Changeup perplexes Howard
He questions coach's moves
Dwight Howard wasn't trying to throw anyone under the bus. He stopped himself as he spoke to make sure that was clear.
"I don't want to get into it with my coach," he said, "you know, and go back and forth with him."
But, in his eyes, the facts were undeniable.
The Magic were up, 67-59, on the Celtics going into the fourth quarter.
In about half a minute, Howard had stretched that lead to 70-59 on a 3-point play.
Tony Battie hit a 17-footer that made it 72-61.
Hedo Turkoglu went hard to the lane and drew contact from Kendrick Perkins, converting another 3-point play that made it 75-63.
And before the Celtics knew it, Mickael Pietrus was cutting along the baseline to put the alley on Anthony Johnson's oop.
Orlando was up, 77-63, its largest lead of the game.
Three minutes later, Stan Van Gundy took Johnson and Battie off the floor and put in Rafer Alston and Rashard Lewis.
That's the moment Howard pointed to.
"When you're in a situation when guys got it going, everybody's moving the ball, and the energy is up, you've got to stick with it," Howard said. "You've got to stick with it. And when you take out certain guys and some guys have to get into the flow of the game, it's tough. Especially when you play a team like Boston.
"Our coach has to recognize when he has a certain group out there and they're getting the job done, you have to leave those guys on the floor. We're going to make mistakes, but I think the thing is you've got to go with what works."
In the final five minutes, everything unraveled for the Magic, who let that 14-point lead slip away and took a 92-88 loss in a crucial Game 5, that left them down, 3-2, in the series.
"It's just tough, period, because we felt like we could have won this game tonight," Lewis said. "We gave up a lead in the fourth quarter that we should have controlled. We stopped playing the way we had played the whole game, and we gave it up.
"We know we're a better team than that. But we've got to learn from our mistakes and we've got to learn very fast. We can't do this again next game."
The Magic hovered around 50 percent shooting most of the game, while the Celtics struggled from the floor. But in the final minutes, Orlando seemed like a completely different team.
"We had a 14-point lead and we had a 10-point lead with four or five minutes to play," said guard J.J. Redick. "We kind of played stall ball and you can't really do that with a 24-second shot clock."
Howard (12 points on 10 shots) put the responsibility on his own shoulders, but he also said his coach has to trust him with the ball as well.
"Defensively, I have to be more aggressive, and offensively I have to get the ball," he said. "I don't think you're going to win a lot of games when your post player - the guy you look to in the post - only gets 10 shots.
"I think I'm capable of scoring in the post. You've got a dominant player, let him be dominant."
Facing elimination as the series heads back to Orlando, Battie said it was best for the Magic to put this game behind them. At the same time, he mentioned the impact losing Game 4 had on them in Game 5.
"It's a series," he said. "We're not going to worry about each game. If we would have worried about each game, we would have been dead in the water last game. Glen Davis hit a big shot to crush us a little bit, but we'll just bounce back. It's all about regrouping and going back to the drawing board."
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.