The AP reports:
One title has never been enough.
Not for the Boston Celtics.
The league’s most-decorated franchise avoided the biggest playoff collapse in NBA history and earned a chance to hang an unprecedented 18th championship banner from the rafters, beating Orlando 96-84 on Friday night to eliminate the Magic in six games and advance to the NBA finals…
Paul Pierce had 31 points and 13 rebounds, and little-used backup Nate Robinson gave the Celtics a boost with 13 second-quarter points to squelch Orlando’s attempt to be the first NBA team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series.
Ray Allen scored 20 points, Rajon Rondo had 14 points and six assists and Garnett, who missed the playoffs last year with a knee injury, added 10 points for Boston…
“Those guys played like they wanted to win the championship the whole series,” said Dwight Howard, who had 28 points and 12 rebounds for the defending East champions. “That’s why they’re in the position they’re in now.”
Vince Carter scored 17 points, and Jameer Nelson finished with 11 points and four assists as he was outplayed by Rondo, Boston’s starting point guard, and Robinson, his backup.
The Boston Herald reports:
Howard, deprived of his downtown support, again discovered that a big scoring night (28 points) wasn’t enough. Only two other Magic players - Vince Carter (a belabored 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting) and Jameer Nelson (11 points, only three assists) - reached double figures.
“Next year we’ve got to have guys that are willing to give everything they’ve got to get wins,” Howard said. “In games like this or a series like this, it’s not about skill or talent, because it’s the Eastern Conference championship. Both teams were talented and skilled. It’s about who wants it most and who is willing to do it for a series.
“Those guys played like they wanted to win the championship the whole series. That’s why they’re in the position they’re in now.”
The Boston Herald reports:
In eight explosive minutes and 46 seconds, Robinson poured in 13 points and hounded Magic point guard Jameer Nelson into all but disappearing from the game, a circumstance that had much to do with his team disappearing from the playoffs.
As Robinson ran wild, Rondo was on his back in front of the bench, an ice bag strapped to his aching hip, and he cheered as Robinson shot 4-of-7 from the field to push an early Celtics lead up to 21 and keep it at 19 by the time he came back to the bench with just over four minutes left in the half.
“They actually made their big run with Rondo sitting on the bench,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I’m not up here saying they’re a better team without Rajon Rondo, but tonight they were in the first half. Nate Robinson was great. In an absolutely huge game he stepped up and played great.”
The Orlando Sentinel reports:
Coach Stan Van Gundy pointed to his team giving up 20 fastbreak points and being impatient when shots didn’t drop. “Our offense hurt us. We broke down,” he said.
Orlando did make a mini-run. A 3-pointer by Carter trimmed Boston’s lead to 14, and he then made a free throw to give the Magic some hope at halftime.
The Celtics quickly squashed any rally in the third quarter as they stole a page from the Magic’s playbook. Ray Allen hit two 3-pointers, replenishing the lead to 19. Boston nailed 10 3-pointers in 22 attempts while Orlando made just 6-of-22.