The Orlando Magic slipped further towards their mysterious Eastern Conference Finals disappearing act last night, falling to the red-hot Boston Celtics 95-92 in front a sellout crowd at Amway Arena. Having let another game get away from them, the Magic have left themselves in the perilous position of playing two must-win road games against the surging Celtics at the hostile Boston "TD Banknorth" Garden.
Dwight Howard scored a game-high 30 points with 8 rebounds, yet Superman's teammates consistently deployed kryptonite bricks to the basket to the tune of a 32.8 field goal percentage. Granted, Boston played a strong, defensive game and the officiating crew of Joe DeRosa, Marc Davis and Bill Kennedy consistently allowed Celtics' guard Rajon Rondo to travel more than a politician on a campaign trail, but Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, and Matt Barnes combining to score a combined total of 20 points on this grand of a stage? That's totally unacceptable.
Despite those horrific individual performances, the game was still within reach and ultimately came down to a free-throw contest between Boston's Paul Pierce and Orlando's Vince Carter. Fouled by Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, Pierce drained both of his clutch free throws to put the Magic down 95-92 with 34.7 seconds left. Carter subsequently drove to the basket and was fouled by Pierce, who fouled out on the play. Vince "Air" Carter, an 84% shooter from the charity stripe during the season, missed horribly on both shots which pretty much took the air out of any potential comeback for the Magic. When asked about his free-throw debacle, Carter simply stated, "Don't remind me."
Orlando Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy offered up words that Captain Obvious would be proud of, "We're not taking good enough shots. I mean, that's the bottom line. When we move the ball, we got decent shots. Not great, because they're a great defensive team. We didn't get them all the time, but we had some periods of play there where we played very well against a very good defense."
In the Central Florida region, home to NASA, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that Van Gundy, Head Magic Man, will need more than just a few tricks from up his sleeve in order to turn this dismal turn of events into something a bit more magical for the team and its fans.
As Vince Carter would probably state on behalf of the team's fans, "Don't remind us."