More than a week after the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers, the Celtics are getting an unwanted trip back to Orlando. They’ll try to close out the Magic again Wednesday night or put a city that knows all too well about such comebacks halfway to their latest installment.
Only four times in the history of North American major pro sports leagues has a team won a playoff series after losing the first three games. Of course, that might not mean much to Boston fans.
It’s just never been done in the NBA.
“At some point,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, “somebody is going to come from 3-0 down and win a series.”
Here’s Orlando’s chance to take another step toward history.
The Magic have Game 5 and—if necessary—Game 7 on their home floor, meaning if they can shift things back to Boston, a series that was seemingly over would suddenly have new life—and a ton of pressure on the Celtics.
Orlando’s overtime win in Game 4 showed the grit of a team that had played all year wanting to redeem its NBA finals loss to the Lakers. The debacle that put them in an 0-3 hole, getting blown out with little resistance, did not.
Howard expects the gritty team to show up on Wednesday, but really it’s anybody’s guess.
“We didn’t win the game just to win a game to say we were in this series,” Orlando’s Dwight Howard(notes) said. “We want to make this a series and win this series. We all have to believe that. I told the guys before the game, ‘Put out all disbelief, anxiety and fear. We just got to keep playing.”’
The Celtics, meanwhile, aren’t exactly about to implode.
Even with the Magic playing the best they have all series, Boston still had chances to eliminate them. The Celtics never trailed by more than 10 and overcame a night when Rajon Rondo(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes) were far from stellar.
They also had the ball for the final possession of regulation, but Paul Pierce(notes) lost his dribble as his teammates crowded him near the top of the key. Time expired amid the scramble for the ball, and then they lost in overtime.
The Bruins? Well, they also lost Game 4 in overtime.
“There’s no need to panic,” Celtics guard Ray Allen(notes) said. “We like the position we’re in. It’s just always a lesson in humility. As a team, as individuals, you never get too big for the situation. We’re in a great position, like I said.
“So we have to take care of the small things, and they’ll add up to what we ultimately want.”
The Celtics still have three more chances to win the series and advance to the NBA finals for a shot at their second championship in three years. They’ve never gone more than five games in a series in which they won the first three.
After swarming the Magic defensively in the first three games, the Celtics finally let them get loose. The Magic shot a series-best 44.6 percent from the field behind Howard’s 32 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
Nelson hit back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime, and the Magic rode their sharp-shooting to a season-saving victory.
“At the end of the day, even though we struggled offensively to get some momentum going, we still didn’t get any defense when we had to,” Pierce said.
The Magic were able to extend their season even with their biggest acquisition busting.
Carter returned about 2 minutes later to play alongside Redick, who has been far more effective than Carter in the series. But Carter maintains that he’s not giving up on himself.
Or his team.
“Just believe,” Carter said. “We feel like we’re a championship team, we’ve built this base from day one and we’ve played outstanding basketball the second part of the season.
“We’ve had a lot of success the first two rounds of the playoffs, shoot. Why go lay down now? Fight the fight and see what happens.”
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this story.