Orlando hoping magic will reappear
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
ORLANDO, Fla. — Play time is over.
The trick shots that had become a ritual after Orlando Magic practices were gone yesterday. So were the usual jokes and playful banter.
They were small but telling signs of just how much has changed in the Eastern Conference finals after the Boston Celtics took home-court advantage, shattering the Magic's playoff invincibility.
Orlando will now have to overcome a loss for the first time in more than six weeks when the Magic face the resurgent Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals tonight.
"It was a good wake-up call for us," forward Matt Barnes said. "I can't speak for everyone, but we may have been feeling ourselves too much. They kicked our tail last night, and now we have to get back to work."
There's plenty on the agenda.
The Celtics swarmed Dwight Howard from the opening tip, with four different big men — Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett — all taking turns. Boston bullied its way past the Magic in punishing fashion.
Howard was held to 13 points and 12 rebounds on 3-for-10 shooting. But he also had a game-high seven turnovers, some coming at the worst of times.
Boston's scrappy play in the paint, elbows and forearms constantly jabbing, frustrated Howard again.
"I'm just playing him tough," Wallace said. "The difference is I'm clean with it. Some guys who do that, they're dirty with it. They're walking under you when you're shooting a jump shot. I'm just playing him tough.
"I don't do no dirty play. It's just all tough."
The ripple effect allowed the Celtics to close out fast on the Magic's potent 3-point shooters, who went cold — especially early when Boston went ahead by 20 — and never allowed to get in rhythm. Orlando shot 41 percent from the field and 22 percent from beyond the arc.
The Magic, who swept Atlanta and Charlotte in the first two rounds, haven't lost consecutive home games all season. They're banking on that streak continuing heading into Game 2, or their hopes of redeeming last year's NBA finals loss to the Lakers could be crushed.
"You can't allow it to happen again," Howard said.
Boston coach Doc Rivers cautioned his team not to get overly excited yesterday, knowing such success hasn't lasted long. The Celtics haven't won more than four straight — their current streak — since they won 11 in a row before Christmas.
"We didn't handle (winning) well all year," Rivers said. "When we won three or four in a row, you could count on it, 'Here it comes.' And we're a veteran team and we didn't handle it well. It's a human game at the end of the day."