Boston Celtics 95, Orlando Magic 94

The Orlando Magic battled back from a 9-point, second-half deficit against the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter, only to face defeat at the buzzer as Glen Davis connected on a jumper from the left baseline to give Boston a 95-94 victory. Neither Dwight Howard's 23-point, 17-rebound effort, nor Rashard Lewis' 22-point barrage, could overcome hot shooting by the Celtics (52.8%) or poor shooting by their teammates: Rafer Alston, J.J. Redick, and Hedo Turkoglu combined to shoot 6-of-28 from the field and 2-of-15 from three-point range. With the win, Boston evens the series at two games apiece and regains homecourt advantage.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Celtics 90 105.6 53.5% 25.0 25.7 14.4
Magic 104.9 42.9% 24.7 25.5 8.9

As crushing a defeat this is for the Magic--it's their third loss at the buzzer in these playoffs, out of four total losses--there's hardly reason to panic. Boston needed a clutch jumper from its fifth offensive option in order to win this game on a night when its opponent shot poorly and missed an unusual amount of open shots. There's not much else to say. If the Magic play this exact same game again, and get the exact same shots, they likely as not win. You have to credit them for battling back in the fourth period, which they entered trailing by 8 points. No panic in this team. Some silly mistakes doomed the Magic late, though. With the Celtics struggling to score, the Magic continued trying to launch backbreaking three-pointers, to get themselves--and a nervous Amway Arena crowd--back in the game. It failed, as the team shot 1-of-7 from downtown in the period. In fact, the Magic were trigger-happy from three-point range all night long. Doubly frustrating is that this reliance on the longball came on a night when Boston's three reliable bigs--that'd be Davis, Kendrick Perkins, and Brian Scalabrine--were mired in foul trouble. A few more timely drives to the basket could have given Orlando this win.

Before the game, coach Stan Van Gundy tried to stay mum as to who would start in the backcourt. One wonders if his final decision--Alston at the point, Redick at the two--ultimately backfired. Anthony Johnson didn't shoot much better than Alston (2-of-7, 4 points), but he was at least more patient and deliberate with his attempts. I'm not sure why Rafer, a career 35.4% three-point shooter, continues to pull-up for treys with 19 seconds on the shot clock, but he needs to stop. Meanwhile, Redick was the team's best playmaker with 7 assists, but struggled with his shot. Courtney Lee, who could have started in his place, played better defense and was more effective offensively, even hitting back-to-back jumpers late in the game to bring Orlando to within a point of Boston.

Arguably the biggest error Van Gundy made was not finding more time for Marcin Gortat. The Polish Hammer shone with 8 points, 4 boards, and superb defense, yet only saw 10 minutes of action as Van Gundy refused to play him in the same lineup with Howard. I understand his reluctance to play the two men together, given how infrequently they shared the floor during the regular season. What I do not understand is how Gortat, playing power forward to Howard's center, could possibly be any worse than Tony Battie, whom Van Gundy frequently pairs with Howard. In 18 minutes this series, Battie has 5 points and 2 rebounds on 2-of-7 from the floor. He isn't contributing anything. Orlando has to get more from him, or otherwise learn to trust Gortat in key moments.

Maybe it's all moot, though. Orlando had no answer for Paul Pierce (9-of-15, a game-high 27 points), while Rajon Rondo had his usually erratic midrange jumper going. Tough to beat the Celtics when those two guys are in gear, but that's what the Magic almost did tonight. But they don't get points for "almost," and will have to settle for a 2-2 series headed back to Boston, knowing they were only soundly outplayed once in these entire playoffs.

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