It was a swish that changed the series for Boston.
Davis made a 21-foot jumper as time expired to help the Celtics hold off a furious rally and defeat the Orlando Magic 95-94 on Sunday night to even their Eastern Conference semifinal at two games apiece. A spot he never expected to be in until Garnett went down with a season-ending knee injury, Davis relished his newfound celebrity.
“This is really neat,” he said. “This is my first time, so bear with me.”
And he looked like a veteran.
“I didn’t see his emotions,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I was having an emotional highjack at the moment myself.”
Davis’ jumper followed a pair of free throws by Lewis that put the Magic ahead with 11.3 seconds to play. Davis also hit a 15-foot jumper in the final minute and finished with 21 points.
Perhaps the only downside on a series-changing win for Boston was that center Kendrick Perkins(notes) said he aggravated his left shoulder. He didn’t know when it happened and said he would have it evaluated Monday.
The Celtics went ahead by nine points with about 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Pierce. Boston’s All-Star forward had 27 points, but would battle foul trouble the rest of the way, helping Orlando trim the lead slowly.
But it was the final play that changed the series.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said his players carried out the last play defensively exactly how he had designed, taking the ball out of the hands of Pierce and Ray Allen(notes), and put the responsibility for his team’s failures on himself.
“The only guy who made a mistake on the last play was me,” Van Gundy said.
Orlando’s coach had cautioned his team about feeling satisfied with its Game 3 victory, even reminding players with a message at the team’s practice facility that they were in the same position Philadelphia was in their first-round series. The 76ers went up 2-1, then lost in six games.
The buzzer beater by Davis now put the Magic on the same path.
“Big-shot Baby Davis,” Howard said, still shaking his head in disbelief. “We have to go back to Boston and get back up.”
It was Boston that went right at Orlando from the start.
The aggressive play caused Howard to pick up his second foul about halfway through the opening period, with the Celtics already taking a five-point lead. The Magic would withstand an early push by Boston and then go on a 9-2 run to end the quarter ahead 28-25 without Howard.
But neither team would get out to a big lead as they did in the first three games of the series.
An ugly, first-half foul fest with 29 personals called saw 13 lead changes. That’s 13 more than the last two games combined, with Boston and Orlando going start to finish without losing the lead in the previous contests.
Pierce was finally able to get off to a quick start by attacking the basket and drawing fouls. He went 6 of 7 on free throws on his way to 18 points in the opening half to help the Celtics take a 48-46 lead at the break.
Between the seven-game series against the Bulls—which included seven overtimes—in the first round and their Game 4 comeback against Orlando, Pierce said the thrilling games never get old.
“This is great,” Pierce said. “It was a rollercoaster last year, and we want to take the same ride. Plus, I said I kind of like the weather down here and I wanted to come back” for Game 6 on Thursday.
A moment of silence was held before the game for Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly, who died Saturday. Daly, who coached the Magic for two seasons, is best known for leading the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and ’90 and coaching the original Dream Team to an Olympic gold medal. … New Jersey Nets forward Vince Carter(notes) sat in the first row on the baseline with his mother. … The Magic haven’t made it to the conference finals since Shaquille O’Neal(notes) and Penny Hardaway led them in 1996.