The Celtics took to their home court Monday night with a 3-0 series lead and a chance to sweep the Magic. But the Magic, a team that had swept its two previous opponents, was not willing to be on the losing end of a sweep as they battled it out in TD Garden to survived Game Four, topping the Celtics 96-94.
I predicted the Celtics to take advantage of their home court advantage and their veteran leadership to close this series out in Game Four, but the Magic showed me a few things I had been waiting for.
For one, they made the series look competitive. The Magic, after a degrading Game Three loss, came back, made the correct adjustments, and made Game Four fun to watch.
Further, Dwight Howard, after his seven-point, seven-rebound performance in Game Three put on a clinic Monday, throwing down 32 points and snatching 16 boards, giving him his sixth double-double of this year's playoffs.
Although a sweep would have been the ultimate display of dominance in this series, Howard showed off an individual display of dominance in Game Four. He was aided by his sidekick, Jameer Nelson, who put on his best performance of the series by putting up an impressive 23 points, including two threes he dropped in overtime, and dishing out nine assists.
Also for the first time in this postseason, the Magic and the Celtics gave us a single overtime. After all, it was the Celtics last year gave that gave the world seven periods of extra basketball in one series against the Bulls, so it's only fitting that they were the first team to expose us to overtime in the 2010 Playoffs.
Despite all of the competitiveness that existed in Game Four, where was Vince Carter?
Despite Orlando's victory in Game Three, Vince Carter had his worst playoff performance this year. It was evident that Carter struggled in Game Four, as he shot 1-9 from the field for a meager three points. The bottom line is that if Orlando wants to have a chance to advance to the NBA finals, then they will need more from the man that they brought in to replace Hedo Turkoglu.
The Magic cannot expect Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson to get things done on their own, because there is a veteran bunch in Celtics uniforms who are breathing down their necks and looking to close out this series as soon as possible so they can rest up and prepare for the NBA finals.
Orlando truly earned their victory on Monday and received key contributions from unlikely heroes. For instance, J.J. Redick came up big for the Magic and scored a valuable 12 points, while shooting 3-5 from three point land despite being called for traveling on three different occasions. Also, Matt Barnes contributed a solid 10 points, which boosted Orlando on their way to their victory on Monday night.
Although the Magic played tough a tough game and earned their victory in Game Four, I just do not foresee their successes carrying over to Orlando. I believe that the Celtics are a veteran team who are easily able to win on the road. In fact, five of the Celtics 10 wins this postseason have come on the road, which goes to show that they are road warriors who have proven time and time again that they do not need the advantage of playing in TD Garden to win a game.
Even though Game Four was full of emotion, I don't believe it displayed the dominance or the type of energy that will carry over to Game Five and give them an edge in Orlando. Also, Rajon Rondo didn't have just an off night, but his performance was a personal worst of this postseason, and I believe that he will revive himself and leave his mark on Game Five.
Finally, Paul Pierce has been firing on all cylinders as of late and is coming off his hottest performance in Game Four's loss (32 points and 11 rebounds). I believe that he still has more left to offer in this series.
The Magic pulled out a tough one in Game Four, but how long will their success last? Can they hold off a strong bunch of veterans that know how to win on the road and force a Game Six, or will their hopes of another NBA Finals end after game five?
Can the Celtics, who have extinguished the Miami's Heat and dismounted Cleveland's Cavaliers, dash Orlando's belief in Magic? The Celtics have three more games (one more at home) to close out this series, and the Magic have the opportunity to take this series back home, make it interesting and possibly make history, so I guess we'll have to tune into find out.
As for me, I believe that the luck of the Irish will be too much for the Magic to handle.