BOSTON -- Barack Obama has given the Celtics more incentive to win a second consecutive NBA title.
A visit to the White House is a champions' perq, and having met George Bush, the team wants to be the first team in line for the popular new chief, who is huge on hoops.
"Our main priority is to win the championship, but it's a little something we say: 'Let's go see Obama', " Rajon Rondo told the Boston media last week. "We want to be the first Celtics team to win back-to-back (in 40 years) and it would also be an honour to go back to the White House."
So far, so good, with the Celtics leading the Eastern Conference at 6-1. Last season, Boston roared out of the gate with a 13-2 start.
"If we didn't do what we did in November last year, Game 7 (of the Eastern semifinal) would have been in Cleveland and we would have been playing the Lakers in L.A. (to start the final)," coach Doc Rivers said.
The Raptors are looking forward to returning to TD Bank-north Garden, site of one of their biggest thrills of the 2007-08 regular season. A Jose Calderon shot in the final seconds provided a 114-112 win, their only victory against the Celtics in four tries.
"We'll have to match their intensity and beat it," said Chris Bosh, who also reported on the Celtics-Lakers series for The Tonight Show.
Until the Raptors came on strong in the fourth quarter yesterday in Charlotte, it seemed the half-empty building and the pending excitement of going to Boston might have made the Raptors guilty of looking ahead to the game tonight.
"In the NBA, you look at whatever game is on your plate that day," countered guard Will Solomon. "But now, I'm excited to be going to Boston where the championship was won last year."