Closing series on road could be tough for Celtics – LA Times

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By Baxter Holmes
Los Angeles Times

June 14, 2010 | 5:43 p.m.

An NBA title is just 48 minutes away, a fact the Boston Celtics cannot deny.

“The moment that is before us, it’s starting to rear its head in,” guard Ray Allen said.

The Celtics, who lead the NBA Finals series three games to two, need to defeat the Lakers one more time, which can come Tuesday night or, if the series goes to a Game 7, on Thursday.

But no matter what, it will have to happen on the road, at Staples Center.

The Celtics are 1-7 in close-out road games in the playoffs over the last three seasons, and have lost two such games this season, in Miami and Orlando. In fact, the last time their starting five finished a road playoff series came in the 2008 Eastern Conference finals against Detroit.

Last season perhaps stung the worst. The Celtics led Orlando three games to two in the Eastern Conference semifinals but lost a possible road-clinching game and eventually lost the series.

“Whatever happened last year, I thought we had a great season, we got beat by Orlando,” Allen said. “It’s a new year and it’s definitely been a blessing, but this year has definitely been a lot tougher, and I think the tougher it is, the more you want it.”

Their playoff road has certainly been tough. The Celtics have faced Miami ( Dwyane Wade), Cleveland ( LeBron James), Orlando ( Dwight Howard) and now the Lakers ( Kobe Bryant).

And for a team that finished fourth in their conference after a 27-27 close to the season and was considered over the hill, the run seems remarkable.

“I think along the way, people forgot, forgot who we were and what we were capable of,” Allen said. “We got back to that mentality, but it didn’t shake us at all. We didn’t worry about what people said, what they thought. People were saying that we were a team that was old, but here we are. We’re capable, that’s the most important thing and we all knew it.”

Even though the Celtics beat the Lakers in the Finals in 2008, Rajon Rondo said they carry no mental edge into Tuesday.

“They’re the world champions,” Rondo said. “I’m sure they’re going to come out and fight hard, so it’s not over