That was rough. It was hard to watch. But it was just one game. The Celtics still hold the advantage and have a home game coming up on Friday with the opportunity to close out the series.
What can you do but tip your cap to the Magic on a night like last night? Sure, they benefited from some officiating and they benefited from some injuries to the Celtics, but they took full advantage and were more of the aggressor from the get go. I have been saying all along, even when we were up 3-0, that this Orlando team is very good.
At full strength we still match up with them well but that doesn't make Howard any less of a star player. It doesn't make Jameer Nelson any less of a clutch player.
When you take each game out of context this series has been much closer than you might think. Three of the games were very close and could have gone either way and each team now has a blowout win. Of course you have to take them in context. Momentum is a huge thing in basketball.
The Magic had lost three in a row, the last being in blowout fashion. They were facing elimination on the road and people were questioning their heart and manhood. So they fought with a combination of desperation and "nothing to lose attitude" and they were able to pull out the overtime victory. That set up last night, where they were able to take advantage of some home cooking and grab all the momentum back.
Now the Celtcs are the ones facing questions. Will the Celtics have enough bodies to throw at Dwight Howard? What can they do to stop the 3 point-attack that magically re-appeared for Orlando? Are we seeing a larger-scale repeat of what happened last year (Magic fought back from possible elimination to win the series)? Could the Celtics pull a Bruins and collapse completely???
Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat.
Boston fans have a bad rap for being overly emotional and over-reactive. Personally I think that just describes passionate sports fans in general, but whatever. There's no need to panic here.
The Magic won because they are a good team and because they also got pretty lucky. Lucky that the refs did them favors, lucky that a few freak injuries left us reeling (in some cases literally), and lucky that all the shots were falling last night for them.
I still believe that the Celtics are the better team and they will win on Friday night. It is going to take a full team effort, especially on defense. The key, as always, is getting stops and creating offense from defense. It would also help to have Rondo back to playing the way he was for most of the playoffs. And a night of Ray Allen reigning 3's down wouldn't hurt either. But it can and should happen, in particular with the best fans in the world behind them.
Give the Magic credit. They got up off the mat and delivered some good shots of their own. But the Celtics still hold the upper hand and they can still have the last laugh. It doesn't matter how pretty it is. All that matters is the outcome. Survive and advance, just like in '08.