Boston Celtics: Playoffs

Practice: Hype machine gets cranking

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- After nearly 10 months of build-up, a Celtics-Heat playoff series is finally a reality and no amount of hyperbole will be spared. Try as he might to remind everyone that it's still only the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Boston's ultimate goal remains a world title, even Celtics captain Paul Pierce couldn't resist a spin in the hype machine.

"I know there's going to be a lot of hype around it, like it's a championship series, but you've got to understand it's still just the second round," said Pierce. "But a very big second round because you've got two potential teams that can win it all. I'm excited. This is a great stage for basketball. It's going to be great for fans and the guys that we have here love these type of series.

"We knew it was going to probably eventually happen at one point or another. Before the season if we were going to where we needed to be as a championship team we knew we were going to have to play Miami. So it's finally here and I'm sure it's the much-anticipated battle everybody's been waiting on."

A day after practicing in opponent limbo, the Celtics could finally turn their full attention to the Heat Thursday at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint. This after Miami polished off the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night in Game 5 of a conference quarterfinal series. Even though it seemed inevitable paths would cross, it hasn't taken any of the buzz out of the series as Sunday's Game 1 approaches.

"We assumed when they put this team together that, if we wanted to put another banner up, we’d probably have to go through them," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "So it’s official. And that’s good."

Added Glen Davis: "I'm excited. We've always seen ourselves playing them. Everybody kind of figured that we were going to play them. Now it's time to go."

A few more notes from practice:

* ShaqWatch: Skeleton work: Rivers offered a bit of a surprise when he noted that ailing center Shaquille O'Neal would participate in skeleton (non-contact) drills during Thursday's session (this a day after saying O'Neal wouldn't engage in any activity until Friday). As Rivers has pointed out in the past, he could do skeleton work, so it's not much to get excited about. Friday remains the more important day as the Celtics hope O'Neal will engage in more basketball activities that day and offer a better indication of his status for the early portion of this series. "He's going to do a little bit today, actually," said Rivers. "Not much, he's just going to do skeleton work today and then practice tomorrow, hopefully. That's the latest."

* Celtics = motivation for LeBron?: Asked if he felt playoff matchups with the Celtics were personal now for James, given his postseason struggles against Boston, Pierce agreed with the suggestion. "Probably so at this point," said Pierce. "When you lose to a team consecutive times in the playoffs -- I mean, it would be personal for me. I'm sure he's going to take it personal and you've got to expect his best."

* Bosh = Miami X-factor?: Pierce also suggested that Chris Bosh remains the potential key player for Miami. "Well I think they've done a better job of really implementing Bosh [since the start of the season]," said Pierce. "I thought at the beginning of the year, he was sort of the odd man out. But, to me, he's sort of like the key for them, because you know LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade are going to get theirs every night. Usually when [Bosh] plays well, they're a tough team to beat."

C's offense a balancing act

May, 29, 2010
5/29/10
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Brian Babineau/NBAE/GettyNate Robinson hasn't led the Celtics in scoring ... yet. But he's a sign of their balance.
The Celtics are 17 games into the postseason and still have not had the same leading scorer in back-to-back games, which is an NBA record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Boston eclipsed the previous mark of 15 set by the 1978 Seattle SuperSonics in a Game 5 loss. Now they're just making it tougher for anyone to catch them. Heck, the second-longest postseason streak was 13 by the 1989 Detroit Pistons.

Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have each led the team in scoring on five occasions, Rondo on three others, and Kevin Garnett twice. Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace both topped the team during the Magic series. But no player has been able to lead the team on back-to-back nights.

Pierce will get the first crack at ending that streak when the NBA Finals open next week after putting up a team-best 31 points in Boston's Game 6 triumph over Orlando.

"I think the ball is going to find either Paul or myself if we're playing the right way," explained Allen. "Rondo, if he starts to break  the game is so unpredictable -- but with the way we play the game, when Rondo starts to break, Paul's on the perimeter, I'm on the perimeter. He has us. We just keep the floor spaced and allow him to attack and penetrate.

"But most of the plays [in Game 6] were run through P. We're going to keep moving and trying to create in his direction. But once Rondo attacks, Paul gets open, and Kevin is in the post, you never really know who is going to get the ball, and that is the beautiful thing about our offense.

"Because of the unselfishness when we're playing well, throughout the season, we've shown moving the ball from one side to the other beats every defense because we have too many great players in each position from 3point shooters to great post players and great cutters. And guys coming off the bench that are tremendous scorers.

"So we've got to sometimes do less to do more to help this team score and win, and make the offense look good. And it takes a lot of pressure off our defense."

Road warriors

May, 29, 2010
5/29/10
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AP Photo/Charles KrupaThe Celtics finished off the Magic at home, but their success this season has been on the road.
With Friday's series-clinching win over the Orlando Magic, the Boston Celtics became the first team to advance to the NBA Finals after posting a better road record (26-15) than a home mark (24-17) during the regular season.

The Celtics put together a five-game road winning streak this postseason, helping them get past both Cleveland and Orlando. Boston boasts a 6-3 mark on the road in this year's playoffs, a stark departure from the 5-13 mark posted over the previous two postseasons, including their road woes while winning an NBA crown in 2008.

The Celtics will open this year's NBA Finals on the road against the Western Conference champion (either the Lakers or Suns) on Thursday.

"The only thing that's tough for me to put my finger on is how we're a better road team than home team," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "But over the last few years we've been a great road team. Doesn't matter pretty much -- we have the focus, we have veterans, and I think when you play on the road, that's what you've got to have.

"Most young teams get intimidated by the road and that's why they can't win. But you have a team that's very confident, very poised, and has all the characteristics that you need to win on the road. We've got the toughness. That's what you're going to need."

Under the current playoff format, the Celtics are only the fourth team to advance to the Finals as a fourth seed or lower. How did the others fare? The eighth-seeded 1999 Knicks lost in five games, the sixth-seeded 1995 Rockets won in four games, and the fourth-seeded 2006 Mavericks lost in six games.

"This has been the toughest road in the playoffs that I've ever played in just knowing that I had to go on the road all these series," said Pierce. "Then one more series on the road. So it really shows a lot about this team. The mental toughness that it's taken to do what we're doing."

Game 6: Postgame nuggets

May, 29, 2010
5/29/10
11:31
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Here are six leftover facts and figures after the Boston Celtics defeated the Orlando Magic in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals Friday night at TD Garden (information researched for ESPN by Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.):


1. The Celtics reached the NBA Finals after beating the team with the best record (Cavaliers) and team with the second-best record (Magic) during the regular season. Boston is only the second team in NBA history to beat the outright No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the league before reaching the Finals. The other team to accomplish this was the Rockets in 1995. Houston beat Utah (No. 2) and San Antonio (No. 1) before sweeping the Magic for the NBA title.

2. Paul Pierce had 31 points in the Celtics' series-clinching win over the Magic. It's the 14th time in his NBA career that he scored 30-or-more points in a playoff game. But his total of 13 rebounds in Game 6 vs. Orlando was his highest in any of those games.

3. Pierce finished the Eastern Conference finals with an average of 24.3 points per game, while shooting 51.2 percent on field goal attempts and 83.9 percent on free throw attempts. He became the first Celtics player to average at least 23 points in a playoff series, while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line since both Larry Bird (26.4/51.0/86.8) and Kevin McHale (24.9/.631/.936) did it in a classic seven-game, second-round series against Dominique Wilkins and the Hawks in 1988.


4. Orlando held its opponents below 100 points in all 14 games of the 2010 playoffs. The last NBA team to not allow 100 points in any of its first 14 games of a playoff year was the Knicks in 1999. New York did not allow 100 points in any of its 20 games in that postseason.

5. The Magic scored 30.6 percent of their total points on 3-point field goals in this year's playoffs (414 of 1,352). Since the NBA instituted the 3-point shot in 1979-80, only two teams have scored more than 30 percent of their total points from beyond the 3-point line in a single playoff season: Golden State in 2007 (31.2 percent) and Phoenix in 1997 (30.5 percent).

6. Dwight Howard was the first player with three straight 20-point, 10-rebound games when his team was facing elimination in each contest since Dirk Nowitzki did it last postseason.

3-point play: Eastern Conference champs

May, 29, 2010
5/29/10
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Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireThe Celtics raised one trophy, now they want another banner.
BOSTON -- A glance at our featured ESPN.com stories after the Boston Celtics defeated the Orlando Magic in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night at TD Garden:

Forsberg: Robinson's patience pays off
When Boston Celtics guard Nate Robinson returned to his locker after Friday's 96-84 Game 6 triumph over the Orlando Magic, his two cell phones were buzzing.

His back to the mob of cameras and reporters awaiting his attention, Robinson fielded a quick call from a college teammate and politely said he'd call him back shortly. A quick glance at the screen of his Blackberry revealed 35 new text messages -- and that number probably doubled before reporters were done peppering him with questions.

On the whiteboard inside the Celtics' locker room, a big No. 4 was written in the upper righthand corner. It likely signified the number of wins Boston need to win the NBA title. But it might as well have been an homage to Robinson, who wears No. 4.

Yes, after toiling in relative obscurity for much of the past three months since his arrival in Boston, it took a mere 8 minutes 46 seconds to make Robinson the toast of the town.

"Nate was great tonight, everybody, Nate was unbelievable," beamed locker neighbor Glen Davis. "Mighty Mouse, huh? Came through. Twitter topic, guys. Make him a Twitter topic tonight."

Robinson couldn't unsurp the likes of Tyra Banks and the final episode of her TV talk show as a trending topic, but Robinson is likely to get more air time than the supermodel after his performance in the Celtics' Eastern Conference-clinching triumph at TD Garden.

Click HERE to read the full story.

May: Rivers' savings plan pays dividends
Doc Rivers likes to hearken back to the words of wisdom from his late father when things get difficult. Grady Rivers told his son that whatever he started, he should try to complete. He had a phrase for it: "Just finish the race."

For so much of this season, the Boston Celtics looked like they were moonwalking to the finish line. Rivers told anyone and everyone who'd listen that he didn't care about wins and losses, or playoff positioning, or anything other than universal health care for his fellas. If that came about, the coach said, then he'd be content to see where things went from there.

The Celtics are still in the race, improbably. They have taken care of the two best regular-season teams in the playoffs. They have done it by doing a lot of the things they didn't do in the regular season. Now, this implausible postseason run has them in the NBA Finals and, if you've been watching any of the Suns-Lakers series, you have to wonder: What are either of those teams going to do when they go up against a team that actually plays defense?

We can break things down a la Hubie Brown but, bottom line, the Celtics are the Eastern Conference champions in 2010 because they dominated Cleveland and Orlando the same way they dominated everyone two years ago. They played suffocating defense in their wins, they got great performances from their key men at key moments (how about Paul Pierce coming up ultra-large in Game 6 with 31 points and 13 rebounds?) and eased a worrisome Celtics Nation with a convincing 96-84 series-clinching dispatching of the Magic Friday night.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Sheridan: Eastern Champs, Seeking Banner No. 18
Their encounter was brief, lasting but 2 or 3 seconds, one coach the victor and the other the vanquished, and very, very little was said.

"Good luck," Stan Van Gundy told Doc Rivers as he shook his hand in the narrow hallway behind the interview podium, getting a simple "thanks" in return.

Once again, the Celtics had left a favored opponent stunned and more or less speechless.

On a night when the new Garden rocked throughout the fourth quarter with chants of "Beat L.A.," the Boston Celtics earned the right -- and earned it with zest -- to go for yet another NBA championship as they defeated the Orlando Magic 96-84 Friday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"Bring back No. 18, OK?" Celtics great Dave Cowens turned and said to owner Wyc Grousbeck as he handed him the Eastern Conference championship trophy, the same trophy that Rasheed Wallace later held aloft and let the fans touch as the Celtics exited the court some 10 minutes after the final buzzer.

"If you come off the two series they just had, I mean they beat two very good teams, and they made us look like we weren't very good teams, OK?" Van Gundy said. "Cleveland was upset with the way they played, and we're certainly upset with the way we played. But when you go through two series like that, I think you have to be fair and say a lot of it had to do with them, and they are playing very, very well right now."

Click HERE to read the full story in today's Daily Dime.

Game 6: 10 Celtics-Magic nuggets

May, 28, 2010
5/28/10
11:00
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BOSTON -- Here are 10 facts and figures to keep in mind for Friday's Celtics-Magic clash (ESPN, 8:30 p.m) in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at Amway Arena (information researched for ESPN by Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.):

1. The Celtics lost Game 5 by a 21-point margin, spoiling their chance to close out this series. Boston is the 71st team in NBA history to lose a potential series-clinching game by 20+ points. In the 42 previous instances in which the team had another chance to close out the series (28 losses came in a series-deciding game), 28 were successful in their next attempt (66.7 percent).


2. The Celtics 21-point margin of defeat marked the fourth time in their franchise history that they lost a potential series-clinching game by 20-or-more points. That also happened in 1960 against Philadelphia (21-point margin), in 1990 against New York (27) and in 2005 against Indiana (27).

3. Dwight Howard registered 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots to help Orlando avoid playoff elimination in Game 5. Howard had 32 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots to help Orlando avoid a series sweep in Game 4. Only one other player has recorded 20-or-more points, 10-or-more rebounds and at least four blocked shots in consecutive games with his team facing elimination in each game: Elvin Hayes in 1979.

Nelson
Nelson
4. Jameer Nelson has scored 20-or-more points in six games in this postseason after registering only five 20-point games during the regular season. Only two other players in NBA history have recorded more 20-point games during the playoffs than during the regular season in a single season (min: six 20-point games during the playoffs): Robert Horry in 1995 (six in postseason; two in regular season) and Ernie Grunfeld in 1981 (six in postseason; four in regular season).

5. Howard appeared in his 50th career playoff game in Game 5. Howard is the only player in NBA history to record at least 713 rebounds and 136 blocked shots by their 50th postseason game.

Pierce
Pierce
h6. Paul Pierce is averaging 24.9 points per game in 11 games in which his team has had a chance to clinch a playoff series at home in his career. Only one active player has a higher scoring average in potential series-clinching home games than Pierce (min: 5 games): Kobe Bryant (26.3).

7. J.J. Redick is shooting 51.5 percent from the field (17 for 33) in six career postseason games played at the TD Garden. In all other playoff games outside of this arena, Redick's career field-goal percentage is just 35.8 percent (43 for 120).


8. The Magic have held their opponents to below 100 points in each of their first 13 games in the 2010 playoffs. That is the longest streak to begin a postseason since Miami held its opponents to below 100 points in each of its first 13 games in the 2004 playoffs. The last team to do that in their first 14 games of a playoff season was New York in 1999 (first 20).

9. Rashard Lewis is shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half (9 for 18) and only 25.9 percent from the field in the second half (7 for 27) in this series.

10. The Magic have won two games in which they have faced playoff elimination against the Celtics in Boston (May 17, 2009 and May 24, 2010). With a win Friday, Orlando will become the third franchise (other than the Celtics) to win three win-or-go-home games in Boston. The Knicks have won four such games and the 76ers have won three.

Bonus nugget: Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has registered 45 postseason wins in his six seasons as a head coach. Only six head coaches in NBA history have recorded more playoff wins through their first six seasons in the league than Van Gundy: Pat Riley (72), Phil Jackson (66), K.C. Jones (57), Billy Cunningham (56), Rudy Tomjanovich (48) and Johnny Kundla (48).

Rivers: Perk reaction, injury updates

May, 27, 2010
5/27/10
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesThe Celtics wanted both technicals overturned, but they're happy to have Kendrick Perkins available for Game 5.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers held a conference call with the media Thursday evening after the team flew home to Boston following Wednesday's Game 5 loss in Orlando. Check out the highlights:

The rundown (a quick look at the conference call headlines)
* Celtics happy one technical overturned for Perk, wanted two
* Rivers offers updates on Boston's M*A*S*H unit
* Rivers: Thibodeau hasn't received job offer from Hornets

Celtics happy one technical overturned for Perk, wanted two

Rivers said the team was happy, but not surprised that the NBA rescinded a technical foul against Kendrick Perkins, allowing Boston's center to participate in Friday's pivotal Game 6. But any elation was tempered by the fact that the team truly believed both should have been downgraded.

Perkins was ejected from Wednesday's game after picking up two technical fouls late in the first half. The second, for arguing a call with referee Eddie Rush, was overturned upon review by the league Thursday.

"Obviously, we're happy about it, but also a little disappointed that both technicals were not rescinded," said Rivers. "Both should have been. I'm very surprised that they were not. I'll take one, but hopefully we can keep working on the other ones. I think it's the right decision. Unfortunately, we can't get those calls back and it clearly hurt us in Game 5 not having Perk out on the floor."

Perkins now has six technical fouls for the postseaosn, one shy of the threshold that brings a one-game suspension. (A one-game ban would follow for every other technical thereafter.) Given that five of Perkins' six technicals have come from offsetting double technicals assessed to him and an opponent, Rivers has campaigned the past two days for the system to be changed given the difference between certain technical fouls.

Rivers stressed that Perkins needs to stay aggressive and not play tentative, particularly against Dwight Howard, who Rivers said has been the most physical player in the series.

"We're very concerned [by Perkins' six technicals], but Kendrick has to be allowed to play, he has to be allowed to be physical," said Rivers. "It's amazing how this [series] has gone so far. Kendrick has been in foul trouble and he's not the most physical player on the court, that's Dwight Howard. I keep telling him, be as physical as Dwight and he says, 'Yeah, but I end up in foul trouble.' We're just trying to get Perk to be Perk, not to be concerned with fouls and technicals. But that's very difficult to do."

Rivers offers updates on Boston's M*A*S*H unit

Rivers is fine with the physical nature of this series and even looked at all the ice packs in the locker room following Game 5 and told his team, "This is great, isn't it? This is the playoffs, this is what it should be about. Embrace this moment." He believes they will.

But he does need his players to get healthy. Here's the player-by-player rundown with updates from Rivers, who noted most everyone on the list will be a game-time decision.

* Rivers was encouraged by what he saw of Glen Davis on Thursday, noting Davis experienced headaches after Game 5, but that they had subsided by the time the team watched film before the flight back to Boston. He will be a game-time decision for Friday.

"Baby looked fine, but he still has to go through a couple of tests this evening," said Rivers.

* Marquis Daniels, who still looked shellshocked in the Boston locker room after Game 5, is behind Davis in his recovery.

"Marquis is not doing as well as Baby, I can tell you that," said Rivers. "Right now, I'm not too sure if he'll be ready. I would actually say he will not be ready, but that will be a game-time decision as well."

* Rasheed Wallace continues to be bothered by a balky back, which remained so stiff he couldn't sit to watch film Thursday.

"Rasheed had been doing better, but he's not moving well at all today," said Rivers. "He felt a little better, but we watched film before getting on the plane as a group and he couldn't sit down. He stretched the whole time. He's feeling better, but he'll be a game-time decision."

* Rivers also said that Rajon Rondo, who experienced muscle spasms in Game 4, is feeling fine and does not expect him to be further limited. Boston's coach sounded less enthusiastic about Tony Allen and his injured ankle, noting that it's really affecting his play and that the team might have to consider going in another direction for Game 6. Boston is already thin on guards and the few options at the position would be increasing minutes for Nate Robinson and Michael Finely, or activating former NBDL standout Oliver Lafayette.

Rivers: Thibodeau hasn't received job offer from Hornets

Rivers said Celtics associate head coach Tom Thibodeau has not received a formal job offer from the New Orleans Hornets -- yet. But Rivers, an ardent supporter of his coaches getting full-time jobs, said he's hoping such an offer does come to fruition especially since Thibodeau has not let potential offers distract him this postseason.

"[No offer] yet, but we hope they do soon," said Rivers. "I told you how he’s terrific, he works his butt off. ... The guy, he’s got an exceptional mind. So I’m hoping they do. I haven't heard much, we do talk about it. So we're just hoping.

"I'm not worried about it [becoming a distraction]. Listen, nobody works harder than Tom Thibodeau, ever. He'd never be distracted from this job."

Video: TA's injury

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
4:00
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The always amazing MrTrpleDouble10, here's footage from the ESPN broadcast of Game 2 that shows Tony Allen turning his ankle when he steps on the foot of Rajon Rondo trying to anticipate a pass to Jameer Nelson on the wing (watch around 18 seconds into the video). Allen gets up hobbling as the Magic keep the ball alive in their end, but ends up generating a floater in the lane before the end of the quarter.

Click HERE for more on Allen's injury. Allen played 12 minutes in Game 4, registering two points, two assists, and four fouls.

He's got you covered

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
11:45
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Sports Illustrated / SI.com
Considering Rajon Rondo turned in his poorest performance of the postseason in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, and battled what the team termed muscle spasms, Celtics fans might be tempted to vent about a Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Issue is on sale Tuesday.

Brooms and white flags

May, 24, 2010
5/24/10
4:15
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Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesAnyone seen Rashard Lewis? KG's made him disappear.
"Elias" is a four-letter word to Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

"The history stuff, all that numbers stuff, we should go jump the Elias Sports Bureau for throwing all that stuff out," Rivers joked, jabbing the world's most prominent tracker of sports statistics.

"Every time a series goes to 2-0, 2-1 or 3-1, you hear all these stats," Rivers said as he dismissed all the overwhelming evidence in favor of his Celtics after they took a commanding 3-0 series advantage over the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals. "And I guarantee wherever that coach is, he's cussing at the TV, because there's nothing you can do about that. It is what it is with the numbers. You still gotta play the game."

So Rivers is unimpressed by the statistics, including ones such as the fact that NBA teams up 3-0 in best-of-seven series are 93-0 all time, while the Magic were swept in each of the previous three series in which they trailed 3-0.

"You gotta win a fourth game, and we haven't done that yet," Rivers said. "We have to be prepared."

With that in mind, we examined a few key areas to watch in Monday's Game 4 (ESPN & ESPN3.com, 8:30 p.m.). Click HERE to read the full story.

Boston uncommon

May, 24, 2010
5/24/10
4:05
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Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesThe Boston Celtics are sitting pretty in the playoffs after struggling at the end of the regular season.
Only a few teams in NBA history have ever been able to turn it on in the playoffs quite like these Celtics. How does this story end? ESPN.com's John Hollinger looks at how past lower seeds fared Insider at this stage:
With the Boston Celtics on the verge of a stunning sweep of the Orlando Magic on Monday night, let's address a question I've received in one form or another for the past few days: Does the Celtics' playoff success invalidate the regular season? Can veteran teams just blow off the regular season and turn it on come April?

The Celtics of this season have drawn comparisons to two other teams. The most common is the veteran-laden 1994-95 Houston Rockets, who won a second consecutive title after limping home to a 47-35 regular-season finish. In a stirring coincidence, they swept Orlando in four games in the Finals.

"I remember them very well. Way too well," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who was on the San Antonio Spurs team that those Rockets upset in six games in the Western Conference finals that season. "But as far as history, we stay in-house."

When you have 17 NBA championships, you can do that. Internally, just two years removed from the Celtics' most recent title run, their barometer has been the veteran-laden 1968-69 Boston team. That club won 48 games, was a defending champion and, like this year's squad, was the East's No. 4 seed entering the playoffs. Nonetheless, it gritted out the final title of the Bill Russell era by beating a top-seeded Philadelphia team in a surprisingly easy five games in the first round before meeting the Lakers in the Finals and prevailing in seven games. Is this sounding familiar yet?

Rivers said he had talked about that team with the Celtics a bit during the regular season just to let them know the history, but some players -- such as Kevin Garnett -- had locked on to it more than others.

Nonetheless, only two teams are reference points, and it takes us back to the question of whether teams can rely on ditching their regular-season persona in the playoffs.

Let's look at history to help us. In the past half century, do you know how many teams that had the fourth-best record or worse in the conference made the Finals?

Six.

Of 100 conference champions, only six of them could blow off the regular season (landing outside the top three in the conference) and still ramp it up come playoff time. Of those, only two won the title.

Click HERE Insider to read the full story.

Game 4: 10 Celtics-Magic nuggets

May, 24, 2010
5/24/10
11:35
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BOSTON -- Here are 10 facts and figures to keep in mind for Monday's Celtics-Magic clash (ESPN, 8:30 p.m) in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden (information researched for ESPN by Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.):


1. The Celtics have not swept a best-of-seven series in 24 years. The last time Boston completed a four-game sweep was in 1986 against the Bucks. The Celtics have played 22 best-of-seven series since their last four-game sweep. Only two teams have a longer current streak of consecutive best-of-seven series played without a sweep than Boston: Atlanta (34) and Washington (26).

2. The Magic finished the regular season nine games better than the Celtics in the standings (Orlando had 59 wins; Boston had 50 wins). There have been 57 series in NBA history that concluded with a four-game sweep. In only two of those series, did the winning team finish with at least nine fewer wins than the losing team during the regular-season: Golden State over Washington in 1975 (12 fewer wins) and Houston over Orlando in 1995 (10 fewer wins).

3. The Magic are on the verge of being swept in this series after sweeping the first two rounds in this year's playoffs. Only two teams in NBA history have swept at least one best-of-seven series and were eliminated in a four-game sweep in the same postseason: Cleveland in 2007 and the Lakers in 1989 (swept two series).

Pierce
Pierce
4. Paul Pierce has scored 40-or-more points in a game in which his team has had a chance to clinch a playoff series twice in his career (46 points on May 3, 2002 and 41 points on May 18, 2008). Only two other players who finished the 2009-10 season on an active roster have scored 40+ points in multiple potential series-clinching games: Allen Iverson (three) and Kobe Bryant (two).

5. The Celtics have won six straight games in this postseason. That ties the longest winning streak in a single postseason by a team seeded fourth or lower since the NBA instituted the current playoff format in 1983-84. Three other teams seeded fourth or lower won six straight games: New York in 1999 (eight seed), Houston in 1995 (six seed) and Utah in 1994 (five seed).

6. The Celtics are 41-15 all-time at home in games in which they have had a chance to clinch a playoff series. One of those losses came against Stan Van Gundy and the Magic in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. Only one visiting head coach in NBA history has won two potential elimination games in Boston: Fred Schaus (with the Lakers in 1963 and 1966).

Howard
Howard
7. Dwight Howard is averaging 16.4 rebounds per game in five games played in which his team has faced playoff elimination in his career. Only three players in NBA history are averaging more rebounds per game in potential elimination games than Howard (minimum: five games): Bill Russell (26.6), Wilt Chamberlain (25.7) and Walt Bellamy (17.1).

8. Howard shot 3-for-10 (.300) from the field in Game 3, which was identical to his shooting performance in Game 1 of this series. Prior to this series, Howard had only two games in which he had that low a field-goal percentage in the postseason: 1-for-6 (.167) on June 4, 2009 and 3-for-12 (.250) on May 10, 2008.


9. Orlando is shooting only 29.3 percent from the field in the first quarter in this series. The four lowest first-quarter field-goal percentages among the 14 players with 10-or-more attempts in the conference finals belong to Orlando players: Jameer Nelson (2-for-10, .200); Matt Barnes (2-for-10, .200); Vince Carter (4-for-15, .267); Dwight Howard (3-for-11, .273).

10. Orlando is averaging 27.5 3-point field attempts per game in this postseason. Only one team has averaged more 3-point attempts per game in a single postseason than the Magic are currently averaging in the 2010 playoffs (minimum: six games): Golden State in 2007 (31.0).

TA playing through the pain

May, 24, 2010
5/24/10
7:35
AM ET
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers suggested Sunday that reserve guard Tony Allen has been playing through ankle pain that left the team wondering if he'd even be available for Game 3.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesTony Allen is playing through ankle pain.
"Tony's ankle has been bothering him a lot, but he's playing through it," said Rivers.

Allen missed the first 20 games of the 2009-10 season with a sore right ankle after rushing himself back from offseason ankle surgery and aggravating the injury during the only preseason game he appeared in. Despite little expectations given his injuries woes in six seasons in Boston, Allen soon emerged as Boston's most reliable bench player, providing consistent defense and the occasional offensive spark.

Allen slowed his pregame workout before Game 2 in Orlando numerous times and appeared to be grimacing while grabbing at his right foot. Allen played only 15 minutes that night, his shortest outing since May 1.

Rivers noted the injury was so worrisome that the Celtics actually used Nate Robinson as the backup point guard for much of the three-day break between Games 2 and 3 because the team was uncertain if Allen could go Saturday night.

Allen played 18 minutes in Game 3, making the only shot he attempted, while registering four points, two assists, a steal, and a rebound. His deflection set into motion Rajon Rondo's spectacular hustle play that fueled the Celtics to a lopsided win and a 3-0 series lead.

Rivers continues to stress that bench players like Robinson can be thrust into action at any time and implores them to be ready.

"Our bench has been huge," said Rivers, who has leaned heavy on Allen, Glen Davis, and Rasheed Wallace, while using Michael Finley to limit minutes at the guard spots. "Clearly we shortened our bench, but, when they're in there, they've done a great job. We were able to throw Shelden [Williams] in one game and he was terrific. We just harp on everyone about being ready. You never know with foul trouble or injuries. I tell Marquis [Daniels] and Nate [Robinson] everyday, there's going to be a point at some point in the playoffs that they're going to make contributions. They have to stay ready and our bench has that attitude."

Robinson played six minutes five fourth-quarter minutes in Game 3. He's appeared in only six playoff games so far, but failed to provide a spark when Rivers injected him to do such at times against Miami and Cleveland.

Allen ices his foot after each game and often receives treatment before every contest, but hasn't missed a game due to the ankle since the start of the season.

Game 4: Celts-Magic statistical nuggets

May, 23, 2010
5/23/10
11:19
PM ET
ESPN Stats and Information and the Elias Sports bureau help us identify some trends and streaks and provide some pretty interesting numbers as we look to Celtics-Magic Game 4 on Monday night.

* In the history of the NBA Playoffs, no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. Teams up 3-0 in best-of-seven series are 93-0 all-time.


* Celtics have won six straight playoff games, tied for the second-longest single-postseason streak in Celtics history, and are now one win away from advancing to their second NBA Finals in the last three seasons.

* The Celtics are 11-0 when allowing fewer than 100 points this postseason and 0-3 when allowing more than 100 points this postseason.

* Boston is on the verge of becoming just the third four seed to reach the NBA Finals since the merger. Only three teams seeded lower than fourth have reached the Finals since the merger: the 1999 Knicks, 1995 Rockets and 1981 Rockets.

*The Celtics have led a best-of-seven series 3-0 11 previous times. They have swept four of those series and won the other seven series in five games.


* Don’t expect the series to last much longer, teams that hold a 3-0 series lead in the conference finals have never even seen a Game 7. In the 25 previous 3-0 series, 14 were decided in four games, nine in five games and two in six games.

* From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Celtics’ six-game winning streak is the longest postseason streak by a team seeded fourth or lower since the eight-seeded Knicks won six straight in 1999.

*Orlando is on the verge of being swept. If that happens, it will be just the sixth time in the last 25 seasons that a defending conference champion was swept in the following postseason.

* This is the fourth time in Magic history the team has been down 3-0 in a series. The previous three have all ended in sweeps.

* The Magic could become just the fifth team since the merger to win at least 59 games in the regular season and get swept in the postseason. The last team to do it was the 1998 Lakers.

(Read full post)

Game 4 preview: It's all over

May, 23, 2010
5/23/10
9:41
PM ET


Michael Wilbon, Jon Barry, Magic Johnson and Stuart Scott looked ahead to Monday’s Eastern Conference finals Game 4 between the Celtics and Magic (Boston leads 3-0) in the video clip above, and one theme resonates: The Magic don’t have a chance.

This one exchange sums it up.

Scott: “How does Orlando try to win Game 4?”

Johnson: “Honestly, they can’t. I’m going to just be honest. When you think about the Boston Celtics defense, they’ve taken away everybody, especially the role players. ... They’ve broken Orlando’s will to win. I don’t see the spirit, I don’t see the will of this team coming out to beat the Boston Celtics.”

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksK. Humphries 0.9