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It’s time for Celtics to home in

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / May 21, 2010

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WALTHAM — Call it the home-court disadvantage. The Celtics appear to be in control of the Eastern Conference finals after winning the first two games in Orlando. But recent history indicates that the Magic should not feel out of place when they visit TD Garden tomorrow night for Game 3.

In the last two seasons, including playoffs, the Celtics have won five of eight games in Orlando. The Magic have won five of the last seven in Boston.

Though the Celtics have struggled to explain their home-court failings this season — they were 24-17 at the Garden, 26-15 away from home — they are highly conscious of Orlando’s ability to turn the tables.

“They’ve beaten us twice here in the regular season,’’ guard Rajon Rondo said yesterday. “We didn’t come into this season to win five games in a row in the playoffs. It’s about winning a championship and put another banner up, and we haven’t done that.’’

Coach Doc Rivers is attempting to keep the Celtics focused, cautioning against complacency and overconfidence as the team has compiled a 10-3 playoff record. The Celtics’ 92-88 and 95-92 wins in Orlando extended their winning streak to those five games.

“We’ve done nothing, we really haven’t,’’ Rivers said. “We’re up, 2-0, but we’ve got to keep playing. Orlando was the favorite for a reason. They were playing better than anyone else in the playoffs, for a reason.

“Either game could have gone either way. This series is going to be that way. There’s not going to be a game where there’s comfort. Both teams are very good, both teams are very close, both teams are very similar in a lot of ways. So it’s not going to be a comfort game, whether at home or on the road. They have to think both games they could have won.

“You just keep focusing on execution and improving and getting ready. And each game is a single game. That’s what we talk about — that’s been our speech through this playoff series, all of the series.’’

The Celtics succeeded partly because they have limited the multipronged Magic offense. Paul Pierce has outscored Vince Carter, 50-39, Carter converting 14 of 33 from the field. Rashard Lewis has made one 3-pointer and totaled 11 points in 84 minutes. Dwight Howard had a breakout 30-point performance in Game 2, but the other Orlando starters were ineffective, the Celtics stifling the Magic transition game.

“Our execution is so good that it allows us to get back,’’ Rivers said of the Celtics’ offensive play. “Not a lot of bad shots where we don’t have numbers to get back, so we’ve done a pretty good job of that.’’

The Magic have seldom been able to set the tempo or smoothly execute pick-and-rolls, which has contributed to Lewis’s 4-for-16 shooting slump.

“He’s actually had some [open] shots that he’s not made, which we’ve shown them on film,’’ Rivers said. “So we just have to continue to play solid defense. The key to Lewis or any of their guys is, the better we are on pick and roll, the quicker we’re back in our rotations. If we can’t get back, then Lewis is wide open.’’

As for Howard, Rivers said, “When he goes for 30, he goes for 30, nothing you can do about it. As long as he doesn’t go for 30 and get everybody else involved, we can live with it.

“I thought he caught it too deep throughout [Game 2]. Some of the shots we’ll live with. I know he got two or three dunks. We don’t mind any made shots as long as it’s defended well. If you’re going to make a shot over good defense, there’s nothing you can do about it, anyway — jumper, layup, we don’t care.’’

The Celtics have added a dimension to their attack on the offensive boards. Though they have not improved their offensive rebounding statistically, they seem to be getting more second-chance opportunities in key situations.

“Because we’ve had the chance to,’’ Rivers said. “During the regular season, our focus, and it still is, is transition D. We don’t want us to think about being an offensive rebounding team, because it would hurt our transition D.

“During the playoffs, you can mention it more because you know more what they’re doing defensively. It allows you to put guys in spots, in offensive rebounding position. Our goal is still getting back.

“If I didn’t get one [offensive rebound] and we took away every single transition bucket, it probably equals what you can get in offensive rebounds.

“Because they’re a help-oriented team, just like we are, that means if you can get to the paint and get a shot on the rim, there is usually a guard or a big trying to block your shot. And so that’s another big that’s free and we want to take advantage of that.’’

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