Reporting from Orlando, Fla. -- And to think a week ago the NBA was looking at two sweeps in the conference finals.
Wednesday night, the Orlando Magic took one more step toward the unlikely proposition of being the first team in 94 tries to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. Orlando’s 113-92 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals means its greatest obstacle to history will come Friday night at Boston in Game 6. That is, unless there is a Game 7.
The Magic and its sellout crowd of 17,461 at the acoustically and architecturally ancient Amway Arena (it’s scheduled to be torn down after the team finishes its season) never let the Celtics get dangerously close once the Magic took a 14-point lead in the second quarter.
“Game 6 we will need to be even better at both ends,” said Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy, not wanting to appreciate Wednesday’s accomplishment. “It’s a huge, huge challenge ahead of us, but it’s a challenge we worked hard to get to.”
Predictably, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers wasn’t ready to panic.
“We earned the right to have this game,” Rivers said. “We need to win one game. Let’s hope it’s the next one, but if it takes coming back here we’ll be ready for it.”
The Celtics were competitive for three quarters but eventually were felled by foul trouble, one troubling ejection and an injury of happenstance. The crowd officially called the game with 2:54 to play when it started streaming for the exits.
“They played a great game tonight,” Rivers said. “They moved the ball. They are a great team when they get a lead. I never thought we supplied any pressure. We made some runs but no real pressure.”
The Magic dominated underneath, which you would expect with Dwight Howard. He scored 21 points, had 10 rebounds and blocked five shots.
Jameer Nelson led the Magic with 24 points. J.J. Redick had 14 off the bench.
Rasheed Wallace, who fouled out, was the leading scorer for the Celtics with 21.
One scary moment for the Celtics came late in the third quarter when Glen Davis was accidentally struck on the face by a Howard elbow as he was coming down for a rebound. Davis blacked out and fell to the court. As the play went downcourt he tried to get up but staggered like a fallen boxer. He finally got up and ran up the court and fell into the arms of referee Joey Crawford.
He didn’t return to the game and was diagnosed with a concussion. He finished with only four points. His status for Game 6 is unknown.
It was that kind of night for the Celtics.
One of the most important moments for the Celtics may have come in the second quarter when Kendrick Perkins was part of a double technical (Marcin Gortat was the other offender) followed by another technical 38 seconds later. It was his seventh technical of the playoffs and under NBA rules he must be suspended for the next game.
That is unless the NBA reverses the technical. It plans to review the call Thursday morning.
Perkins was assessed the second technical for reacting to a call made by referee Eddie F. Rush. It did not appear that he said anything, only motioned with his arms.
“I don’t think he deserved either one,” Rivers said. “But he got them. We talked before the game about the double technical thing. [Five of the seven were in that situation.] It was awful quick. I think Eddie Rush realized when he called it he couldn’t rescind it. But we put ourselves in that position.”
Perkins played 16 minutes and scored two points with four rebounds.
The NBA will decide if he’ll be around for a Game 6.
A few days ago nobody thought the Magic would be around.