From Rajon Rondo to Paul Pierce to Ray Allen, members of the Boston Celtics have taken turns providing the Orlando Magic with all kinds of problems in the Eastern Conference Finals. But it was the seldom-used Nate Robinson that was the key to Boston’s 96-84 win in Game 6, a victory which closed out the series 4-2 and sent Boston to the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.
After subbing in for an injured Rondo at the start of the second quarter, Robinson went off. With the Celtics leading 30-19 at the beginning of the period, the three-time slam dunk champion electrified the crowd with 10 points in the first half, helping to extend the Celtic lead to 21 points as Boston cruised to the win.
“Nate Robinson was huge in the first half,” Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy said in the post-game press conference. “That was a huge, huge lift for them.”
Both of Boston’s point guards outscored Orlando starting point guard Jameer Nelson, as Robinson finished with 13 points, Rondo with 14 and Nelson with 11. After two sensational performances in games four and five, Nelson was no match for the two-headed point guard monster that the Celtics unleashed for Game 6. Rondo and Robinson combined for 22 first-half points while Nelson struggled, scoring just four points before halftime.
Pierce continued his series-long torture of Orlando defenders, recording game-highs with 31 points and 13 rebounds while handing out five assists. After a slow start to the postseason, Pierce picked it up against the Magic, averaging over 24 points a game in the series.
Critics had begun to wonder if the Celtics, who were up 3-0 in the series, would suffer the same fate as their NHL neighbors the Boston Bruins, who were defeated in four straight games by the Philadelphia Flyers after leading their own series 3-0. But Pierce saved his best game of the playoffs for the right time.
“I never really think negative about losing, or being up 3-0…” Pierce told reporters. “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.”
Boston will try to capture their second NBA championship in the past three seasons when they open the NBA Finals on the road in either Phoenix or Los Angeles on Thursday, June 3.