Game 4 - Eastern Conference Finals
(2) Orlando 96, (4) Celtics 92 (OT) - Celtics lead series, 3-1
A few weeks ago, the Boston Bruins led their NHL playoff series three games to none against the Philadelphia Flyers.
That's the reason this Game 4 loss to the Orlando Magic can't be shrugged off quite so easily.
Yes, the month of May has already given Boston sports fans one very considerable dose of heartbreak. That's why nothing can or should be taken for granted after the Celtics blew a chance to finish off Orlando and rest up for the NBA Finals against - in all likelihood - the Los Angeles Lakers. Orlando flatly quit in Game 3 of this series, which meant that the Magic were ripe for the plucking on Monday night at TD Garden in Boston. However, instead of putting the nails in the Magic's coffin, the C's opened the door for an improbable comeback, a comeback Boston sports fans are acutely aware of.
In the Bruins-Flyers series, Game 4 went into overtime. The Bruins just needed to make one final push to the finish line in order to reach the next round of the postseason and very possibly advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Instead, Philadelphia got the game-winning overtime goal. The momentum the Flyers found in Game 4 carried over to Game 5. The Flyers won again and forced a Game 6. Suddenly, the prospect of a 3-0 comeback wasn't so improbable. Philly evened up the series in Game 6 and forced a Game 7, and when it was all said and done, the Flyers became just the third NHL team to ever erase a three-game series deficit.
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Speaking of three-game comebacks, Bostonians are entirely aware that the one time a Major League Baseball team pulled off the feat, the hometown Red Sox did the deed in the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. If any city should be attuned to the notion that anything can happen in a seven-game series, Boston is it.
This casts the Celtics' disappointing performance in a particularly harsh light.
Throughout the fourth quarter and overtime of this ugly and choppy game, Boston big man Kevin Garnett shied away from the pressure of the moment. Passing up open jumpers and then making several horrible passes that led to turnovers, Garnett did much to sabotage his team's halfcourt offense, in a pattern quite consistent with the progression of the regular season. The Celtics got just 18 points in the fourth quarter and only six points in overtime on two Ray Allen 3-pointers. A total of 24 points in the game's final 17 minutes prevented coach Doc Rivers' team from putting the Magic out of their misery.
How did Orlando win? It's not as though the Magic played a complete game on Monday; anything but. Vince Carter (1 for 9 from the field) was a no-show, and Rashard Lewis produced an underwhelming 13 points. Mickael Pietrus once again played horribly, going 0 for 4 from the field. Fellow bench players Jayson Williams and Marcin Gortat also scored no points and brought very little to the dance floor.
Yet, Boston proved to be worse. Garnett's nervous and turnover-filled performance really hurt the C's, but what was even more alarming was that Rajon Rondo - the best player in this series, hands down - was treated for muscle spasms at halftime. Clearly not himself, Rondo hesitated a lot and did not create fluid ball movement in the Celtics' halfcourt offense. Too many late-game possessions bogged down and resulted in hurried shots late on the shot clock. Orlando was hardly picturesque, but two late threes by Jameer Nelson - two low-percentage threes, it should be added - were enough to take an 86-all tie (at the end of regulation) and turn this game in favor of the folks from Florida.
Now comes Game 5 in the Sunshine State. If the Magic can pull out that contest, they'll fly back to Boston with a lot of confidence for Game 6.
Anything can happen. This series is definitely not over, and everyone in Boston should be able to appreciate that reality.
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer
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