Final: Celtics 96, Magic 84

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Don’t call it a comeback. There isn’t going to be one.

The Celtics ran out to an early lead and thwarted all of Orlando’s comeback attempts in Game 6, putting an end to the Magic’s hopes of coming back from a three-games-to-none deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals with a 96-84 win Friday night at TD Garden.

The Celtics aren’t the Bruins. They’re the Eastern Conference champions. And the Magic won’t be making any history anytime soon.

“They played two very good teams and made us both make us look like we weren’t very good teams,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of Boston’s consecutive series wins over Cleveland and Orlando. “You’ve got to admire them as a team.”

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From the start of Game 6, the Celtics made sure they weren’t going to be the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven playoff series. The Celtics held the Magic to 19 points on 38-percent shooting in the first quarter. Dwight Howard (9 points) got his, but all of Howard’s points came at the rim, bailing out his teammates who were forced to pass or had taken bad shots.

“I thought their energy was good, but our offense hurt us,” said Van Gundy. “We didn’t get a lot of good shots.”

Orlando’s misses allowed Rajon Rondo to get the Celtics out into transition. Rondo had 12 points and 3 assists in the first quarter as the Celtics ran out to a 30-19 lead, but the quarter ended scarily for Rondo, who took a hard foul with 32 seconds left, fell on his left hip, and stayed down on the floor for several minutes.

With Rondo on the bench to start the second quarter, Nate Robinson gave the Celtics a boost, hitting two three-pointers during a 16-6 run to start the quarter. Robinson didn’t settle for jump shots, though. At the 6:34 mark Robinson picked up a loose ball and went in for a lay-up, only to be fouled hard by Jameer Nelson, who was called for a flagrant-1 foul. Robinson sprung to his feet and raised his arms in the air, imploring the already frantic crowd to give him a little more. He would score 13 points in the quarter while spelling Rondo for valuable minutes.

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“[Robinson] was great,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.”I told him — and a lot of guys told him — but I told him almost every practice during the playoffs, I made a point of going over to him and said, ‘Stay engaged. At some point you’re going to win a game for us. I can’t tell you when. I can’t tell you when you’re going to play. I can’t tell you if you’re going to play, on what night at least, but at some point you’re going to win a game for us.'”

The Celtics led by as many as 21 points in the second, but just as they didn’t quit in coming back from a 3-0 deficit to force a Game 6, the Magic didn’t quit when facing Friday night’s big deficit. Orlando whittled the lead down to 13 points at halftime.

It looked for a moment as though the Celtics might be limited by health after halftime when Rondo rode the stationary bike next to the Celtics bench before the start of the third quarter. But Rondo started the third and directed his teammates on what would be a game-clinching run. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett — who took only nine shots combined in the first half — started the third quarter with three consecutive made shots respectively, Allen hitting two straight three-pointers to put the Celtics up 63-44. The Celtics would build the lead up to as many as 24 points as the Garden fans peppered Howard with taunts.

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“They made a run and we stopped playing our game,” said Howard. “Everybody wanted to do it on their own. That’s not what got us back to Game 6. This is Game 6. You know, just everybody wanted to do it by themselves. In a situation like this, you’ve got to keep fighting together.”

The Celtics led 82-61 after the third quarter, leaving any serious threat of another Magic comeback to some extremely optimistic folks in Orlando. The game was never in doubt in the second half, and after a few days’ worth of talk about how the Celtics might join the Bruins in making some unfortunate history, Celtics fans probably preferred it that way.

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Rondo finished with 13 points and 6 assists. Howard finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic.

“I thought everything that we went through in Game 5 down in Orlando made us stronger,” said Celtics guard Ray Allen. “What Glen [Davis] went through, what Perk went through, Rasheed Wallace going through what he went through [fouling out]. So I think we went through so much yesterday and going into today, everybody had a fresher perspective on what we didn’t want to do and what we needed to do to win this game.”

Next up for the Celtics is the winner of the Los Angles Lakers-Phoenix Suns series, which is currently led by Los Angeles, three games to two. The Finals will start Thursday night on the home court of the Western Conference winner and follow a 2-3-2 format. The Celtics will be aiming to win their second NBA title in the last three years and the 18th title in the franchise’s history.

“One is special,” said Rivers. “But the other groups have a couple, and we’d love to join that club. We’ve got a tough road, Phoenix or the Lakers. It’s not going to be easy for us … No one can ever take away the first title. But we want to join another club, too.”


Final: Celtics 96, Magic 84: Book your trip west. The Celtics are Eastern Conference champs.
3:19 4th quarter, Celtics 92-76: There was a moment there where Vince Carter looked like he was going to take a wide-open three and cut the Celtics’ lead to 11, but Carter passed up the shot, giving teammate Jameer Nelson a look that was no better. Nelson missed, and Rajon Rondo took the ball the other way for a floater. You can bet Doc Rivers is talking about two things in the huddle right now: Stops and execution.
5:56 4th quarter, Celtics 88-71: It’s not scary yet, but the Magic are close enough to prevent this from being a laugher. It’s still very tense in the building despite the lead.
8:40 4th quarter, Celtics 85-65: No signs of a letup. Orlando’s still down at 41-percent shooting.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 82-61: The Celtics turned 13-point halftime lead into a 21-point lead entering the fourth quarter. The Magic made 8 of 22 shots in the third quarter while the Celtics got 16 combined points from Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
Celtics fans taunted Dwight Howard in the middle of that quarter, and Howard responded by mockingly clapping them. It just doesn’t seem in Howard’s personality to go at it with fans.
4:35 3d quarter, Celtics 74-52: Another hard foul by Howard on Pierce, Howard’s fourth of the night.
5:33 3d quarter, Celtics 70-52: J.J. Redick fouls Ray Allen as he tries to fight Allen coming off screens. The Magic are already over the foul limit.
9:56 3d quarter, Celtics 63-44: Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett — who took only nine shots combined in the first half, started the second half with three consecutive made shots respectively, Allen hitting two straight three-pointers to put the Celtics up 63-44.
Halftime, Celtics 55-42: Down by as many as 21 points, the Magic made a stand at the end of the second quarter. This game isn’t going to come easily. The Nate Robinson show (13 points) was nice, but the Celtics still have to win another 24 minutes of basketball. Orlando has to feel pretty good about only being down 13 despite 8 turnovers and 44-percent shooting.
Note: Rajon Rondo rode the stationary bike just before the start of the second half.
4:22 2d quarter, Celtics 48-29: Robinson already knows he can dunk over Dwight Howard, so why not try it again? Nate draws the third foul on Howard, who heads to the bench.
4:22 2d quarter, Celtics 48-29: Robinson already knows he can dunk over Dwight Howard, so why not try it again? Nate draws the third foul on Howard, who heads to the bench.
5:41 2d quarter, Celtics 48-29: Robinson’s not done. He’s got four more points in this Celtics run as the C’s are opening this thing up.
7:35 2d quarter, Celtics 42-25: There’s Nate Robinson again, hitting another three and then getting all kinds of crazy while guarding Jameer Nelson. The Celtics have to like Robinson’s energy right now with Rondo getting a rest. Rondo appears to be OK but is laying down next to the Celtics bench while he is out of the game.
9:43 2d quarter, Celtics 35-23: Nate Robinson spells Rondo and gives the Celtics their largest lead with a three-pointer.
END 1st quarter, Celtics 30-19: Scary moment at the end of the quarter as Rajon Rondo takes a hard foul, crashes to the floor, and remains down for about a minute. For as many hits as Rondo takes you never see him stay down. He would get up and nail both free throws.
Great first quarter by the Celtics, holding Orlando to 19 points on 38-percent shooting. Dwight Howard (9 points) is getting his, but the Celtics don’t care about that so long as no one else is beating them. Howard’s points have come in bailing out his teammates who have no shots or bad shots.
By the way, on that Nelson shot that bounced on the top of the backboard — it was legal:

Five sides of the backboard (front, two sides, bottom and top) are considered in play when contacted by the basketball. The back of the backboard and the area directly behind it
are out-of-bounds.

3:31 1st quarter, Celtics 19-16: Glen Davis takes it into the chest of Dwight Howard to draw Howard’s first foul. Howard (8 points, 4 rebounds) is doing a good job crashing the glass or flashing to the rim when his teammates put up bad shots, but the Celtics also seem to be doing a better job tracking Howard off picks. Watch the screen-and-rolls with Nelson and look for a) How well Rondo stays with Nelson and b) How well Perkins/Davis stay with Howard. It’s the game within the game tonight.
5:48 1st quarter, Celtics 17-14: Both coaches talked about the importance of the first quarter before the game, and both teams are playing well so far in the first half of the first. Too early to make any broad conclusions based on the first six minutes. It does seem like Rajon Rondo (8 points, 1 assist) has more energy than he’s had the last two games.
8:44 1st quarter, Celtics 10-4: When the Magic miss, the Celtics can run. A miss by Jameer Nelson has Rajon Rondo pushing the ball the other way for a bucket plus a foul. That’s something that barely happened in Game 5 with Orlando draining all those threes.
11:01 1st quarter, Celtics 2-1: Kendrick Perkins picks up the foul. He appeared to push Dwight Howard into teammate Matt Barnes. It’s been said for two days, but the officiating on Howard-Perkins-Wallace-Davis will be something to watch tonight.
Pregame: Spontaneous “Let’s go Celtics” chant drowns out Orlando’s introductions.

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