During the inaugural year of The New Big Three Era, the Celtics were able to capture the elusive 17th banner to raise at the TD Garden. But many of those early playoff wins came at home, nearly all of them in fact. It took the C's quite a while to get comfortable on the road in the playoffs, but it seems like they relish it now. Almost to the point that it's their preferred path to the title. Almost.
Clearly you would always want to have that final deciding Game 7 at home, especially in the nut house that is the Garden. But these Celtics seem to enjoy being the villain and spoiling the party on someones else's dime (or lots of dimes, really). Since struggling to grind out wins in Atlanta and Cleveland in 2008, the Celtics have been able to win some significant playoff games on the road against some quality opponents.
2008 ECF: After dropping their first home playoff game (Game 2) to the then beasts of the east Detroit Pistons, the NBA world seemed convinced that their run would end at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Celtics had other ideas and went out and torched Detroit for their first road win 94-80, never allowing the Pistons to take control of the series. Detroit bounced back in Game 4, but the Celtics closed out the series at Detroit in Game 6, another huge road win.
2008 NBA Finals:After two convincing home wins to open The Finals against the Lakers, they dropped a closely contested Game 3 in LA, only to re-open the debate. The beginning of Game 4 only enhanced the nay-sayers as LA destroyed them. But then the comeback of all comebacks happened and the C's once again never relinquished control of the series.
2009 ECQF: After being stunned in overtime of Game 1 at home to the Chicago Bulls, the C's won Game 2 at home to tie up the series. Already playing without KG (and seemingly any hope of doing any serious damage in the playoffs) the Celtics spoiled Chicago's playoff opener (not as easy as you think) by taking Game 3. They also re-took control of an epic series that they eventually would not lose.
2009 ECSF: Again the C's would drop Game 1, this time to the Orlando Magic. They would recover in Game 2, but couldn't take control of the series in Game 3 at Orlando. But Glen Davis was able to knock down a clutch jumper (as well as a kid standing court side) to tie up the series. The Celtics destroyed the Magic in Game 5 at home, and amazingly lost the series at home where Game 7 is always wanted to be played.
2010 ECQF:The Celtics were abysmal from January through the end of the regular season, and quite a few experts picked Miami to defeat them in Round 1. After holding serve in both home games, the Celtics behind Paul Pierce's clutch jumper at the buzzer, took a commanding 3-0 series lead. It took an unworldly game from Dwyane Wade to prevent the sweep, but the C's closed them out one game later.
2010 ECSF:Most of the NBA world had the Celtics losing this series to the team that held the best record in the NBA, as well as the MVP, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs were nearly unbeatable at home for two straight seasons, yet the Celtics didn't care. They destroyed the Cavs (and quite possibly their franchise) by a combined 50 points in Games 3 and 5.
2010 ECF:Ok so LeBron simply quit on his team and there's no way the powerhouse Magic would lose to the Celtics, right? Wrong. They wasted no time in this series by taking the first TWO games in Orlando and eventually finishing them off in 6 games. This is not a frequent occurrence in the NBA playoffs, but the C's seem to love it.
2010 NBA Finals: We all know the story here (ugh). But the Celtics did come away with an impressive Game 2 win on the road, putting themselves in a fantastic position to take the series. No need to go over Game 7, but they had a great chance to pull off the most epic of all road games.
2011 ECQF: After winning two nail biters at home to take a 2-0 series lead against another tougher lower seed, the New York Knicks, the Celtics went to Madison Square Garden. The New York fans had not witnessed a home game since 2004 and not attended a home win since 2001. Everyone (including myself) fully expected a raucous MSG crowd to carry the Knicks to victory in Game 3. The Celtics went out and obliterated them in Game 3 and swept the Knicks out of the playoffs in Game 4, on the road. Again, these wins are not easy regardless of the opponent and are not common.
The Celtics have proved that they have no fear of playing on the road in the playoffs and in fact, thrive in that environment. It's obviously not the preferred path but if there is any one team that should instill confidence in their fans, it's this core group of players being guided by Doc Rivers. Home games are preferred, but the C's might start making their opponents think that they also have a road court advantage as well.