NBA: Celtics, Cavs back in Boston for Game 7

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2008

By Jimmy Golen
Associated Press
WALTHAM, Mass. ó 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 so far 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 host Cleveland in the decisive game of their best-of-seven series on 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.
“They are at home and are expected to win,” Cavaliers forward Ben Wallace said.
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.
“Second time around, huh?” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Let’s hope it’s like the last time.”
Rivers put his players through a brief walkthrough and film session, but Pierce, Sam Cassell, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine stayed more than 45 minutes after practice broke up playing “knockout,” a round-robin one-on-one game. After a whole lot of playful trash-talking, mostly from Pierce and Cassell, Pierce won with a high-arcing jumper over Allen.
Several of the Celtics had said they couldn’t sleep before Game 7 of the Atlanta series, but on 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.
“I don’t want them coming in and saying, ‘Oh, we’re back in Boston and everything will take care of itself,”‘ Rivers said. “We have to make things happen.”