The Orlando Magic just staved off elimination, demanding the Boston Celtics put the broom away, and invited them back to Orlando for a game five visit.
After all, that’s all that it will be. The Celtics will come into town, the Magic will play another heart-felt game, and game six will be on the books.
At least that’s the plan.
However, based off of what we saw out of the Magic last night, the way they kept their composure when calls weren’t going their way, the way Jameer Nelson attacked the basket, and the way Dwight Howard never backed down, we can’t completely write-off a comeback.
Think about it. The Celtics looked tired in the fourth quarter and overtime last night. If it weren’t for Ray Allen’s huge clutch three’s near the end of overtime, this game would have been over at the three-minute mark.
Orlando didn’t dominate Boston all game (not by any means), but they matched them, blow for blow, shot for shot, and closed the deal in the end.
And so far in this series, that’s what it’s been all about. Orlando allowed themselves to get abused by the Celtics inside game in game one, as they fell by four points, despite a courageous rally late in the game.
It was much the same in game two, while game three had the Magic looking hapless, confused, and as if they were giving up.
That’s actually what most people expected to see again in game four, but Orlando regrouped and once again discovered what made them the number two seed in the Eastern Conference all season.
Then again, it is just one game.
Can the Magic really piece it all together in another day and convince us that a four-game run to the NBA Finals is an actual possibility?
It’s never been done before in the history of the league, but if the following five things can happen, the Magic could pull off quite arguably the biggest comeback of all-time:
Jameer Nelson Must Push the Ball
When he does this, it makes Rajon Rondo actually play defense. And when Rondo plays defense, he can over-compensate and start making poor decisions, which could lead to a conservative offense, or even better, a warm seat on the bench with foul trouble.
But even more than what it could do to Rondo, pushing the ball helps keep the entire Celtics’ defense on high alert, and also helps free up the outside shooters.
When Nelson comes tearing down the court, guys are immediately forced to locate their man, which in turn can allow Nelson to penetrate and attack the rim, or kick the ball out to set-up anextra pass an open look.
Almost as importantly, Nelson pushing the tempo could help Orlando get better, quicker shots, and avoid long, stagnant strethes against a dominant half-court Boston defense.
Dwight Howard Must Hit Free Throws
How simple does it get? The best player for the Orlando Magic needs to put Bostons strategy to work against them.
Right now, the Celtics have a 3-1 series lead largely due to their “hack-a-Howard” strategy. They constantly rotate their big men, who are all solid defensive players, and have them rough-up Howard, and fouling him whenever he has an open path to the basket.
As we all know, Howard isn’t even an average free throw shooter, and becomes a major offensive liability once he starts getting to the line and missing the majority of his shots.
If Howard can somehow convert on 70% and more of his freebies over the course of the series, it could drastically increase Orlando’s offensive potential.
Vince Carter Needs to be Visible
Carter really only has shown up in one game in this series, and it was a loss in the opening contest.
Carter needs to show better poise, control, and shot selection. He can’t settle for jumpers and contested shots. He needs to take over the play-maker and creator role when his shot isn’t dropping, and instead of opening the game with 3-4 straight 15-foot jumpers, he needs to attack the basket.
The Celtics play great team defense, but when a talent lie Carter enforces his will on the middle of the defense, the backlash usually results in free throws and high percentage shots.
Carter needs to step-up and play elite basketball for the Magic to have a realistic chance at advancing in the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
J.J. Redick Needs to be Consistent
Redick has been a bright spot off the bench for Orlando, scoring nine points in the opening game, and then a solid 16-point effort in the game two loss.
Redick topped 12 points yet again in the game five win, and further displayed his ability to cover Ray Allen and play solid team defense.
His game intelligence and awareness has improved dramatically over the past two months, having Stan Van Gundy trusting him at the end of games with major minutes.
In just a few games in this series, Redick has shown to be a clutch performer and and offense creator, feeding the ball into Howard, making the extra pass, and driving into the lane.
He’s been solid to this point, but he’ll need to continue to bring a fire and scoring burst off the bench for Orlando to remain in the series.
Boston Needs to Mess-Up
Orlando doesn’t have enough momentum to swing four games and make history just yet. In fact, even if they take care of business and win their first home game of this playoff series, they still have an up-hill battle.
Let’s face it. They’re 0-2 at home against the Celtics in the playoffs, and while the emotion and home-court advantage should be in their favor, there are still no guarantees.
Still, if you go off of how they played in game five, their season resume, and how they competed at a high level at home in the first two games, it’s very reasonable to imagine the Magic getting at least one more game at home.
If they do that, Orlando sets themselves up with one last dance in Boston. If the Celtics can blow that game, it may be all the Magic need to complete the unlikely run and end things with a big win in game seven at home.
That is about as unlikely as all of the previous four points coming to fruition, but with a team name like “Magic”, you really never know.
And it’s ironic that the Magic are facing the Celtics (and Kevin Garnett). Because if they complete this unreal comeback, they could walk of the courts, screaming, “Anything is possible”.
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