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Game 3: back At Home, Celtics Look To Take Commanding 3-0 Lead Over Magic

(Sports Network) - The Boston Celtics return to TD Garden tonight hoping to take a commanding 3-0 lead over the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals.

Paul Pierce scored 28 points with five assists and five rebounds on Tuesday, as Boston took a surprising 2-0 edge in the set, downing Orlando, 95-92, in Game 2 at Amway Arena.

"It was a great game, a game of runs," said Boston head coach Doc Rivers. "They brought the fight to us and we withstood the hits."

The win marked the first time in the Celtics' storied history that the franchise has taken two straight road games to start a playoff series. It was also the team's fifth straight playoff triumph overall, as well as Orlando's second straight home loss for the first time all season. In fact, Orlando had not lost consecutive home games since Games 4 and 5 of last season's NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pierce fouled out with 31.9 seconds left in the game and Boston clinging to a 95-92 lead, and watched from the bench as Vince Carter missed two key free throws. After a Kevin Garnett miss at the other end, the Magic had one last chance, which ended in Jameer Nelson's off-balance 30-foot heave that drew air just short of the rim.

Rajon Rondo added 25 points with eight assists and five boards for the Celtics while Garnett and Kendrick Perkins donated 10 points apiece for Boston.

Dwight Howard, in a far better effort than his 13-point showing in the series opener last Sunday, scored a game-best 30 points with eight rebounds, while Carter and JJ Redick added 16 points apiece for Orlando.

"We have to go play the next game and win it," said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. "We played harder, but we don't sustain it."

The Celtics, who have never blown a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series, now have a chance to advance to the Finals without leaving Beantown but the team struggled on its home floor this season, compiling just a 24-17 mark as the host, tied for the worst of all teams that made the playoffs.

Boston, which was 26-15 as the visitor in the regular season, was one of just two NBA teams that was better on the road than at home, the first time the C's had a better record on the road than at home since 1974. The Celtics have seemed to rebound in the postseason, however, compiling a 5-1 home mark so far in the playoffs.

"I think our guys are getting comfortable playing at home again," Rivers said.

"I feel pretty good about it," Perkins added. "I think this Game 3 is the most important, though. We can't give them any hope."

The Magic do have hope though. Van Gundy's club was one of two teams to win twice in Boston this year and also topped the Celtics in Beantown twice in the playoffs last season, including the deciding Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals -- Boston's first-ever loss at home in a seventh game.

"We have won there before, and there's no reason we can't do it again," Magic forward Rashard Lewis said. "Boston came to us and beat us twice on our home court, so it's happened before. Why can't we do it?

"Last year, Boston never lost a Game 7 on their home floor. We went in and beat them. It can happen."

The Magic won three of four games vs. the Celtics in the regular season this year and has taken both previous playoff matchups between the two franchises, last year's semifinals set and a first round win back in the 1994-95 season.

The best-of-seven series continues on Monday in Boston for Game 4.