Breathe easy, Bostonians — crisis has been averted. The Celtics jumped to an early lead and cruised Friday, beating Orlando 96-84 to grab the first of two openings in the NBA Finals, with the other to be filled by either the Kobes or the Nashes and determined either Saturday or Monday night.
The Celtics led by 11 after a quarter and used a 13-point second from Little Nate Robinson to extend their lead to 55-42 at the half. The Magic’s season was effectively put to rest early in the third, when an 11-2 Boston run stretched it to a 22-point lead — one that crunch time lifer Vince Carter was unable to dwindle en route to a 17-point effort, his second-highest of the series. Fittingly, the game ended with Carter clutching his hamstring as though it was 2003.
Enough talk about Orlando, though — Paul Pierce was the real story in this one, scoring 31 points and adding 13 boards and five assists in arguably his best game of the season. Ray Allen had 20, Rajon Rondo 14 and six assists and Kevin Garnett had 10 and five rebounds.
I can’t imagine what goes on inside the head of a Boston sports fan (I’m guessing they have a lot more to think about than us simple Torontonians), but I have to believe they’re breathing a collective sigh of relief with this one. When the Patriots and Bruins choke, it must be nice to fall back on the great Rondo. Lots to be excited about right now though — this is shaping up to be a great Finals, regardless of whether the Celtics draw Kobe or Nash.