Celtics hurting as series heads back to Boston
ORLANDO, Fla. — Kendrick Perkins was thrown out. Glen Davis was knocked out. Rasheed Wallace fouled out. The Celtics’ big men dropped like flies. The Orlando Magic feasted while they were gone.
Rashard Lewis knocked down a baseline pull-up from 15 feet out. Doc Rivers called a timeout, and as Wallace walked to the bench, the Celtics down, 91-78, with 8:59 remaining, the look on his face told the story.
Within moments, Jameer Nelson knocked down one of his four 3-pointers. Mickael Pietrus followed with a fast-break dunk. The Magic led, 101-86, with 5:47 left. The Celtics hadn’t won a game all postseason when they allowed a team to crack the century mark.
The Magic beat the Celtics to hang on to their playoff lives in Monday’s Game 4. They battered them to take the momentum with a 113-92 victory in last night’s Game 5. Now, after having the Eastern Conference finals in the palms of their hands, the Celtics head back to TD Garden in an uncomfortable and unenviable position, where they win Game 6 tomor row or face Game 7 here on Sunday.
The disappointment of dropping two close-out games was apparent, but there wasn’t a trace of panic in the Celtics’ locker room.Just the sense that they had been in this situation before.
“It’s nothing that worries me,’’ said Rivers. “I don’t panic at all. This is playoff basketball, this is what it’s all about. It’s about being resilient. Being there for your teammates. This is what we do.’’
Still, the momentum they had built in the first three games of the series, let alone the feeling of dominance they had established after beating the Magic so thoroughly in Game 3, is gone. Playing with their backs to the wall the past two games seemingly gave the Magic more freedom.
“I mean, their whole team just played with an [urgency] and they’re just playing free-minded, nothing to lose, letting it all hang out,’’ Kevin Garnett said.
The Magic dictated the tone for the second straight game, scoring 31 first-quarter points and forcing the Celtics to play their game. They picked up their intensity after looking at tape of the first three games.
“We would always look at the film seeing them go for loose balls, seeing them play together,’’ said Dwight Howard. “Either we’re going to give in or we’re going to keep fighting. I think everybody made a commitment from that night on to go hard and to just believe in each other.’’
Adding to the Celtics’ frustration is the possibility of having to play the next game without Perkins, who picked up two technical fouls in the first half, giving him seven for the postseason and mandating a suspension unless one is rescinded.
After being whistled with Marcin Gortat as part of a double technical with 2:15 left in the half, Perkins was hit with another technical moments later as he reacted — in the official’s eyes, overreacted — to a foul as he poked away Howard’s dribble, earning him an ejection.
For the second straight game, Nelson (24 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), Howard (21 points, 10 rebounds), and J.J. Redick (14 points off the bench) did a number on the Celtics. Howard was above the rim all night, getting five of his first seven field goals on dunks. He caught alley-oops at will, finishing feeds from Nelson, Brandon Bass, and Vince Carter. The Celtics seemed to have no answer when Perkins was on the floor. Then matters got worse not long after he left.
When Howard skied for a layup, Davis and Nate Robinson jumped with him. On the way down, Davis was smacked by a stray elbow from Howard.
Davis was on his back as the action rushed the other way. He slowly gathered himself to a knee, though he was clearly groggy. He tried running, but he was too dazed, and he stumbled from one side of the court to the other. He had the look of a punch-drunk boxer as Wallace and referee Joe Crawford stopped him in his tracks, holding him up.
While trainer Ed Lacerte examined him, a ball boy went to mop up some sweat, but noticed bits of Davis’s teeth on the floor.
Davis was diagnosed with a concussion and did not return.
Wallace led the Celtics with 21 points, but the Celtics struggled offensively much of the night, shooting 41 percent, with Paul Pierce (18), Garnett (10), and Ray Allen (9) combining to go 11 for 33 from the floor.
“They stole the game [Monday] in Boston,’’ Rivers said. “Tonight, they were the better team. They played better than us tonight. We make no excuses.’’