Celtics at home with plan to stop Howard

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WALTHAM, Mass. --- The Boston Celtics are exactly where they want to be for Game 7 -- home. Now they must keep Dwight Howard from getting to his favorite spots, right near the basket.

Defense will mean more than decibel level when the defending NBA champions try to control the Orlando Magic's powerful center tonight.

The winner faces a huge challenge in the Eastern Conference finals -- LeBron James and his playoff-perfect Cleveland Cavaliers, who swept their first two series.

The Celtics are in their second consecutive seven-gamer. They beat Chicago in the first series and bobbled themselves into the Game 7 against Orlando by blowing a 10-point, third-quarter lead and losing 83-75. Howard had 23 points and 22 rebounds Thursday night.

"Game 7 is the ultimate players' game. I've always thought that," said Boston coach Doc Rivers, who feels their will and execution mean more than coaching tips. "If you need a rah-rah speech for Game 7, your team's probably in a little trouble."

So he plans to forego any inspirational pre-game words. The fans will be loud enough.

But the Celtics don't want to hear about home-court advantage. They're 17-3 in seventh games at home.

"You can't think about the aura of Boston while you're playing them," Magic guard Rafer Alston said, "but the days before, leading up to it, you have a thought in your mind about it. There's nothing bad about it. The history of that organization to me is fascinating, the fact that they consistently get it done in their building in decisive games."

The Celtics did lose the opener there when Howard had 22 rebounds. He was even more dominating in Game 6 in Orlando after he complained that he didn't get the ball enough.

So he got it himself with 10 offensive rebounds.

"His performance the other night was remarkable. His energy and intensity were off the charts," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "His athleticism is so great when he's playing that hard, it's really, really difficult for people to keep up with him."


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