But then along came the Boston Celtics. A very good, veteran team who had just come off of dethroning King James and the Cavaliers
and the roll the Magic were on had apparently come to a halt. Orlando, a team that had averaged 107-points per game against the Hawks, was held to a score in the 80's for the first time in this years playoffs in game one versus the Celtics.
It appeared that the Celtics' stifling defense, veteran leadership, and resolve would allow them to cruise to the finals in four games, but now after the Magic have seized two wins and all of the series momentum, it appears that the tides have changed.
It appears that a new Magic team has emerged in the past two games, a team that is so different from the team that was playing in the first three games of this series that you would assume that the team that played in Game One through Game Three was a bunch of impostors posing in Orlando uniforms. They are now playing with energy, a sense of urgency, and resolve that didn't appear to be there in the three losses that they suffered at the hands of the Celtics.
This "new" Magic team that emerged in Game Four and Five is much more reminiscent of the team that swept their opponents in the first two rounds of the playoffs. They are playing much better basketball in the past two games than they were in the first three of this series and now they are a legitimate threat to Boston's dreams of capturing another NBA title.
Orlando's new energy and attitude has been sparked by the play of point guard, Jameer Nelson
and center, Dwight Howard
. Nelson has taken on a greater load in Orlando's two wins this series and is doing a much better job of creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. He struggled to create shot opportunities for himself and his teammates in the Magic's three losses and only averaged 3.3 assists per game but in games four and five he has done a much better job and averaged 7 assists per game in the their past two victories.
Nelson's point production has also increased in their two wins scoring 23 points in Game Four and 24 points in Game Five, both of which are higher totals than he had in any of their three losses.
Also, Dwight Howard who struggled in games one and three has rejuvenated this Magic squad and is determined to be the spark that Orlando needs to come back and win this series. Howard struggled to get blocks in Game Two and Game Three has stepped up in a big way and increased his defensive production, picking up 9-blocks in games four and five.
One of his blocks in game five exemplified Orlando's energy and intensity as he ran the length of the floor to reject a Rajon Rondo layup from behind. Howard is determined to use his defensive play to not only deny Boston points but also inspire his teammates. On top of his supremacy in the shot blocking category, Howard has accrued double-doubles with points and rebounds in the past two games which have aided the Magic en route to their two victories.
With Nelson and Howard producing like they are, they have proven to be a troublesome tandem for the Celtics' defense to handle. They are simply getting it done on both ends of the floor. Jameer Nelson is doing a great job of penetrating the lane, using picks and screens, and reading/reacting to the Celtics' defense.
Howard is hustling, taking advantage of mismatches, and is proving to be a true leader on this Magic team. It's evident that the Celtics truly have their hands full when it comes to dealing with these two, but their troubles don't stop with Nelson and Howard. They also have to come up with an answer to contain Rashard Lewis,
who is slowly heating up, and also players who are making solid contributions off the bench; at this point the odds almost appear to be against Boston.
To add to the woes of the Celtics, the statuses of Glen Davis
and Marquis Daniels are now in question after both suffered concussions in Game Five
, in Orlando. In Game Three, Davis proved that he can be a key contributor the Celtics offense, so with his availability for Game Six in jeopardy the Celtics may have a cause for concern. Despite the condition of Davis and Daniels, Boston was able to breathe a sigh of relief this afternoon, after the NBA rescinded one of the two technical fouls
that was issued to Kendrick Perkins
in Game Five which would have forced him to sit out of Game Six.
Earlier in this series, it was Paul Pierce
who said that the Celtics were going to take this series back to Boston to finish the Magic off in a sweep. Well, it's too late for them to go for the sweep, but Pierce and the Celtics do have one more opportunity to get things done in front of the Boston faithful, but perhaps Pierce spoke too soon. Perhaps this is the universe's attempt of humbling Paul Pierce for that wink after he said that the Celtic's would sweep the Magic.
However, Pierce cannot be solely faulted for Boston's inability to finish off Orlando one and for good, as he has put up a valiant 32 point, 11 rebound effort in Game Four, but apparently his efforts were not enough. Regardless of his past efforts, the Celtics are going to need more than just Paul Pierce putting up another big game if they hope to get past the Magic. They are going to need a well concerted effort from Rajon Rondo
and the Big Three if they hope to dull the intensity of the Magic and earn a decisive victory in Game Six of this series.
Currently the Magic are rolling, again. They appear to be firing on all cylinders and just as things start coming together for the Magic, things appear to be falling apart for the Celtics. Personally, I cannot allow myself to doubt the Celtics' "resolve." After all, they are a veteran team and they know how to play solid defense. On top of that they have been to the finals before, and won it, something this Magic team, which took a trip to the finals last year is yet to do.
However, I love the way the Magic are playing right now, they are mature, energized, and lively. Almost everyone is guilty of discounting the Magic after they dropped three in a row to the Celtics, and I am no exception, but I do not want to be guilty of that again. This Magic team is very capable and could join the Philadelphia Flyers to be the second team to stomp on the hearts and dreams of Boston sports fans in less than a month's time.
Just because an NBA team has never overcome an 0-3 deficit before doesn't mean it's impossible, it just means that it's difficult, very difficult, but perhaps this Orlando team has the "magic" touch that it would take to be the first team to get it done.