Magic hope to be in it for the long haul

By Jarrod N. Rudolph
Globe Correspondent / May 26, 2010

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ORLANDO, Fla. — With their win in Game 4, the Magic didn’t make anyone forget about their lackluster performance in Game 3. They did, however, manage to show their critics that they are not a team of quitters. Their performance in Monday’s 96-92 win showed there is a level of pride in their locker room and that they wouldn’t accept a sweep after winning 59 games in the regular season.

“It’s most definitely about pride,’’ Rashard Lewis said. “We still feel like we are a good team and were a good team all year long.

“We didn’t want to get swept. I have a lot of respect for Boston. Boston has a great defensive team, they are a good team. I feel like we are a good team, too. We didn’t want to come out here and get swept.’’

The Magic played Game 4 with a focus and intensity that everyone expected to see in Game 3. Many will credit the pride Lewis talked about as the primary reason they were able to avoid a sweep. At this point, no one knows whether that win was the start of something special — perhaps a historic comeback like the ones pulled off by the Flyers this year and the Red Sox in 2004 — or just a bump in the road for the Celtics. But the Magic are going into Game 5 tonight with the confidence that they have recaptured the winning ingredients that had been missing in the first three games.

“You never know what can happen,’’ said J.J. Redick. “Maybe we will be like the Red Sox and come back against the Yankees. You never know.

“We weren’t very proud of our effort in Game 3, and honestly if we won or lost [Monday], we would have taken pride in our performance, and there are a lot of things that we could still do better. We are going home and hopefully we can pull out a win there, and make this a series.’’

“We have a long battle in front of us,’’ Jameer Nelson said. “It can be done just one game at a time. Just cut down some of the mistakes we’re making on the court in the course of the game. Some of those loose balls that we got, get more of them. Like I said, just take it one game at a time.’’

Nelson’s improved play was big for the Magic, but Dwight Howard’s performance — arguably the best of his career — was the key.

The four-time All-Star was heavily criticized for his disappointing performance in Game 3.

Everything from his “Superman’’ nickname to his superstar status was questioned. But the 24-year-old center showed that he’s much more than an athletic pitchman. His 32 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocks showed him to be a dominant force that the Celtics can’t stop once he gets going.

“Even though we knew we were down, 0-3, you have to win four games to win a series,’’ Howard said. “I just kept . . . after we lost [Game 3], I was like man, I feel so bad.

“And I just kept telling myself, ‘Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Just keep fighting.’

“I talked to a couple of people, one of those people was Hakeem Olajuwon. Me and him had a great talk. He just inspired me to keep playing.’’

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