Home sweet home? Not for weary Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Magic enjoyed all the creature comforts of home at Amway Arena.
A sellout crowd of 17,461 turned out with painted faces to exhort them with an assortment of noisemakers and inspirational gimmickry aimed at getting the hosts back on track after a Game 1 setback in the Eastern Conference finals spoiled their 8-0 start in the playoffs. A lot of good it did them. In the end, it only seemed to detract from the matter at hand.
For a team that tied for the second-most home wins in the NBA and recorded the third-most wins in franchise history (34), the Magic’s failure to hold serve in their two opening home games in this best-of-seven series left Orlando staring at an untenable situation of having to go back to Boston facing a two-game deficit following last night’s 95-92 loss to the Celtics.
It marked the first time since last year’s NBA Finals against the Lakers that the Magic have lost two in a row at home in the playoffs.
“You know what, it’s not shocking,’’ said Orlando’s Dwight Howard, whose game-high 30 points on 9-for-13 shooting (including 12 of 17 from the foul line) went for naught. “We just have to come back and win the first game up in Boston. That’s the only thing on our minds. My thing is putting this game out of our head and just keep telling my teammates to believe. Believe we’re going to win.
“Just because we’re down, 2-0, doesn’t mean the series is over with,’’ Howard said. “We just have to regroup. I think we played a lot harder than we did in the first game. We saw a lot of positives in what we need to do to beat this team.’’
But for all the positive signs of improvement, it failed to produce a win.
“We expected to be in a battle,’’ said Magic guard JJ Redick. “We aren’t facing a last-place team here. We can’t all get our averages every game, that doesn’t happen versus good playoff opponents. Guys have to continue to step up and play through this.’’
Redick scored a playoff career-high 16 points to help Orlando’s bench outscore Boston’s, 26-18, but had it overshadowed by an end-of-game gaffe when he came up with the last defensive rebound but turned to push the ball upcourt unaware that his team had attempted to call a timeout, paring precious seconds off the clock.
“I made a mistake,’’ Redick said. “I didn’t hear the whistle initially so I sort of just went. I realized after that I should have called time out right away. It was my mistake.’’
It left the Magic little time — 3.5 seconds — to attempt an off-balance tying shot by Jameer Nelson that fell short of its mark
“We’re going to have to win these next two games if we want to win this series,’’ Redick said. “But we got to start by winning one. At this point in time, it’s going to take a supreme effort to win anywhere. We could play at a neutral site and it’s still going to take a supreme effort.’’
Now, the Magic must cling to the belief that the road will be a kinder and gentler place than home in the first two games of this series. Orlando, after all, won twice during the regular season at TD Garden.
“That was the regular season; this is the playoffs,’’ Howard said. “We know we can win, but we have to put it together 48 minutes against a good Boston team. This series is not over. I won’t stop believing that. I won’t let my teammates stop believing that. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to do it.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.