The Boston Celtics avoided a trip back to Orlando by beating the Magic at home Friday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Magic looked to be demoralized after the Celtics jumped out to a 10 point lead in the second quarter behind substitute Nate Robinson.
Robinson came in for Rajon Rondo after Rondo fell to the court and seemed to injure his hip. The Celtics got Robinson in a trade from the New York Knicks in the middle of the regular season, and he hadn’t been a factor for the team in the playoffs until Game 6. He gave the Celtics an immediate spark with two-consecutive three pointers. He also flustered Magic guard Jameer Nelson, drawing a flagrant foul on a breakaway.
The “big three” will have an opportunity to fly a league-best 18th championship banner from the rafters of the Garden. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett won their first championship in 2008, but they want to be in the discussion with the all-time great Celtic teams.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers explained their motivation post-game.
“Obviously, one is special,” Doc Rivers said. “But the other groups have a couple, and we would love to join that club. No one can ever take away that first one, but we want to join the other club, too.”
Pierce scored 31 and added 13 rebounds for the Celtics, and Allen contributed to the win with 20. Kevin Garnett, who was absent from the team in the 2009 playoffs, added 10 points and five rebounds. The margin was increased by Robinson’s 13 second-quarter points.
The Celtics did not want to be the only team in NBA history to be beaten in a playoff series after opening up a 3-0 lead. Pierce said his team remained focused going into Game 6, not thinking about history or hockey.
“I never really think negative about losing, or being up 3-0 and something tragic happening,” said Pierce. “This is not hockey. It’s basketball. Even though one day it’s possibly going to happen, … I’m just glad we were able to prolong it one more year.”
Dwight Howard was the most effective Magic player in the losing effort. He scored 28 points, 12 rebounds, and two steals. He told reporters why the Celtics were able to beat a team who swept the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“Those guys played like they wanted to win the championship the whole series,” said Howard. “That’s why they’re in the position they’re in now.”
Vince Carter added 17 points, and Jameer Nelson 11. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy realized that Robinson gave his team a boost that would last the entire game.
“Nate Robinson was huge in the first half,” said Van Gundy. “That was a huge, huge lift for them.”
NBA Sportsbooks have the Celtics as the one of the favorites to win the 2010 NBA Finals at +125.