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Pierce, Rondo help Celtics go up 2-0

The Celtics might just roll their way back to the NBA Finals if they keep this up.

Paul Pierce scored 28 points, Rajon Rondo had 25 and visiting Boston again avoided a late collapse to take a commanding lead in the Eastern Conference finals with a 95-92 victory over the Orlando Magic in Game 2 last night.

The Celtics bullied and bruised their way to a 2-0 series lead against a Magic team that had won 14 straight until this series. The Celtics held the Magic to 39-percent shooting.

Dwight Howard had 30 points, and Vince Carter and J.J. Redick scored 16 apiece for the Magic, who overcame an 11-point deficit to take a brief lead in the fourth quarter. But they couldn't hold it.

Jameer Nelson's desperation three-point attempt airballed at the buzzer.

Game 3 is Saturday night in Boston. "Our fans won't let us relax," Pierce said. "We're going to try and close it out in four games."

The Celtics buckled down just enough to hold on late in this one. Ahead 11 points to start the fourth quarter, that almost wasn't enough. The Magic, just as they did in Game 1, found their rhythm late.

They went on a 13-4 run to trim Boston's lead to 85-83 with about six minutes left. Carter's jumper with 4:05 left gave Orlando a 90-89 lead with 3:35 to go, then the Celtics summoned their championship form again.

Kevin Garnett and Rondo made consecutive jumpers, and after Nelson's layup, Pierce answered with two free throws that put Boston ahead by three.

Carter missed two free throws with 31.9 seconds left that cost Orlando dearly. It must have felt all too familiar to Magic fans who watched Howard's damaging misses at the stripe in Game 4 of the NBA Finals last year and Nick Anderson's four bricks in Game 1 of the 1995 Finals.- AP

New York Sports