ORLANDO, Fla. — Not ready to go home just yet, the only place the Orlando Magic are headed is back to Boston.
Halfway to history.
Taking another step toward overcoming an improbable 3-0 series deficit, Dwight Howard had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Magic to a 113-92 victory over the Celtics on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“I don't know if you can say you have momentum when you're down 3-2 going into their place,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I still look at it like we're climbing a huge mountain here. But we are playing better.”
A series that looked like a sweep a few days ago now has the Celtics taking a slim lead into a pressure-packed Game 6 in Boston on Friday night. The Celtics are facing the possibility of playing it without Kendrick Perkins after their starting center picked up his seventh technical foul of the playoffs, a mandatory suspension unless it is overturned.
A potential Game 7 would be in Orlando.
No NBA team has won a series after losing the first three games.
The Magic, seemingly lifeless after a blowout defeat in Game 3, suddenly have hope to be the first. They broke out of their series-long shooting slump, making 13-of-25 3-pointers.
Jameer Nelson scored 24 points, and J.J. Redick had 14 to help the Magic to a frenetic pace that the Celtics couldn't sustain. Howard added five blocks as Orlando built an early 14-point lead that was never seriously challenged.
Rasheed Wallace had 21 points, and Rajon Rondo scored 19 for a Boston team that once seemed on its way to another NBA finals.
Now? The Celtics are stunned and dazed — and Boston fans who just watched their NHL team blow a 3-0 lead are getting uneasy.
Howard's elbow inadvertently came down on Glen “Big Baby” Davis' face near the basket in the third quarter, giving the Celtics forward a concussion. Davis tried to get up as play continued on the other end, wobbling his way to midcourt, almost falling flat as referee Joey Crawford kept him from tumbling to the hardwood.
Davis did not return. Reserve Marquis Daniels also was hit with a similar inadvertent elbow from Howard, leaving him dizzy, and Wallace “tweaked” his back.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Davis “blacked out” on the court, and the training staff will examine the forward Thursday.
“I don't know what kind of tests they're going to do with Baby. He's a little delirious anyway,” Rivers said, chuckling.
Give the Magic a little more than a puncher's chance.
Redick provided a big boost off the bench, making a pair of 3-pointers to highlight a 20-8 run that put Orlando ahead 51-37 in the second quarter. His swishes and crisp passing kept the Celtics scrambling, and it filled a major hole with starter Vince Carter continuing to struggle.
Amid an amped-up Amway Arena, Wallace picked up his third foul during the spurt and taunted Orlando fans all the way to bench. Wallace shouted and screamed to the stands, pointing at his ring finger for the championship he already won with Detroit — a title that has long eluded Orlando.
Things got even worse for the Celtics when Perkins was ejected after he picked up his second technical of the game and seventh of the postseason for arguing with officials. Perkins and Marcin Gortat were whistled for double technicals a few minutes prior after they got tangled up.
That means Perkins, one of the best defenders in the league on Howard, will be suspended for Game 6 unless the NBA rescinds the technical. NBA spokesman Tim Frank said a final review of the technicals was expected to be announced by mid-to-late morning Thursday.
“I didn't think he deserved either one. But he got them,” Rivers said.
The Celtics are two games from infamy, and the pressure is mounting.
Only four times in the history of North American major pro sports leagues has a team won a playoff series after losing the first three games. Such comebacks are something Boston fans know all too well.
It has happened three times in the NHL — most recently by the Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins earlier this month — and once in baseball, when the Boston Red Sox came back to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 AL championship series.
In 93 tries, it has just never been done in the NBA.
Here's the Magic's chance at history.
“We just all believe,” Nelson said. “We all believe. We know we can do it.”
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