The Orlando Magic were without Rafer Alston, their starting point guard because of a one-game suspension. They lost Dwight Howard, their All-Star center, to foul trouble in the second half. Their other point guard, Anthony Johnson, had a late-game meltdown.
And Boston's Eddie House was on fire.
While everyone waited for the Magic to fade Friday night, they turned to their Twin Forwards, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, who carried them to an impressive, 117-96 drubbing of the Celtics.
Magic Lead 2-1 | Next Game: Sunday @ Orlando, 8 PM ET
The Magic took a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series with Game 4 set for Sunday night. A 3-1 deficit would be almost impossible for the Celtics to overcome. The Magic shot 59 percent from the field, and they never trailed in the second half.
The two most interesting people in Game 3 were House and Johnson, a pair of journeymen guards.
House, who had 31 points off the bench in the Game 2 victory, hit three 3-point shots – giving him 13 of his last 15 from long range over his last four games – and he led Boston's fourth quarter rally.
Johnson, who was getting his first playoff start in place of Alston, was a key early, orchestrating the Magic's offense with some inspired play.
Johnson is the oldest player (34) in the Magic/Celtics second-round series, but he played with a newfound spring in his step. He had 11 points, two assists and no turnovers in the first half when the Magic took charge, building their 53-41 lead.
But he did little in the second half, getting two points and two turnovers before leaving with his head in his hands after a confrontation with coach Stan Van Gundy at the end of the third period.
Howard, who played well in the first half, hardly played in the second half. When Howard left with four fouls midway in the third, the Celtics made a 15-4 run, including an 8-0 close.
Johnson and Van Gundy had a heated exchanged – and they had to be separated in the huddle – when the teams came off the floor, just seconds after Johnson made a turnover and Rajon Rondo turned into an easy basket.
The Celtics started the fourth, having close the deficit to nine, and it looked like they were staging a comeback. But Lewis and Turkoglu – who took over at point guard – responded to help the Magic pull away to an easy win.
Before the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he was happy that the Magic rookie Courtney Lee had returned to the lineup. Lee had missed the previous three games recovering from that fractured sinus cavity when he was smashed by teammate Dwight Howard. Lee returned wearing one of those plastic face masks.
"I hope the mask doesn't fit, and it blocks his vision,'' Rivers said.
Lee finished with 11 points, helping slow down the Celtics in the stretch.
Who's Pissed at Who?
Van Gundy is earning his reputation as a guy who speaks his mind without worrying too much about what he says, and how he says it. Earlier in the day, he tore into the NBA for giving the Celtics preferential treatment when it comes to dishing out suspensions.
Then Friday night, you had to love his explanation regarding the heated exchange on the sideline between him and point guard Anthony Johnson, who committed a turnover just before the third period ended.
It led to an easy basket by Rondo. When Johnson came to the sideline, Van Gundy shouted at him, and Johnson shouted back. Van Gundy answered again before players and coaches came between them.
Van Gundy was asked after the game about the exchange.
"I was pissed, and he was pissed that I was pissed,'' Van Gundy said. "But we're fine now. It was just a heat of the moment thing.''