Updated: May 19, 2010, 8:19 AM ET

1. Celtics Proving You Can Turn It On And Off

By John Hollinger
ESPN.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- You can't just turn it on for the playoffs … um, right?

Maybe you can, after all; at least if you've done it before. The Boston Celtics, champions in 2008, limped through the final two-thirds of the regular season and were mostly counted out heading into the playoffs.

Magically, all that changed once the postseason started. Boston blew past Miami in five games, shocked Cleveland by winning the final three games -- including a 32-point rout in Game 5 -- and continued its stunning run by beating Orlando 95-92 on Tuesday to take a 2-0 series lead in their best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Saturday in Boston.

The Celtics have won five straight games against the East's two regular-season heavyweights -- Boston's first five-game winning streak in more than half a year -- and as a result has one foot in the NBA Finals and is six wins away from claiming a second championship in three years.

So … did they just turn it on for the playoffs?

"I know it's starting to look that way," said Paul Pierce, who scored a team-high 28 points and shook off a second-quarter chop to the face from Dwight Howard that resulted in a flagrant foul.

But he insisted that the Celtics' charge really began in the final 10 games of the regular season. The results weren't there yet -- they lost three times to lottery teams -- but the spirit was.

"We were seeing that we were turning the corner," Pierce said. "Even though some of the things didn't result in wins, I thought Coach really saw some things that we did in those last five or 10 games that were positive things that we really didn't do for most of the season. I think we saw it coming, [so] we stayed positive."

"I thought our intensity went up really well, and eventually when the playoffs started, it turned full circle for us."

The win continues an amazing transformation for the Celtics.

Less than 10 days ago, they were viewed as a spent force, an aging team that closed the season 27-27 and was trailing 2-1 to Cleveland after losing Game 3 at home by 29 points. No sane person thought they had a prayer of beating the Cavs, much less advancing to the NBA Finals.

"The things that were said were probably deserved," Pierce said. "We didn't play well; we didn't play consistent."

"We're the team that started the season," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. That Boston squad got off to a 23-5 start, including an 86-77 win in Orlando on Christmas Day, but had scarcely been seen since.

On Tuesday, the Celtics continued their rejuvenation by overcoming a staple of their second-half malaise: a blown fourth-quarter lead. Boston led by 11 early in the fourth but the Magic rallied to regain the lead 90-89 on a Vince Carter jumper with 3:35 remaining. Kendrick Perkins had already fouled out, Orlando regained the ball after a Kevin Garnett miss and the Magic crowd was roaring. At that moment, it seemed Boston had squandered a golden opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

From that point, however, the Celtics simply out-executed Orlando. The Celtics forced Vince Carter into a contested miss to get the ball back, and Garnett hit a tough fadeaway in the corner over Howard to regain the lead. Boston caught a break when a Garnett reach-in went uncalled and eventually led to a charge on J.J. Redick -- drawn by Glen Davis, who contributed a valuable 28-minute relief stint that included a rare dunk.

Boston took advantage when Rondo finished off a brilliant performance (25 points, eight assists, suffocating D on Jameer Nelson) by hitting a back-breaking 16-foot jumper over Howard at the end of the shot clock.

That shot put the Celtics up by three in the final minute, and with the help of two huge late mistakes by Orlando -- a pair of missed free throws by Carter that caused Nick Anderson flashbacks throughout Central Florida, followed by Redick's failure to immediately call timeout after a Boston miss with seven seconds left -- Boston had its landmark win.

Although it's a bit premature to prepare a eulogy for a Magic team that lost twice by a combined total of seven points, the Celtics now possess an overwhelming advantage: Teams that win the first two games on the road have won 22 of 25 times in best-of-seven series.

A hacker may have inadvertently provided Orlando some added motivation afterward -- Pierce's Twitter account said "Anybody got a BROOM?" but the timing of the post seemed to coincide with when he was answering my question on the podium.

"Pride comes before a fall, just know that," said Howard, after being informed of what were originally believed to be Pierce's comments.

Howard at least has some history on his side -- Orlando has won its past three meetings in Boston, including Game 7 of their second-round series last season.

That said, winning four of the next five -- including at least two on the road -- is a daunting task, given that Boston's playoff résumé suddenly looks incredibly impressive. Orlando and Cleveland won a combined 120 games, but the Celtics beat the two teams five times in a row -- three of them on the road. For the playoffs, the Celtics are 10-3 with a plus-60 scoring margin against what is by far the toughest schedule of any postseason team.

Ironically, the veteran Celtics now are the ones wishing the playoff schedule didn't include so many off days. Originally, most felt the three days off between games would favor Boston, particularly the gimpy knees of Perkins and Garnett. But after taking the first two on the road, Boston would probably rather go for the kill immediately.

"Unfortunately we have a month off before the next game," Rivers said, "so we have to keep it together. For four days we're going to hear how great we are."

For four months the Celtics heard the opposite. But whether it was intentional or not, they turned it on at just the right time.

John Hollinger is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.

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2. Wall Wants To Be A Wizard

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com
Wall
Wall

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- John Wall played it cool, calm and collected through the first 11 announcements of the NBA lottery order Tuesday night.

Then the ESPN broadcast went to a commercial break and he exhaled. Surrounded on agent Dan Fegan's couch by a close circle of friends who are considered family, Brian and Dwon Clifton and Tyrone Williams, Wall started to get a bit fidgety.

All his anticipation about where he could be playing next season -- the buildup for two years of his likely destination after being anointed the top pick in the 2010 NBA draft as a high school senior -- was finally about to come to a close.

"I think it's going to be the Nets," the Kentucky freshman point guard said. "I've just got a feeling."

Fegan, who openly cheered when the Minnesota Timberwolves got the No. 4 pick because he represents Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio (selected by Minnesota last year but choosing to stay in Spain), was ecstatic at the final three teams -- New Jersey, Washington and Philadelphia -- telling the group they were all East Coast cities for the Raleigh, N.C., native, and all major media markets.

To read the entire column, click here

3. Did The Rockets Send The Wrong Guy?

By Henry Abbott
TrueHoop Network
Brooks
Brooks

The Rockets sent point guard Aaron Brooks to the draft lottery. He didn't know why. "They just asked!" he said. "Maybe they think I'm lucky." But Brooks is hardly superstitious. He had no rabbit's foot or anything similar. The closest thing he had to a trinket were his fashion-statement eyeglasses, which do nothing to correct his vision.

The absence of lucky charms aside, it wouldn't be hard to imagine that Brooks might not want to win this thing. There would be pressure to pick Wall, who plays Brooks' position of point guard.

But before the lottery, Brooks assured he was hoping to win, saying the top pick "might be a point guard, or it might be, I don't know, compensation for LeBron. Who knows?"

In any case, it didn't work. The Rockets started the night -- and finished it -- with the 14th pick. Brooks smiled ever-so-mildly on television when he learned they had not moved up.

To read the entire blog entry, click here

4. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Tuesday's game -- all in Daily Dime Live.

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