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Archive for Sunday, May 18, 2008

Celtics hoping magic at Garden continues

Boston's Paul Pierce (34) runs into Cleveland's LeBron James during the third quarter of Game 6 on Friday in Cleveland. The Celtics and the Cavs will play a deciding Game 7 today at the Boston Garden to see who advances to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Boston's Paul Pierce (34) runs into Cleveland's LeBron James during the third quarter of Game 6 on Friday in Cleveland. The Celtics and the Cavs will play a deciding Game 7 today at the Boston Garden to see who advances to the Eastern Conference Finals.

May 18, 2008

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— The Boston Celtics can drive by the statue of Red Auerbach on their way to work today, pick up some lunch at Faneuil Hall and then warm up under the 16 NBA championship banners their predecessors helped hang from the rafters.

They're back home again, and that's been the surest sign of success for them in this year's playoffs.

"We're right where we want to be: We've got an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference finals," forward Paul Pierce said Saturday after the Celtics held a short walkthrough followed by a long series of semi-friendly games of one-on-one.

"This is the reason we got the best record in the NBA for," Pierce said. "We've got to play one more great game in order to advance."

The Celtics will play host to Cleveland in the decisive game of their best-of-seven series today at the new Boston Garden, where the green team has yet to lose in the postseason.

The Celtics had a chance to close out the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday, but lost, 74-69. That forced the series to a seventh game, which the Celtics earned the right to play in Boston by blistering through the regular season with an NBA-best 66-16 record.

And suddenly, that 0-6 playoff road mark doesn't seem so important after all.

It's not just the Celtics who have been dominant in their own building: The home team is 21-2 in the conference semifinals, and it's not all that hard to see why.

The home crowd can help the energy of the home team, and influence the referees as well; it's hard to imagine the offensive foul called on Pierce in the final minute of Game 6 being called against him in Boston.

"Home court is huge," Celtics guard Eddie House said. "It does help. It's helped almost every playoff team in this round."

The Celtics were also unbeaten at home in the first round, when they also went winless on the road to allow the lowly Atlanta Hawks to force the series to the limit. After dropping Game 6 in Atlanta, 103-100, the Celtics came back to Boston and eliminated the Hawks, 99-65.

Several of the Celtics had said they couldn't sleep before Game 7 of the Atlanta series, but Saturday they looked as if they couldn't have been looser.

"All of us are competitive; all of us want to advance; all of us want to win a championship," Pierce said. "That's what drives us. So that's why you'll see a lot of sleepless nights."

Rivers said his team can call on the experience it gained from playing an elimination game in the first round. But he also knows one lesson they can't take away is that it will be just as easy this time.

"I don't want them coming in and saying, 'Oh, we're back in Boston and everything will take care of itself,'" Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We have to make things happen.

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