With their backs against the wall and on the brink of elimination, the Orlando Magic came out swinging against the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. It wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t easy but the Magic survived, at least for another game, edging Boston, 96-92, in overtime to avoid a sweep and draw the series, 3-1. All-Star center Dwight Howard set the tone early and often for Orlando, finishing with 32 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.

Howard bounced back from a pedestrian seven-point, seven-rebound performance over the weekend to post his best game of the playoffs so far. While Howard did his best to live up to his Superman moniker, it was Jameer Nelson who played the role of hero to save the day for Orlando. Nelson’s back-to-back three pointers in overtime tipped the Magic’s lead to six before Howard’s two layups put away a scrappy Boston team set on returning to the Finals. Howard and Nelson scored all 10 of the Magic’s overtime points.

After racing out to a comfortable lead in Saturday’s Game 3, Boston found itself coming from behind for most of the night. The Celtics trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half before battling to a 68-67 lead at the end of the third quarter. Paul Pierce led Boston with 32 points and 11 rebounds but failed to get a shot off on the last possession, fumbling the ball as time expired on regulation with the game tied, 86-86. With a chance to finish what he suggested, Pierce missed a pair of pivotal jump shots that could’ve changed the outcome and put away the Magic, as the All-Star forward claimed the Celtics would do.

It was Pierce who winked at cameras after Boston’s win in Game 2, insinuating that the Celtics were headed for a sweep of the Magic. Pierce even took it a step further when he allegedly posted on his Twitter page “Anybody got a BROOM?” before later admitting that his account was hacked and he wasn’t responsible for the post.

The scene will shift to Florida for Game 5 on Wednesday but the Magic may be better off staying in Boston. The Celtics are undefeated in Orlando’s Amway Arena so far this series and have led by double digits in the fourth quarter of both road games.

While the series will return to Orlando, several sportsniks will be wondering “how long?” until Boston advances. Leading the series now 3-1, only four times in American sports history has a team won a best of seven playoff series after losing the first three games. While it’s happened three times in the NHL, with the most recent occurring in a Philadelphia Flyers victory over the Boston Bruins earlier this month and once in the MLB, it’s never occurred in the NBA.

Boston forward Kevin Garnett was asked over the weekend if the Celtics could suffer a Bruin-like collapse to which he responded, “This is not hockey, so I’m not even looking at that,” Garnett told the Orlando Sentinel on Sunday. “The Bruins are not the Celtics. The Celtics are not the Bruins. Apples and oranges.”

Orlando’s J.J. Redick prefers to liken the series to baseball and the 2004 AL Championship when the Boston Red Sex overcame a 3-0 deficit to clip the New York Yankees.

“You never know what can happen,” Redick told ESPN. “We can be like the Red Sox, coming back from 0-3. You never know.”


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO