Maybe the Celtics let all the talk about a sweep get in their heads. Maybe they executed poorly throughout the entire game. Maybe it was both of these things that led to a Magic 96-92 win, forcing Game 5 back in Orlando.
Unlike the first three games of this series, the Celtics got off to a slow start and spent the majority of the game trying to claw back in. When they took a 68-67 lead into the fourth quarter, they failed to extend that lead in the opening minutes of the quarter, instead allowing the Magic to retake it.
The opportunities were there, but unfortunately the Celtics could not capitalize on them. Tied at 86 with under 20 seconds ago, the Celtics got the ball for the last shot. They elected to not call a timeout and instead run a pick and roll play with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen- the only problem was that the pick and roll never occurred.
"We didn't execute it at all, I can tell you that," said Doc Rivers. "Supposed to be Paul at the top with a pick‑and‑roll with Ray, and then the floor was supposed to be flat and spaced. When you look at it, half our team was standing next to Paul. The execution was so bad ‑‑ I thought we executed poorly throughout the game. We didn't make the next rotations, we didn't make the next pass."
The Celtics lost their team mentality tonight, instead playing as a bunch of individuals out on the floor.
"Each guy feels like they can make the shot to win the game for us," said Ray Allen. "Sometimes that's been at our team's detriment. So sometimes pulling back for all of us, like you come off, you have the ball, just swing it. Sometimes I might have a shot, but Kevin might have an easier one. Just plays like that- the unselfishness out there on the floor. When we're great, that's what we do. I think there were spurts tonight where we weren't great. We were just average."
"I thought everybody showed up to win the game," said Rivers. "But I think at times when you have a chance to do something, close a series out or win a big game, each guy tries to do it themselves. I didn't think we trusted each other tonight at all with the pass or with the execution."
Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson led the way for the Magic, as Howard ended with 32 points and 16 rebounds and Nelson added 23 points and nine assists. It was Nelson's clutch 3-point shooting in overtime that really put a dagger in the Celtics' side.
"We let (Jameer) get off, he hit two big threes that hurt us, we got back in the game but we didn't execute like we were supposed to," said Glen Davis. "That's the most disappointing part because we know we can win, an execution here and execution there and we win the ballgame."
Davis provided that energy once again off the bench in the fourth quarter. Down four points with about 8:00 remaining in the fourth quarter, Davis took a charge from Rashard Lewis. On the ensuing possession he converted a layup to bring the Celtics within two points. After a pair of missed free throws by Howard, Davis scored again, this time a jumper, to tie the game up at 74.
When overtime began, however, it was Kendrick Perkins on the floor while Davis sat on the bench. When Davis reentered the game with two minutes to go, the Celtics still had not scored a point. This was largely due to the fact that the Magic are able to cheat off Perkins on the offensive end. When Davis enters the game, Howard is forced to leave the paint and body up either Davis or Kevin Garnett. Since Perkins' offensive game is limited to inside the paint, Howard can sit back when Perkins has the ball away from the hoop. What Perkins gives the Celtics defensively, he sometimes takes away offensively- and tonight was a good example of that.
"I thought to start the overtime Dwight was starting to dominate a little bit," Rivers said. "So we wanted to get some size in there. The problem is on the other end right now, they're not guarding Perk, and with Rondo not going tonight, we needed another offensive player on the floor."
The Celtics will head back to Orlando for Wednesday night's Game 5. The Magic now have some life in them, so the Celtics will have to attack early on in the game, something they could not do tonight. They are 5-2 on the road so far in the postseason, a far better road record than when they won it all two seasons ago.
"Game 5 is going to be a tough one back on their floor to play but it is what it is and we got to try to get another win in their building," Paul Pierce said. "That's the goal. We really don't want to come back here and play a Game 6. The sense of urgency is going to be there when we get on the road so hopefully we can take care of business."