ORLANDO, Fla. — Doc Rivers said the defending champions can win anywhere and getting his banged up Boston Celtics healthy for the playoffs is more important than home-court advantage.
Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy believes home-court advantage is crucial to postseason success.
The Celtics and Magic both trail first-place Cleveland and appear headed for a second-round playoff matchup. The winner of tonight’s game takes the season series and a big step toward securing the Eastern Conference’s second seed behind the Cavaliers.
“No question,” Van Gundy said. “Home court, I think it’s huge. Every day, you’re playing for something.”
Orlando (52-18) enters the meeting a game behind Boston (54-18) – but tied in the loss column – for second in the East. Cleveland is four games ahead of the Celtics. Securing No. 2 would guarantee home-court advantage for a possible second-round, Celtics-Magic series.
“We would like to have it, but for us, health is far more important,” Rivers said. “If you aren’t going to get the first seed, we want to be healthy, that’s the way we look at it. Obviously, we would like it and we’re going to play for it, but we feel we can win anywhere.”
Injuries have forced Rivers to be more flexible. Kevin Garnett missed 13 games with a right knee strain, and Rivers has limited the All-Star forward’s minutes in his first three games back. Garnett is likely to play sparingly tonight. Point guard Rajon Rondo missed two games – both losses – with a right ankle sprain. Ray Allen also missed a game last week with a right elbow strain.
Regardless of tonight’s outcome, the Magic and Celtics appear to be on a second-round collision course. The rest of the conference has struggled to challenge them, and it would be a major upset if both don’t make it past the opening round.
The Magic understand that to win the East, no matter where the games are played, they’re going to have to go through Cleveland and Boston.
“We’re going to play the top teams if we want to get where we want to be anyway,” Orlando’s Rashard Lewis said. “We can’t avoid them.”
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