With one play, the Boston Celtics nearly blew off the roof of their home court at TD Garden, as they sucked the wind out of a reeling Orlando Magic team, and helped give themselves a 3-0 series lead with a 94-71 rout in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday, May 22.

Boston now stands only one game away from their second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons, while the Magic are only one loss away from summer vacation.

With Boston leading 34-17 over the Orlando Magic in the middle of the second quarter, a deflected pass rolled beyond the half court line. Orlando’s Jason Williams trailed behind the botched pass, content with watching the ball rollout of bounds. But Rajon Rondo, Boston’s All-Star point guard, hustled behind Williams, dove after the ball with his offhand and snapped it up, switching the ball to his right hand and finished with a lay-up off the glass.

The home crowd erupted, but fans had already been buzzing before Rondo’s chase and finish. The fourth-year guard had completed a three-point play the series before, faking out nearly half the Orlando team before completing another lay-up and drawing a foul.

Rondo finished with 11 points, 12 assists, three rebounds and four steals, modest numbers despite his impact on the game and the series.

“What he’s doing is, he’s leading the team,” Boston head coach Doc Rivers said of Rondo’s play during a postgame press conference. “He’s playing with great focus. He has a great sense of what to call offensively. And now he’s giving an amazing effort, never giving up on any possession. When you have that speed and then you have that heart, you become a pretty good player.”

Orlando is averaging 83 points per game in the series; down 18 points from the 101 points per game they averaged through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Boston has effectively defended Orlando’s players with brains and brawn throughout the series, outsmarting and out muscling Orlando.

Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 15 points each. Reserve forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis led Boston with 17 points, while six other players scored in double figures.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO