BOSTON, May 29 – Nate Robinson gave Boston a boost off the bench and Paul Pierce stepped up his play in another close out game as the Celtics earned a chance to go for an unprecedented 18th NBA championship banner.Pierce had 31 points and 13 rebounds, and little-used Robinson chipped in with 13 in the second quarter as the Celtics defeated the Orlando Magic 96-84 to win their semi-final series 4-2 on Friday.
"I am just glad we finished at home because I did not want to go back to Orlando," Pierce said. "We got back to moving the ball, playing good defence, not allowing them to shoot the three-point shot. That was the key,"
The Celtics will go for their second NBA title in three years when the finals begins Thursday in either Los Angeles or Phoenix.
The defending champion Lakers lead the other semi-final series 3-2 and a victory over the Suns in game six on Saturday would set up a rematch of the 2008 finals.
The Celtics and Lakers met in 10 championship series between 1959-87.
The Magic were trying to become the first NBA team to come back from being down 3-0 and staved off elimination twice by winning back-to-back games.
Once again Dwight Howard was the best player for Orlando finishing with 28 points and 12 rebounds.
Vince Carter added 17 points but Howard didn’t get the support he needed from his teammates in game six.
Ray Allen scored 20 points and Rajon Rondo had 14, including 12 in the opening quarter.
But when Rondo went down and had to take a seat on the bench after a hard foul in stepped slam dunk specialist Robinson.
The seldom used Robinson helped spark the Celtics to a double-digit halftime lead.
"I had a lot of energy," Robinson said. "The guys kept telling me to keep my head.
"It is better that we won in front of our fans. The last game we had a letdown and we knew we had to win at home."
Said Pierce, "He came in and gave us a spark."
Pierce also had words of encouragement for Howard as they shook hands on the court after the game.
"I am always talking trash to him so I told him it is nothing personal. He is a hell of player and I wished him good luck," Pierce said.
The Celtics shot 10-of-22 from behind three point range and outrebounded the Magic 45-35 on Friday.
"I thought early on we were OK, we just didn’t make shots, and then we let it get to us and when we did it broke down," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
"And I thought two things happened to us also, Nate Robinson was huge in the first half, that was a huge, huge lift for them, to have 12 points in the first half, and I also thought the other key part of the game … Ray hit the two 3s, bang, bang in the second half."
Orlando cut it to 13 points at halftime, but the Celtics scored 11 of the first 13 points in the third quarter and never led by fewer than 14 in the fourth until the last minute of the game.
That had Boston players already celebrating on the sidelines, wearing the Eastern Conference championship shirts that had been in storage since last weekend.
On Saturday they breezed to a 94-71 win to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series before they let the Magic back in it.
After Friday’s game, Hall of Famer Dave Cowens presented Boston owner Wyc Grousbeck with the conference trophy and told the team, "Bring home No. 18."