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Usually, with their backs against the wall, the Celtics can battle back to take a game or series. After a 117-96 loss to the Magic in Game 3, the Celtics are down 2-1 in the series and face an uphill battle if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Can they continue their comeback trend? First, they have to figure out what went wrong in Game 3.
Dwight Howard powered the Magic with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocked shots to help the team inside. The rest of the team flourished from outside, and combined the Magic shot 59.1% from the field to effectively grab all the momentum heading into Game 4.
Without many big men left, the Celtics had a tough time stopping Dwight Howard in Game 3. Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, and Brian Scalabrine all got into foul trouble (5 fouls each), and in effect were not able to be as physical as they wanted to be with the big man. With more depth (like Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe), the Celtics would be in much better shape inside, and would have to worry less about Orlando’s outside shooters.
Speaking of which, their top outside shooters, forwards Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, were also in top form. Lewis hit 9 of his 17 shots (3-7 from beyond the arc) to finish with a team-high 28 points, and Turkoglu went 8-12 from the field with 24 points.
The moral of the story? TEAM DEFENSE. The Celtics cannot out-shoot the Magic. They know that, Orlando knows that, Doc Rivers knows that, and Ron Jeremy Stan Van Gundy knows that. Hell, they finshed shooting only 43% from the field. They need to improve their defense, specifically at the perimeter, if they want to have any chance of moving on.
Paul Pierce did all he could to bring the Celtics back, but it was not enough. He finished 6-15 from the field (but a perfect 14-14 from the FT line) with a team-high 27 points. Ray Allen was ice cold, finishing with eight points on 3-13 shooting (0-5 from three).
Eddie House proved again that he needs to get the ball more, going 6-7 from the field. He hit three of his four three-point attempts and is red-hot in the series. The C’s will need huge efforts from him the rest of the way to help make up for off nights from Allen or Pierce.
The Celtics aren’t out of it yet, but they certainly could use a win in Game 4 to even the series before heading back to Boston. Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.