Magic try to save season tonight in Game 3
BOSTON --- Never in franchise history has so much been put into a season, a team, a theme.
All the Orlando Magic's machinations last summer marked the culmination of a building process that was simply labeled, CHAMPIONSHIP OR BUST.
But now, the players who felt it was their time to win hear the tick-tock, tick-tock growing louder.
"Time is running out," small forward Matt Barnes said.
The Magic are closer to going bust, heading into tonight's Game 3 down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics at TD Banknorth Garden.
It might as well be Game 7. No team in NBA history has ever crawled out of an 0-3 hole to advance.
The Magic were on such a roll about a week ago that another title shot seemed imminent. Now they are playing to save their season.
"Most definitely," power forward Rashard Lewis said. "This is a must-win game. The pressure is on us already. If we go down zero-3, I mean how tough would that be? We're not giving up. We feel like we can still win the series.
"We have to make a stand now."
That's what it's quickly come to for a team that couldn't wait for the playoffs to start.
Driven by their surprising venture into the NBA Finals last season, the Magic went for broke.
Last summer management added five new players, the group headlined by eight-time all-star Vince Carter, and spent money to keep back-up center Marcin Gortat. The Magic veered into the punitive luxury tax for the first time. They talked of sacrifice and their desire to win a title for owner Rich DeVos, 83.
"I've never seen this kind of conviction," DeVos said.
The Magic not only won 59 games again, but coach Stan Van Gundy refused to rest his starters and give away games late in the season. The decision ultimately left Orlando with home-court advantage if they returned to the title round.
Back-to-back playoff sweeps fanned the flame.. . .until Boston began extinguishing hope and threatening a dream hatched ever since Dwight Howard arrived.
A not-so-funny thing happened to the Magic on the way to a second consecutive Finals appearance: The 2008 championship Celtics have materialized.
They didn't step out of an Iowa cornfield or magically appear through some heaven-sent cigar smoke from the late Red Auerbach.
The tough old birds got their legs back, along with finding life in other assorted appendages. They stole home-court from the Magic, jolting them in Game 1 and winning Game 2 thanks to the play of a kid whose name sounds like a hero from an action movie:Rajon Rondo.
And now a Magic team that easily was racking up victories never needed one more.
They will have to start their long-shot comeback process on the road. They won in Beantown last season with their season in jeopardy, winning a Game 7 in the semi-finals.
"We can use that experience. We've won there," point guardJameer Nelson said.
How to do it?
Boston played like it was the home team in Orlando, coming out strong each game and forcing the Magic to mount rallies. Now the Celtics have a crowd behind them. "We have to hit them first," Barnes said.
The Magic must address what's ailed them.
Van Gundy's checklist:
Wrestle that broom from Paul Pierce. Van Gundy mentioned having to gamble and double-team him (likely late in the game).
Keep the Celtics' defense on the move with better passing and playmaking. Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen might be future Hall of Famers, but the aging trio could also be inducted into the Smithsonian.
Stop reading the backs of the Celtics' jerseys. Get back on defense, especially when Rondo grabs a rebound.
The Magic realize that if they go bust the season will be a failure.
"Absolutely," Barnes said. "This team went to the Finals last year and lost. To bring all the new pieces in and all the talk about winning a title, making it to the Finals….It's definitely a failure."
Preview provided by Brian Schmitz's from the OrlandoSentinel
Who wins game 3 in Boston?
Celtics (7 votes)
Magic (3 votes)
10 total votes