The NBA's most-decorated team avoided the biggest playoff collapse in league history and earned a chance to hang an unprecedented 18th championship banner from its rafters in Boston.
Paul Pierce had 31 points and 13 rebounds, and little-used backup and Seattle native Nate Robinson gave the Celtics a boost with 13 second-quarter points as Boston beat the Orlando Magic, 96-84, Friday night to earn a chance to play for a second NBA title in three years.
The NBA Finals will open Thursday in either Los Angeles or Phoenix.
The Lakers lead the Western Conference finals 3-2, and a win today over the Suns would set up a coast-to-coast rematch of the 2008 Finals.
“We got back to moving the ball, playing good defense, not allowing them to shoot the 3-point shot. That was the key,” Pierce said.
The Boston fans have been chanting “Beat L.A.!” since Game 3, when the Celtics cruised to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals. Orlando won the next two games and threatened to become the first NBA team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series.
Dwight Howard had 28 points and 12 rebounds for Orlando, the defending East champions. Vince Carter scored 17 points, and Jameer Nelson finished with 11 points and four assists as he was outplayed by Boston’s starting point guard, Rajon Rondo, and Robinson, his backup.
Robinson, the University of Washington All-American who had struggled to get playing time since being traded to Boston in February, is making his first postseason appearance since turning pro in 2005.
The NBA says Dwyane Wade did not break any league tampering rules by saying he wants to talk with other top teams before deciding whether to stay with the Miami Heat. Under league rules, players cannot tamper with other players. … Akron, Ohio, will have “LeBron Appreciation Day” on June 19 in an effort to persuade LeBron James to re-sign with the Cavs. … Former All-Star Antoine Walker has filed for bankruptcy in Miami, listing assets of $4.3 million and liabilities of $12.7 million.