Looking back on the stated keys before the Eastern Conference semifinal series, it's no shock the Celtics have to work a seventh game against the Magic. In fact, considering how they've failed to press their advantages on a more regular basis, perhaps it's a bit of a surprise they are still candidates for advancement. Heading into Game 1, coach Doc Rivers believed Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen all would have edges, but none has worked out to the extent he thought - which, in Allen's case, is putting it mildly.
``We've been inconsistent with those,'' Rivers said. ``We've tried, but then you're back to that the players got to make plays.''
We didn't have Pierce on our list, but here's a look at how things have gone with the other points:
** 1. Keeping a lid on Rashard Lewis.
Not too good on this front. Lewis is shooting and scoring better than in the regular season, up three points to an average of 20.7 in this series. The Celts really don't have anyone who can guard him. Glen Davis gets hurt on the perimeter, and while Brian Scalabrine has done a credible job in most cases, Lewis is drawing fouls on both.
Considering all the things they get from giving Lewis the ball, there is room to wonder why the Magic haven't gone to him more. He, not Dwight Howard, has an argument when it comes to touches.
** 2. Getting another big series out of Rondo.
He's had more flashes of brilliance, but the point guard hasn't often enough used his speed as a weapon. As a result, his scoring and assists are down and his turnovers are up from the Chicago series. Rondo's been taking more outside shots lately, but that's because Orlando is using his defender to help elsewhere. Driving would be good, but he's stopped going all the way to the rim consistently, settling for runners from the lane.
``He's got to make plays to the basket, but that's so easy to say,'' Rivers said. ``Howard's pretty good. He's the Defensive Player of the Year.''
As for the Magic helping off Rondo, Rivers said, ``This is a tougher team than the Lakers when they did it, even though Rondo was up and down. They didn't have Dwight Howard standing back there when he did drive. . . . In this case, they help off Rondo and they tell Howard to stand there, and basically he's playing between Rondo and Perk (Kendrick Perkins).''
** 3. Dealing with Howard.
We said Perkins could be expected to do a very good job on him, but we added the caveat that only penetration would be a problem. When Perk has to move off Howard to help on a driver, all sorts of bad things come into play for the Celtics .
That's exactly what has happened, which is why Perkins can rightly claim he's played good defense against a guy who's averaging 17.2 points and 17.3 rebounds in the series.
``Everybody said it's Howard, but I said, no, dribble penetration's the key to the series,'' Rivers said yesterday. ``When they beat us on dribble penetration, it's a (problem). It opens up Howard and it opens up the 3's. I mean, it screws everything up.''
** 4. Allen taking advantage of J.J. Redick.
No way to spin this - 11.5 points on 30.7 percent shooting (13.9 percent on 3's). It hasn't helped Allen that the C's haven't pushed the ball enough, but he's still got to make shots.
If Orlando helps off Rondo again tonight, look for him to set picks on Allen's man to try to free him.
** 5. Getting back on defense.
The Celts have done a reasonable job here, but they're at their best when they attack the basket, get to the free throw line and force the Magic to start their offense by taking the ball out of the net. See: fourth quarter, Game 5.
STAFF GRAPHIC: HISTORY LESSON: C'S IN GAME 7
When it comes to do-or-die ballgames, the Celtics have been able to live to fight another day more often than not. The Green are 20-5 in deciding Game 7s. Here's a look at the results in Game 7s throughout franchise history:
SEASON SERIES RESULT
1956-57 Championship finals Celtics 125, St. Louis Hawks 123 (OT)
1958-59 Division finals Celtics 130, Syracuse Nationals 125
1959-60 Championship finals Celtics 122, St. Louis Hawks 103
1961-62 Division finals Celtics 109, Philadelphia Warriors 107
Championship finals Celtics 110, Los Angeles Lakers 107 (OT)
1962-63 Division finals Celtics 142, Cincinnati Royals 131
1964-65 Division finals Celtics 110, Philadelphia 76ers 109
1965-66 Championship finals Celtics 95, Los Angeles Lakers 93
1967-68 Division finals Celtics 100, PHILADELPHIA 76ers 96
1968-69 Championship finals Celtics 108, LOS ANGELES Lakers 106
1972-73 Conference finals New York Knicks 94, Celtics 78
1973-74 Championship finals Celtics 102, MILWAUKEE Bucks 87
1976-77 Conference semis PHILADELPHIA 76ers 83, Celtics 77
1980-81 Conference finals Celtics 91, Philadelphia 76ers 90
1981-82 Conference finals Philadelphia 76ers 120, Celtics 106
1983-84 Conference semis Celtics 121, New York 104
NBA Finals Celtics 111, Los Angeles Lakers 102
1986-87 Conference semis Celtics 119, Milwaukee Bucks 113
Conference finals Celtics 117, Detroit 114
1987-88 Conference semis Celtics 118, Atlanta Hawks 116
1991-92 Conference semis CLEVELAND Cavaliers 122, Celtics 104
2004-05 First round Indiana Pacers 97, Celtics 70
2007-08 First round Celtics 99, Atlanta Hawks 65
Conference semis Celtics 97, Cleveland Cavaliers 92
2008-09 First round Celtics 109, Chicago Bulls 99