BOSTON - MAY 22: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics dives for a loose ball against Jason Williams #44 of the Orlando Magic at TD Banknorth Garden in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
In a game they needed to win to keep any realistic hope of winning the NBA championship alive, the Orlando Magic instead came out flat and trailed throughout, as the Boston Celtics put on a clinic on both ends of the floor, taking a 3-0 advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals by a final score of 94-71. Boston scored the first 7 points of the game before Orlando countered with 6 of its own, but what transpired in the next 4:51 effectively decided the game: the Celtics scored 14 straight points to take a 21-6 lead, and Orlando never recovered. Never came close to recovering. A team that compiled a 79-44 record on the road over the last three seasons utterly folded under pressure. I can't recall the Magic looking any more flustered than they did tonight at any other point during coach Stan Van Gundy's tenure. His team now faces a 3-0 deficit, which no NBA team has ever surmounted.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's regular-season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's regular-season average.
For Orlando, there is no bright side here. Boston outclassed it in every aspect of the game. Jameer Nelson appeared to be the only player who really competed, at times, and he didn't even play all that well, scoring 15 points on 15 shooting possessions with 1 assist and 4 turnovers. Rashard Lewis continued to struggle, with 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting, 4 rebounds, 5 fouls, and 4 turnovers. And the defense, which had to this point been decent, completely fell apart. The Celtics' interior passing exposed the Magic and led to scores of easy buckets. Nothing went right.
Six Celtics scored in double-figures. Glen Davis, who led everyone with 17 points off the bench, sort of highlighted the difference between the teams tonight. He dove for loose balls, deflected passes, fought for position... just everywhere. The Magic? A step slow, consistently.
Van Gundy took some blame for that after the game, but I'm not sure what else he's expected to do. Now, waiting until the 1:24 mark of the first period, with his team in a 15-point hole, in a hostile environment in a must-win game? Of that I was critical; he should have gone to J.J. Redick much earlier. But he's not the one scared to throw a pass on offense, or blowing a defensive assignment. It's his players who didn't finish the job tonight.
A tip of the cap to the Celtics here, who learned a lesson in their last series when they relaxed in Game 3 on their home floor against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and took a 32-point defeat. They set the tone, played hard, played well, and executed on both ends of the court. I don't know what else there is to say here, other than Rajon Rondo is one of very few players in the league who can dominate a game in which he misses 10 of his 14 shots. He finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 12 assists, and 4 steals.
The Magic's season will end in disappointment. The only question is when, and even then there appears to be an obvious answer. Game 4 is Monday and there's no reason--literally, none--to believe they can win that one, given what transpired tonight.