Magic line up for Carter
Guard supported despite late misses
MAITLAND, Fla. — Missed opportunities and a few late-game errors cost the Orlando Magic an opportunity to win Game 2 and tie the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night. In the eyes of many observers, the most glaring misstep was Vince Carter’s inability to hit two free throws with Orlando down 3 and 31.9 seconds left. For Magic fans, the scenario was all too familiar and uncomfortable.
Thoughts of Nick Anderson missing four straight free throws in the 1995 NBA Finals immediately came to mind as the Celtics ran out of Amway Arena with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. As the series moves to Boston for Games 3 and 4, however, the Magic are choosing to look ahead to the challenge. They believe in their ability to win the series, and their faith in Carter is strong.
“I’m perfectly comfortable if Vince goes to the line again in the same situation,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I don’t think we need to make adjustments on Vince’s free throws.
“He’s not the only guy; Ray Allen missed them down in Miami. He missed three in a row at one point and he’s the one of the best free throws shooters ever in the league.’’
The Magic brought in Carter last offseason to play the role of closer. With Hedo Turkoglu, their primary fourth-quarter scorer, leaving for the riches in Toronto, the Magic knew they would need someone to create one-on-one scoring opportunities, particularly in the playoffs.
After failing in his first big chance to show that the decision was the right move, Carter was visibly disappointed. But Dwight Howard wouldn’t allow the 33-year-old guard to hang his head.
“I told Vince in the locker room after the game that the free throws are over with,’’ Howard said. “Sometime we keep living in the past and that’s what haunts us when we play the next game. We keep thinking about what we did, how we missed those shots, or now we have to make free throws because we missed them last game.
“We just have to move forward and I told him that. I said, ‘You can’t hold your head down because you missed those shots; you got to keep believing,’ and he agreed.
“I said, ‘It’s over with, Vince, let it go. You weren’t the reason we lost the game.’ ’’
The positive atmosphere is a welcome change for the 11-year veteran. For the better part of his career, Carter has been the centerpiece on his team. As such, he was required to carry the load on the court and be the support system in the locker room.
After the missed free throws — and J.J. Redick’s fumbled timeout in the final seconds — Carter saw that his teammates here will support him.
“It’s the sign of a great team that’s close-knit,’’ Carter said. “I received a text from Matt [Barnes] that was very encouraging. It’s a great feeling when you’re on a team like this because it shows that the team still believes.’’
Carter and the Magic acknowledge that the Celtics are a great team that is playing well, but they also believe they can play a lot better than they have in the first two games.
“There’s no need to quit, and there’s no need to say we’re going down fighting, because we’re not going down,’’ Howard said. “We’ve been in the situation before and we’re going to show how well we can bounce back.
“You got to think positive. If you think negative things, you’re going to lose. If everybody is on the same page and believes we’re going to win this series, then we’re going to win.
“Last year, we were down, 2-0, to the Lakers and guys kind of just gave up. I don’t sense that in this team this year. We know what we have to do.’’