ECF Game 2: Celtics take 2-0 lead

Celtics 95, Magic 92

Well, we can pretty much stick a fork in the Magic. When a team loses the first two games of the series at home, they aren’t coming back. They’re just not. It doesn’t happen. Well, maybe it’s happened once or twice, I don’t know. (Update: Teams that win the first two games on the road have won the series 22 of 25 times, per John Hollinger.) It would take a miracle…or maybe an injury.

So barring that, the Magic have to be left wondering what happened. They cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs, winning eight straight games, and ran into a brick wall in the form of the Boston Celtics. The difference in this series is that the C’s are simply a lot better than the Bobcats and Hawks. In fact, I think you could combine the rosters for the Bobcats and Hawks and Boston would still beat them in a seven-game series. That’s how good the Celtics are playing now.

Ray Allen lit it up in Game 1, but was quiet in Game 2. Paul Pierce picked up the slack, posting 28-5-5. Kevin Garnett (10-9) struggled shooting the ball once again, but there was Rajon Rondo with a timely 25-5-8. Quick — name five point guards that are better than Rondo right now. I bet you can’t.

Dwight Howard (30-8) played a lot better in Game 2, and even hit his free throws (12-of-17), but the rest of the Magic shot just 19-of-58 (33%) from the field for 62 points. Jameer Nelson (4-of-12), Vince Carter (5-of-15) and Rashard Lewis (2-of-6), who combined to make $42 million this season, shot a collective 11-of-33 from the field. At home.

I’ll wait until the Magic actually lose the series before I write their offseason piece, but at this point the entire region of Central Florida has to be regretting that Vince Carter move. In the final period, Carter went 2-of-5, turned the ball over once, and missed back-to-back free throws with 0:32 to play that would have cut Boston’s lead to one. Luckily for Otis Smith, Hedo Turkoglu’s play fell off a cliff in Toronto, so it’s not like Smith’s detractors can point to Turk as a no-brainer re-signing.

As for Boston, what has spearheaded this rejuvenation? To me, it’s a combination of several factors: 1) Rondo is now a Top 5 point guard, so it’s the Big 4 instead of the Big 3, and at least two are showing up every night, 2) Garnett’s knee looks a lot better, 3) they’re playing arguably the best defense in the league, and 4) someone on the bench — Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace or Glen Davis — seems to show up every game with an unexpected 8-15 points.

The Celtics are also made up of consummate professionals, so even though they have their ring, they’re going out every night and laying it on the line.

With the way both teams are playing, there’s a good chance we’re going to see a matchup of the last two Finals winners (Lakers, Celtics) and a rematch of the 2008 Finals.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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