Magic-Celtics does little to change perceptions about either contender
Four injured Celtics watched their team play its worst first half of the
"All I know,'' said Boston coach
"They were telling us we were a step too slow and they were telling us we weren't into the game,'' said Celtics big man
What followed was a momentary 15-point turnaround that might have threatened the Magic's self-esteem. They survived to win 86-79, but only after
A late-season meeting of contenders like this isn't going to change the established opinions of either team. The Celtics were going to be lauded for losing because they didn't give up; the Magic were going to be criticized for going 0 for 6 from the floor over the final 4 minutes while ceding a singlehanded 9-0 run by Allen that very nearly ruined their beautiful Sunday afternoon.
The win pulled Orlando within 2 games of the second-seeded Celtics heading into the final quarter of the season. But who out there views Orlando as being in the class of the champions or the top-of-the-conference Cavaliers? Coach
The Magic entered this game ranked No. 3 in field goal defense, No. 2 in blocked shots and No. 3 in defensive rebound percentage. They also rank No. 2 (behind
"They're very physical, they push and shove, they body,'' said Van Gundy of the Celtics. "When teams establish that style of play, they're allowed to do it.''
The younger Magic can't develop that style because their big men -- All-Stars Howard and
Resilient Orlando is 7-2 since acquiring
Afterwards Rivers criticized himself ("a huge mistake'') for failing to start
The goal for Orlando and Cleveland is to exploit the next couple of weeks as the Celtics rehab Garnett and the others while sorting out their rotation entering the playoffs. Rivers will sacrifice wins over the next five weeks in order to ensure good health for May and June.
"If we struggle, we struggle,'' he said. "Obviously we want home court, but we believe we can win on the road.''
The Magic have yet to earn that confidence. That's why their back-to-back Monday at Detroit -- against whom Howard is 3-16 dating back to 2006-07 -- is crucial if they hope to supplant the favorites when the games really matter.