Commentary

Celtics say they're ready to hold court

Updated: May 5, 2010, 9:00 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Considering that some were penning their epitaph following Saturday's Game 1 loss, you'd think the Boston Celtics would be overjoyed to be back in Boston with their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cleveland Cavaliers knotted at one game apiece.

And while Boston is hardly complaining, you get the feeling the team is actually a bit angry it's not up 2-0 at this point.

"I think we're upset as a group," Celtics forward Glen Davis said after Monday's Game 2 triumph. Boston let Game 1 slip away when Mo Williams sparked Cleveland's third-quarter, double-digit comeback. "We can't do anything about [Game 1]. Now we've got to go up [to Boston] and defend home court."

[+] EnlargePaul Pierce & Ray Allen
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesThe Celtics held some anger they let Game 1 in Cleveland slip away, but they channeled that energy to a big win in Game 2.

Coach Doc Rivers could sense that anger in his team after Game 1 and was happy the Celtics found a way to channel that energy toward something positive. After stressing that Boston simply needed to win one of four potential games in Cleveland, he's not in the position to be particularly greedy.

"I'll take it," said Rivers. "We had a shot in Game 1, but we didn't get it. We can't live in the past. I told the guys that. They were angry. I said, 'You can't get it back -- nothing you can do about it. It's over with.' I'm glad they kind of moved on."

Now, to move on to the next round, the Celtics simply have to take care of business at TD Garden. That's a task that's easier said than done. After all, Boston posted a mere 24-17 record at home this season. This from a team that lost a mere six games at the Garden in each of the past two seasons.

Put another way: Toronto, which finished 10 games behind Boston in the Atlantic Division this season and missed the playoffs, had a better home record (25-16) than the Celtics. Chicago, the eighth-place team in the East, who got dispatched by the Cavaliers in five games in the opening round, had the same home mark as Boston this year.

What's more, Cleveland posted a better road record (26-15) than Boston produced on its home turf.

Playoff stats suggest those regular-season marks are a bit misleading. Boston has played some of its most inspired ball at home in the postseason, limiting the Heat to 79.7 points per game over three first-round victories at the Garden.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are a mere 12-14 on the road over the past four postseasons (they're 22-6 at home in that span). The Celtics know there's work to do, but that championship confidence seems to be returning to their voices. It's been absent since Kevin Garnett's season-ending, right-knee injury derailed hopes of the C's defending their crown last season.

No one seems more excited for home cooking than KG.

"We won one and now we're going back home to the jungle," said Garnett.

But what about Boston's struggles at home this season? How can losses to teams like the New Jersey Nets and Washington Wizards be overlooked?

Ray Allen suggests the Celtics might have gotten caught looking ahead during the regular season.

"I think we were probably guilty of focusing too far in advance as opposed to taking care of the moments that we had during the regular season," admitted Allen.

"The one thing I had great confidence in every single day is I've seen guys coming into the gym, working on their game, getting their shots up, taking care of their bodies," said Allen. "We have a lot of young guys, regardless of their age, a lot of young guys at heart. Everyone is ready for the challenge. We are ready for the ball to be tossed up."

While Cleveland coach Mike Brown sounded downright irate after Game 2, there was hardly a sense of panic in the Cavaliers' locker room. Cleveland, which split two games in Boston during the regular season, seemed resigned to the fact that it would have to atone on the road.

"I've been here before," said Shaquille O'Neal. "We're a very resilient team. We have to go up to Boston and get one or two games. We're all about defense and [Monday] we had a lot of slippage.

"We'll be fine."

Celtics captain Paul Pierce had stressed that his teammates needed to treat Game 2 like it was Game 7. It's a good thing they did. Of teams facing a 2-0 deficit without home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series, only 6.1 percent (14-of-228) have prevailed.

So maybe the Celtics should treat Game 3 like it's Game 7. After all, in series that are tied 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 wins the series 76.3 percent of the time. "The series is 1-1," said Brown, "and we're going to see what we are made of come Game 3."

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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