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CELTICS NOTEBOOK

Sweating it out from Florida

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / June 1, 2008

In Orlando, Fla., to attend the annual predraft camp, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge spent much of Friday with his college scouts, "just getting better acquainted with the possible draft picks."

But Ainge's day might have been better spent riding the "Tower of Terror" at Disney's Hollywood Studios to prepare him for the thrills and chills he would experience that evening, watching from afar as the Celtics overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"Yeah, that was nerve-racking and exciting," Ainge said of the 89-81 victory that propelled the Celtics to their first appearance in the Finals since 1987. "I was on the edge of my seat.

"Our team has really evolved this season and it's gotten so much better as the playoffs have gone along."

Had they not staged that rally in Game 6, the Celtics would have staggered home early yesterday morning from Auburn Hills, Mich., to host another Game 7 tonight.

"It would've shortened everybody's life a little bit, all of us watching on the edge of our seats," Ainge said with a laugh. "You just never know what can happen with injuries and you just never know what can happen when a team gets hot. I'm just glad that I didn't have to sit on the edge of my seat for that one."

Coach Doc Rivers gave his weary team yesterday and today off before they return to the practice court tomorrow.

"We're going to enjoy this for about 24 hours - at least [the players] are," Rivers said after Game 6. "We're going to get to work, the coaching staff, in the morning."

While Rivers and his staff spent the day plotting their next moves against the Lakers, Celtics Nation basked in the team's 20th Eastern Conference title.

It came 21 years to the day of the most recent one, which the 1987 Celtics wrapped up with a 117-114 victory over the Pistons in Game 7 at Boston Garden.

Ainge was a member of that team, which went on to face the Lakers in the Finals and was eliminated in six games.

Asked if Friday night's triumph stirred any memories of the win over the Pistons 21 years ago, Ainge said, "I really don't look back on my own experience. I remember the championship runs and I remember the championship losses, but I really don't look back on what's happened in the past.

"I just look toward this team and what we need to do to get better as an organization; that's part of my responsibility."

A pitch for Mitch
Ainge, who recently was recognized by The Sporting News as NBA Executive of the Year, lauded his LA counterpart, Mitch Kupchak, who this time last year was dealing with the trade demands of Kobe Bryant. Kupchak righted LA's ship when he made a midseason deal with Memphis for Pau Gasol. "I think Mitch has done a really good job over the last two years; he was one key move away," Ainge said. "He put himself in a position to make a big trade. But he did a good job, even before he did the Pau Gasol trade." . . . A limited number of tickets for Games 1 and 2 of the Finals will go on sale tomorrow at 2 p.m. Customers will be limited to two per order, and seats will start at $30. Fans can purchase tickets by visiting Celtics.com, the TD Banknorth Garden box office, Ticketmaster, or by calling 1-800-NBA-TIX.

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