Celtics need rest, but fear it could kill momentum
Too much no good?
By Mark Murphy | Thursday, May 20, 2010 | | Boston Celtics
Photo by Matt Stone

There is a strong urge to play Game 3 immediately.

The Celtics [team stats], with a 2-0 series lead over Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals, can smell blood like never before. But for the second straight round, the Celtics have to wait a postseason eternity - three full off days - before beginning the home leg of the series.

“I would rather play,” said Ray Allen. “When you have two or three off days, you start to think of things like, oh, the closet needs cleaning.”

Back on May 7 in the Garden, a little too much of that closet dust got in the way. LeBron James opened with a 21-point first quarter and the Cavaliers ran off with a 124-95 win that was the worst playoff loss in Celtics history.

That night also turned out to be an anomaly. The Celtics were the dominant team in their second-round win, closing out the series in six games and winning twice in Cleveland.

And now they have won twice in Orlando. It’s the first time the Magic lost back-to-back home games this season, and the Celtic mission is clear: No one wants to return for a Game 5, save for the wounded Magic.

“We still have to put our hard hats on even though we’re going home, because home isn’t necessarily a place where we’ve played well all year long,” said Paul Pierce [stats]. “We have to keep the same intensity.”

And that’s a challenge for a team that finished the regular season with a better road than home record.

Rest for his aging stars is paramount - it has been pivotal to the Celtics’ 10-3 postseason run. But Doc Rivers wouldn’t mind an extension of the sequestered environment that lends focus to this team on the road.

The Celtics coach joked earlier this week that perhaps his players would be best served if their wives and girlfriends were flown down to Orlando once the series resumes in Boston.

He’s not entirely kidding.

“I wish we could take them to Alcatraz for four days and be on the island all by ourselves,” said Rivers, “but that’s not going to happen.

“Going home, it’s great in some ways - in a lot of ways - but in other ways it’s tough. Everywhere they go, they’re going to hear how great they are. We haven’t done anything. You need four wins; we have two. That’s it. Orlando hasn’t had a chance to play in our place. So we just have to keep playing basketball.”

It remains to be seen whether the Celtics can also maintain the edge that has produced a 2-0 series lead in the midst of a hostile environment.

“Yes, it’s definitely a long stretch,” Pierce said of the break that started yesterday, “but I think it’s a stretch that’s much needed for this group. Kevin (Garnett) has a couple of little, small ailments. Perk is dealing with some stuff. Rondo is dealing with some minor stuff.

“So it’s going to be a good break for us to get a couple of days off and get back to practice, and hopefully become a little more fresh come Friday and Saturday.

“That way, we can get the job done at home,” Pierce said. “I know the last time we laid an egg at home in Game 3. But I don’t (see) this team being complacent when we get home. It’s a very determined, very focused group that really doesn’t want to come back to Orlando.”