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Celtics Beat Magic 96-84, Advance to NBA Finals vs. Lakers or Phoenix Suns

The Boston Celtics beat the Orlando Magic 96-84 to reach the National Basketball Association’s championship series, where they’ll be seeking their 18th NBA title.

The Celtics, who won the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals 4-2, will play the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers or the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. The Lakers have a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference series, which moves to Phoenix tonight for Game 6.

The Celtics knocked off the two teams with the best NBA regular-season records, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Magic, on their way to the title series. In the opening round, they defeated the Miami Heat.

“This starting five has never lost a series,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said in a courtside television interview. “We believe we’re the big 15.”

The Celtics won the first three games of the series, then lost the next two to the Magic. No team had rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series in 93 tries, while only three had forced a seventh game.

“We got back to moving the ball, playing good defense and not allowing them to shoot (3-pointers),” Boston’s Paul Pierce said after the game. “That was the key.”

Pierce had 31 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Celtics, who last won the championship after the 2007-08 season. Ray Allen scored 20 points at TD Garden in Boston.

Nate Robinson came off the bench to score 13 points for the Celtics in the second quarter.

“Nate Robinson was huge in the first half,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Then Ray hit two huge 3s to start the second half.”

Pierce said Robinson “really won the game for us.” Rivers said he kept telling Robinson “at some point he was going to win the game for us.”

Halftime Score

The Magic, who trailed 55-42 at halftime, were led by Dwight Howard with 28 points and 12 rebounds and Vince Carter with 17 points.

After the first four minutes, Van Gundy said the Magic, who lost in the finals last year to the Lakers, went through a long stretch where “we started forcing our offense. We had defensive breakdowns at the other end. You’re not going to be able to overcome that unless you make a lot of shots, and obviously we didn’t.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at nkercheval@bloomberg.net

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