Ninety-four teams have been down 0-3 in a NBA playoff series and the Orlando Magic is trying to become the first team to overcome such a deficit. But the Magic hasn’t been playing like it cares much about history—just the next game. The Magic staved off playoff elimination for the second consecutive game Wednesday night, trouncing the Boston Celtics 113-92 to force a game six on Friday. What looked like a surefire sweep only two games ago is suddenly turning into a playoff series of concern for the Celtics.

Four Boston players left the game early due to ejection or injury. Center Kendrick Perkins was ejected with less than five minutes in the second quarter after picking up his second technical foul for arguing a foul call on Orlando center Dwight Howard. Perkins may be forced to miss Boston’s next game after collecting his sixth and seventh technical fouls of the postseason. Players are automatically suspended one game after they pick up seven technical fouls in the playoffs. Reserves Rasheed Wallace, Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Marquis Daniels all finished the game in the locker room with injuries. Wallace left with a back injury, Davis and Daniels with concussions, leaving their availabilities for game six in question.

The Magic appear to be playing with all the answers after back-to-back impressive wins over the Celtics. Orlando received another strong game from Jameer Nelson, who finished with 24 points, five rebounds and five assists. Nelson and Howard combined for 45 points and 15 rebounds. Howard, a First Team All-NBA defender, put on a defensive performance to remember, blocking five shots and collecting two steals. Howard set the tone early for Orlando when he sprinted baseline to baseline for a chase-down block on fellow All-NBA defender Rajon Rondo, exciting the crowd.

Wallace led Boston with 21 points and Rondo added 19 points and six assists. Orlando doused the Celtics with a parade of three-pointers in the opening half on their way to finishing 13-of-25 from beyond the arc, their best shooting performance of the series so far. Boston will return home for game six on Friday but the atmosphere may not be so comfortable for the Celtics. Boston will face immense pressure to put Orlando away on their home court but could be without the services of several players. The Celtics lead the series 3-2.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO