ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—Celtics coach Doc Rivers was at home in the wee hours of Saturday morning after his team’s playoff loss and started watching a movie, hoping to relax.
Only this film had no drama. No hero. No uplifting end or reason to stay tuned.
The tape of Game 3 against Orlando was simply a nightmare.
“It made me feel worse,” Rivers said Saturday, a day after Boston’s demoralizing 117-96 loss to the Magic. “I was in an awful mood when I turned it on. What’s past awful, I was in that afterward. They played great. They made a lot of great shots. And we played awful.
“Our defense was awful. I thought we were soft. I thought they were more aggressive. I thought we were the retaliators all game. Other than that, it was just a wonderful night of film watching.”
Now the Celtics want to make sure there’s no sequel.
Following one of their worst defensive games of the season, the defending champions have plenty to fix if they want to avoid a 3-1 hole in their best-of-seven series against the Magic.
Their defense was sloppy. Their offense was inconsistent, and Boston made mistakes it usually doesn’t, with Orlando shooting nearly 60 percent on top of it.
While Sunday’s Game 4 is not an elimination game, the Celtics almost surely have to win if they have any chance to advance. Only eight NBA teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series.
The Celtics met for about 45 minutes at their hotel Saturday and took the rest of the day off.
Rivers wanted them to get their minds off basketball, to get some time with family in town. But mostly, to rest their tired legs, which may still be recovering from a seven-game series against Chicago—which included an unprecedented seven overtimes—in the first round.
If there was any bright spot for the Celtics the day after their blowout loss, it was that center Kendrick Perkins(notes) will not face a suspension for his elbow that hit Mickael Pietrus(notes) in the chin and throat and drew a flagrant one foul. A league spokesman said the call stands.
For Orlando, Saturday was much different.
Players walked into the team’s practice facility to see a message coach Stan Van Gundy wrote on the wall, which basically read the Magic are in the same position Philadelphia was through three games in their first-round series. The 76ers didn’t win another, with the Magic eliminating them in six games.
So it was back to practice as usual.
“The win in the playoffs is the series win,” Van Gundy said. “It’s not time for congratulations. It’s time to get focused on the next quarter, the next game, whatever it is to move on. That was my only message.”
Orlando will have its starting backcourt again.
Point guard Rafer Alston(notes) was suspended for Game 3 after slapping Eddie House(notes) in the back of the head, and shooting guard Courtney Lee(notes) will again be in the lineup with a protective mask following a solid return off the bench—11 points in 32 minutes in Game 3—after being out for more than a week recovering from a fractured sinus. But Van Gundy said he hasn’t determined his starting lineup.
What has Orlando most concerned is another big letdown after another big win.
“We have to understand Boston’s going to come out and they’re going to play like they did in Game 2,” Magic center Dwight Howard(notes) said. “We know what they’re going to do, we just have to be able to withstand that push.”
Trying to predict the series is another story.
The first three games have been almost all blowouts. The Magic took a 28-point lead in Game 1, then nearly lost it, before holding on. The Celtics won Game 2 by 18, and Orlando never trailed in Game 3 to get a 21-point victory.
What will happen in Game 4 is anybody’s guess.
“This has been a strange series,” Rivers said. “Only one team has shown up in the first three games. The Magic in Game 1. Us in Game 2. The Magic in Game 3. At some point, both teams will play and it will be a heck of a game.”
Maybe even one worth watching over.