wherever we play,'' Garnett said. "We've learned from the past. This series is no different than Cleveland.''