By Gethin Coolbaugh
BOSTON – It seemed that nothing was going right for the Celtics this past week.
After taking a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston dropped two straight and seemed to be destined for elimination.
Nate Robinson and the Celtics turned the tables on Orlando, dealing the Magic a 96-84 defeat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on Friday night.
With their victory, the Celtics eliminated the Magic, winning the series 4-2 and advancing to the NBA Finals for the 21st time in franchise history.
Robinson, who entered the game in the second quarter after point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a back injury, provided the Celtics with a much-needed spark off the bench, finishing with 13 points in 13 minutes.
“Nate Robinson was huge in the first half,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. “That was a huge, huge lift for them.”
While Robinson provided the spark, captain Paul Pierce put in the game’s best performance, totaling a game-high 31 points on 9-of-15 shooting, 13 rebounds and five assists in 44 and a half minutes.
Boston and Orlando traded baskets early on in the first quarter, but Robinson’s spark spurred the Celtics to a 30-19.
Both teams played even through the second quarter, as Boston outscored Orlando 25-23 to take a 55-42 halftime lead.
The Magic outscored the Celtics 23-14 in the fourth quarter and 42-41 in the second half, but the damage had already been done.
Boston had five players score in double-digits. Ray Allen added 20 points, Rondo had 14 points and six assists and Kevin Garnett totaled 10 points and five rebounds for the Celtics.
“This starting five has never lost a series, ever,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told the media. “We believed that coming into the season, and we just kept believing.”
Kendrick Perkins, who had his second technical foul rescinded by the NBA prior to Friday night’s Game 6, had a lackluster performance, scoring two points with seven rebounds and two assists.
Glen Davis scored six points and had seven rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen did not score, but Wallace (12 minutes) had three rebounds and Allen (13 minutes) added one rebound and one assist.
Orlando had three players score in double-digits and was led by center Dwight Howard’s 28 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and one black.
“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 seven rebounds, Jameer Nelson totaled 11 points and four assists and Rashard Lewis had seven points and eight rebounds.
Matt Barnes, seen by many as a difference maker in the series, scored one point on a free throw and did not attempt a shot from the field in 21 minutes.
J.J. Redick and Mikael Pietrus paced the Magic bench, scoring seven points apiece. Jason Williams scored five points and Marcin Gortat had one point.
Boston made 32-of-75 shots to shoot 42.7% and connected on 10-of-22 three pointers (45.5%) and 22-of-27 free throws (81.5%).
Orlando hit 31-of-72 shots to shoot 43.1% from the field and made 6-of-22 three point shots (27.3%) and 16-of-27 free throws (59.3%).
The Celtics amassed 45 rebounds, 19 assists, 13 turnovers and seven steals while the Magic totaled 35 rebounds, 14 assists, 12 turnovers and eight steals.
Boston had 25 fouls and Orlando had 21 and both teams had three steals each.
The Celtics will face the winner of the Lakers/Suns series in Game 1 of the NBA Finals next Thursday night.
While the Celtics won a title in 2008, they aren’t satisfied with the status quo.
“Obviously, one is special,” said Rivers. “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.”
Los Angeles leads the series against Phoenix 3-2, and whichever team advances to the Finals will have home court advantage.
Gethin Coolbaugh is the Associate Editor of Boston Sports U18. He can be reached at 774-279-1995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit Gethin Coolbaugh’s official website and follow Gethin Coolbaugh on Twitter.
*Quotes in this story were used from AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen’s game story, which can be read on Yahoo! Sports by clicking this link.