Game 6 - Eastern Conference Finals
(4) Celtics 96, (2) Orlando 84 - Celtics win series, 4-2
If the Boston Celtics hadn't won Friday night's sixth game of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, they would have been on the verge of losing a series after winning the first three games. No other NBA team would have been able to claim such a pronounced choke job on the worldwide stage.
Fortunately, that doomsday scenario won't greet the team that claimed one of the more satisfying series wins in recent franchise history.
In Boston, the locals measure seasons by world championships and not conference crowns, but before the men in green get on with the business of playing the NBA Finals, they would do well to celebrate what they just achieved. It was one thing to take care of the imploding Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, even though the Cavs carried the best record in the league; it was quite another matter to take down the 2009 East champions.
Orlando, unlike Cleveland, boasted talent and potency at multiple spots on the floor. No one could fairly label the Magic as a one-man team; stopping Stan Van Gundy's squad was going to require far more of Boston's resources than the Cleveland series did. The conquest of the Cavs forced the shaky regular-season Celts to regain the old confidence which propelled them to the 2008 NBA title; this series against Orlando was going to demand much more in the way of pure quality. Mere attitude wasn't going to make the Magic disappear.
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Quite clearly, the Celtics brought some A-game efforts to TD Garden on a festive and fulfilling Friday night, closing down the season for their underachieving opponent.
Paul Pierce has shown flashes of his old self - the self that became the MVP of the 2008 Finals - during these playoffs, but "The Truth" was never more honest than in this Game 6 pressure-cooker. Pierce lived up to his last name and thrust daggers into Orlando's side, fatally wounding the Magic with a devastating 31-point, 13-rebound performance worthy of a superstar. Nate Robinson provided a considerable amount of help thanks to 13 huge first-half points, and Ray Allen banged in two threes early in the third quarter to build Boston's lead back to 20 after Orlando closed within 13 at the half, but it was Pierce who towered above this game from start to finish, snuffing out Orlando's hopes before they could grow. Kevin Garnett lost his mind in the first half by committing some silly fouls, and Rajon Rondo's hot start was limited by a back injury, but because of Pierce's prominence, the Celtics finished a series that could have been over on Monday night in Game 4. The drama wound up being more prolonged than it might have needed to be, but Boston's ability to drive home the hammer in Game 6 affirms everything they've done to overcome a 32-loss regular season. Similarly, this lame and limp 12-point loss (much more decisive than the scoreboard suggests) makes this 2010 campaign a total loss for the Magic, who expected more after making the Finals last year and losing to the L.A. Lakers.
Boston grew up. Orlando shriveled. As a result, chants of "Beat L.A.!" are ringing through New England again... even though the Western Conference Finals are continuing.
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer
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