NBA: Magic’s dream season in peril heading into Game 3
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. — Magic coach Stan Van Gundy slipped into his bed early Wednesday morning and started watching film, figuring he'd doze off quickly.
It never happened.
"I thought that, OK, I'll get sleepy watching it and then I'll go to bed and get up and finish it in the morning," he said. "Your mind starts racing, so you don't wind down."
Orlando's play lately tends to have that effect.
The Magic, in an 0-2 hole, have put their dream season in peril heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday against the Boston Celtics.
Only three teams have ever come back to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two games at home. The Magic have never rallied from an 0-2 deficit — home or away — and the Celtics have never lost a series with such a lead.
Translation: Orlando is in big trouble.
All-Star center Dwight Howard, looking to energize the Magic, delivered a message to teammates after a brief film session Wednesday. He reminded them they still have a chance — despite the long odds — to return to the NBA finals.
"There's no need to quit," Howard said. "And there's no reason to say we're going down fighting, because we're not going down.
"You just got to think positive. If you think negative, then you're going to lose. Like I told our guys in the locker room, if anybody has any doubt, then we're not going to win. But if everybody's on the same page and everybody believes that we're going to win this series, then we're going to win it."
That would require a major reverse from the Magic's recent meltdown.
Vince Carter, who was called for a technical foul earlier in Game 2, missed two free throws with 31.9 seconds left that could have brought Orlando within a point.
The Magic had another chance to tie the game, but J.J. Redick wasted precious seconds dribbling the ball until calling timeout with 3.5 seconds remaining. And since the Magic couldn't advance the ball to the frontcourt, Jameer Nelson was forced to take a desperation 3-pointer that he airballed at the buzzer from beyond halfcourt.
Maybe the season.
After winning 14 straight, including two playoff sweeps, Orlando likely has to win both games in Boston to have any chance to save its season — the season spent redeeming last year's NBA finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Like I told our guys who went to the finals last year, down 2-0 against the Lakers, guys just kind of gave up," Howard said. "I don't sense that in this team this year. We know what we have to do."
About the only positive the Magic can take heading into Game 3 is that they went 2-0 at Boston this season. They also overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the second round against the Celtics last season to win Game 7 in Boston.
Of course, this is a revived Celtics squad with a healthy Kevin Garnett leading that suffocating defense that led them to the NBA title two years ago.
The usually hot-shooting Magic shot just 39 percent in their latest loss and have fallen behind by double-digits in both games. They rallied from 11 points down in the fourth Tuesday night to take the lead before their gaffs.
"I think our guys are really disappointed, but I think it's a resilient group and a confident group. I think they'll be ready to get to work" on Thursday, Van Gundy said. "Time helps you a little bit at this point.
"I know with me, at 5:15 this morning when I finished the film and even at 9:30 or whatever it was for the coaches' meeting, I was angry and frustrated. By the time we got to 12 noon and talked to players, I was ready to get to work and talk about what needed to get done.
"I don't know if that's the grieving phase or whatever it is, but I was ready to get to work."
The Magic are scheduled to practice Thursday and Friday.
Though these are desperate times for Orlando, players still remain upbeat.
Carter said players were trying to "let go" the past two games. He said he was going to take a break from basketball Wednesday afternoon, leaving the team's practice facility to go to his restaurant.
Asked what was on the menu, he replied, "Need-a-win pasta."
The Magic need two of those to go.