Do You Believe in Miracles? Magic Do
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Stars Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson played the best, but it was unheralded Matt Barnes who said it best Wednesday night after the Orlando Magic throttled the Boston Celtics again, moving another step closer to making history.
A 3-2 deficit never felt so good.
"We've got our foot on their neck right now,'' Barnes said in a confident Magic locker room. "Now we have to keep it there.''
In a series that has gone from a surprising debacle to a stunning turnaround, the Magic slammed the Celtics, 113-92, Wednesday, a second consecutive victory that now has them believing that miracles can happen.
No NBA team ever has fallen behind 3-0 and rebounded to win a playoff series. And it has been tried 93 times before. Game 6 is in Boston Friday night, but the Magic already are making plans for Game 7 in Orlando.
The team that is down has suddenly become the favorite again.
"The momentum has shifted,'' said forward Rashard Lewis. "We want to make history now. We can win this series. We have the guys who can do it.''
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 when Daniels also sustained a concussion, but he might have willed it.
"Our intent is not to hurt anyone out there, but basketball is a very physical sport,'' Howard said. "You're playing against a very physical and tough team. We have to will ourselves to get the job done.''
Howard dunked at one end, then chased down point guard Rajon Rondo to block his shot at the other end. He played with an energy Wednesday that the Magic haven't seen all season, like he suddenly had found another gear.
"He's just been amazing in these last two games because he's everywhere,'' Barnes said. "You just want to get out of his way to make sure he doesn't run you over. I'm just glad he's on my side. I wouldn't want to be playing against him.''
The Celtics looked tired and beat Wednesday, like a tough series against Cleveland had caught up with them now. And the Magic looked energized and fresh, like those two easy sweeps against Charlotte and Atlanta had preserved their legs for times like these.
"I think after the first two series, we had developed a false sense of ourselves,'' Barnes said. "And it took us three games to realize it. But we've made this a series. And we plan to win this series now.''
As stunning as the turnaround has been, the Magic surprisingly have done it with key players still struggling to regain their regular-season form.
Vince Carter, their big offseason acquisition, played poorly in both victories. He hit just 3 of 10 shots for 8 points, an improvement on his Monday showing when he made only 1 of 9 shots for three points.
Rashard Lewis, who has been bothered by a viral infection, had his best game of the series, but he had only 14 points. Howard's co-pilot again was Nelson, who led everyone with 24 points, five assists and five rebounds.
While Howard carried the Magic, it was Nelson again who directed the traffic around him, making sure the Magic returned to their 3-point shooting form that carried them throughout the season.
They hit 13 of 25 3's, easily the most in this series. And Nelson hit four of his five, making sure that every one of them was key.
"We believe we can win this series,'' Nelson said. "They have the pressure on them right now, going back to Boston. They're going to be prepared, but we're going to be prepared as well.''