The Magic aren't dead yet. No, they're still breathing and winning basketball games in the Eastern Conference finals. KD had his turn, now the Internet has theirs...
Eric Freeman, The Baseline: Orlando had its most complete offensive effort of the series, with 52.2 percent shooting from the field, including 13-of-25 from deep, and four players with at least 14 points. Dwight Howard(notes) was terrific at both ends with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and two steals. Jameer Nelson(notes) had his second consecutive quality game with 24 points, including 4-of-5 on 3s.
Add in 14 points apiece for J.J. Redick(notes) and Rashard Lewis(notes), and you have the kind of balanced scoring that typified Orlando's first two series of the postseason. If Vince Carter(notes) (eight points on 3-of-10 FG) can get going, this team will be even scarier.
The Celtics, on the other hand, looked out of sorts for the second consecutive game, shooting 43.1 percent from the field. Several players had solid lines — Rondo (19 points, six assists) and Rasheed Wallace(notes) (21 points on 7-of-9 shooting) chief among them — but the offense failed to get into any rhythm.
It didn't help that Perkins had to go to the locker room and Glen Davis(notes) later joined him with a concussion courtesy of a Howard elbow. But those are simple excuses for why Boston has very real problems at this point. The Magic have awakened after three awful games to start the series, and there's a distinct possibility they can become the first NBA team to come back from an 0-3 playoff deficit. The Celtics better get things right, because they're in danger of making history for all the wrong reasons.
Matt McHale, Basketbawful: The Celtics made lot of mistakes both early and late, like giving up an offensive rebound in the third quarter that eventually found it's way to Matt Barnes(notes) for an uncontested three. Before that shot got drilled, Boston had cut the lead to 5 points. But that field goal — which Doc Rivers called the biggest shot of the game — swung momentum Orlando's way.
Of course, it might never have gotten to that if the Celtics had been able to contain J.J. Redick in the first half. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. As ESPN's Chris Sheridan pointed out: "It was Redick who keyed the early surge that put Orlando ahead for good, scoring 11 of his 14 points from the moment when he first checked in with the score 16-16 until he was subbed out with the Magic ahead 49-37.
I don't know if the Celtics don't respect Redick or what, but they don't smother him the way they try to smother other Magic players. And they could end up regretting it when they're watching the NBA Finals on their big-screen TVs.
Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk: Give credit to the Magic — a lot of teams would have just rolled over after losing three straight games and meekly surrendered their season. I'm looking at you, Atlanta. The Magic showed some fight, caught a couple breaks and won Game 4 in overtime.
Then they came out and threw a knockout punch. A haymaker. It connected right on Celtics jaw in Game 5. It seemed to give the Celtics a concussion, and I'm pretty sure Kendrick Perkins(notes) dropped an F-bomb when it landed and got ejected for it. For Celtics fans, that one hurt.
Except you can't knock someone out with a second loss.
By rule, Boston lives to fight another day.
It is Game 6 or bust for Boston, it wants no part of a Game 7 back in Orlando. Friday night is the showdown.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: You know how you know things are going badly for your team? It's when your coach wants to throw up the white flag in the 4th quarter of a blowout, but still has to leave one of his starters in the game. Not because he's sending some kind of message to the starter or his team by leaving him out there, but literally due to the reality that there aren't enough healthy bodies left out of the reserves to put together a garbage time crew.
Hence we had Paul Pierce(notes) roaming the floor for the final four minutes of a 41 minute night, facing a 20 point deficit with Tony Allen(notes) (also banged up), Nate Robinson(notes), Shelden Williams(notes) and Michael Finley(notes). Yep, it was one of those nights for the Green team.
It's hard not too panic if you're a Celtics fan right now. New Englanders are on edge already after seeing their hometown hockey team blow a 3-0 series lead just two weeks over. So tonight's result is one of those games that will get the worry warts out in full effect.
Ben Q Rock, Orlando Pinstriped Post: The way the Magic played tonight and in Game 4 certainly makes one wonder where the heck they were in the first three games. Nelson's the sparkplug, as he has to be. It's as though a lightbulb flashed on above his noggin, as he's clearly figured out how to attack Boston's defense. Though Nelson is traditionally a halfcourt-oriented, pick-and-roll point guard, he has shifted into a different mode in this series, and is instead pushing the tempo aggressively whenever possible. On two occasions tonight, for example, he grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled the length of the court, and converted a layup attempt in heavy traffic as the Celtics' defense kept scrambling. He isn't content to walk the ball up and run a halfcourt set. No, he's getting the ball and making things happen with it, usually by dribbling into the paint for either a kickout or a shot attempt. He's not turning the corner on the pick-and-roll and picking up his dribble, looking for the open man. No, his dribble is live, his improvisation skills high, and his swag phenomenal. He has Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo(notes) on his heels. If he keeps playing this way, Orlando will be in great shape come Friday night.
Tim Povtak, FanHouse: As bad as the Magic looked in losing the first three, they have looked like a different team in the last two, going from down to dominant, riding the broad shoulders and physical play of Howard, the heralded Defensive Player of Year.
He had 21 points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots and three Celtic kills, treating them like bowling pins as they scattered all around him. He was almost as good as he was in Game 4 when he had 32 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks in Boston.
"I just thought his effort tonight was incredible,'' said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "That's leadership. There was great energy, and great toughness.''
Howard frustrated center Kendrick Perkins to the point of a second technical foul, an ejection and possible suspension for Game 6. He accidentally elbowed Glen Davis in the face, giving Davis a concussion that likely will prevent him from playing Friday. Howard wasn't close to reserve Marquis Daniels(notes) when Daniels also sustained a concussion, but he might have willed it.
John Karalis, Red's Army: There's a misconception out there about momentum. And there's a lot of talk using that misconception out there today.
Momentum, like Stan said, doesn't carry over from game to game. Momentum is an intangible. You can't see momentum. You can't look at game film and break down "momentum."
Momentum is a feeling. In individual games, momentum can be huge. Momentum is a collective feeling that you can't be stopped, or your jumper is just wet, or your man simply won't score on you. But once that final horn sounds, momentum goes on the ball rack and is locked up in the utility closet.
That's not to say that a couple of good games can't give the Magic confidence. They should get credit for making adjustments that are working, and it's easier for them to pick up some momentum the next time around. But let's not cheapen what the Magic have done... or look past what the Celtics deficiencies have become, by simply saying "whoa... the Magic REALLY have the momentum now."
Momentum dies when the lights go out, a players head hits the pillow, and he drifts off into whatever kind of sleep he gets after a game like Game 5. Today, the Celtics will look in the mirror and come to realizations. They will go to practice and work on problems. They will go to bed and visualize Friday night. All those things play into whatever "momentum" exists somewhere in the air between Amway and The Garden.
Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: Offensively, against one of the league's best defenses, the Celtics have really just kind of maintained. Outside of a few players (Sheed) they're not really getting outlier performances. Their offensive efficiencies are all within range of their season average. They're not overachieving. The Magic have underachieved until Game 4. Some of that is the Celtics letting the foot off the pedal. Some of it is the Magic just having a bad run of shots. But now we have the actual series, and if we throw out outliers, it's a 2-1 Celtics lead in a best of five. Throw out a night where the Magic had several things go their way, and the one where things like Rasheed Wallace hitting a fadeaway three with a defender standing literally shoulder to shoulder with him happened, and you've got a 2-1 series lead for Boston and every reason to suspect they can get this done.
I have to wonder if this isn't everything Orlando can throw at them. It's a tentative balance, much more so than it was three days ago. The reason? The Big 3 are sputtering. When any combination of 2 of the Big 3 are hitting, you might as well go home. But last night Pierce struggled with the Magic's physical play of him, Garnett's head has been AWOL since the start of Game 4, and Allen, well, Allen's got the best defender in this series on him like white on rice and is still hitting fairly regularly. The Magic have kickstarted the offense and as much as Celtics fans may not want to admit it, Rashard Lewis DOES look like he suddenly got healthier, playing with more energy and the focus on his release has been better.
I still like Boston to close in 6, because I think the Magic will simply fatigue and Rondo will get healthy. He's a huge factor. When he's dominating, the Celtics are dominating. He opens those shots up for the Big 3. When he's hurt, the offense runs through Ray Allen(notes), instead of culminating wit him. Pierce in ISO is a liability against this defense. That's what it's going to come down to. I can't imagine this thing going from 3-0 to 3-3.
Nada Taha Moslehy, SLAM: Instead of Rajon Rondo diving for a loose ball, it was Jameer Nelson jumping over players in the paint to grab the rebound. Rather than Ray Allen knocking down threes with his look-alike mom cheering on the sidelines, it was JJ Redick bringing back to life his Duke reincarnation.
The biggest turnaround? Usually composed players like Allen and Paul Pierce were visibly flustered. While they were busy being frustrated, Dwight Howard was able to post 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5x blocked shots. It certainly did help that the Celtics' bigs, who were once thought to be an endless stream of gutsy guys, were dropping like flies.
First, it was Kendrick Perkins. Two technical fouls sent him out of the game at the end of the first half and could possibly keep him at home for Game 6 if the League doesn't decide to rescind at least one of those (which should be the case considering walking away from a ref doesn't really constitute a T). Then, it was Glen "Baby" Davis, who stumbled to his feet in an attempt to get back in to the game after a strong, inadvertent elbow to the face from Howard. Davis was knocked out cold, suffered a concussion and had to be taken off the court. Finally, it was Marquis Daniels, who was knocked out embarrassingly for running in to Marcin Gortat(notes) as if he was a brick wall.