THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Lukewarm to smoking hot

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / May 23, 2010

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If you bleed Green and smoke Hoyo de Monterreys in honor of Red, you want to bottle this energy and precision and start the Finals tonight in Los Angeles. What we are seeing on the parquet floorboards is awe-inspiring, almost frightening.

The Celtics destroyed the Orlando Magic, 94-71, in Game 3 of the conference finals last night. In the name of Bill Russell and Sam Jones, the old guard of 2010 is now one victory shy of a destined finale with the sons of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

Some day this will all make sense. We will look back at the season of 2009-2010 and wonder why there was any concern about the pedestrian (50-32) regular-season Celtics. We will clearly see that the fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and all the blown double-digit leads meant nothing. We will wonder how we ever doubted them.

But right now it’s a daily miracle. The Celtics exposed LeBron James and the heavily favored Cavaliers in the second round. Now it’s Orlando’s turn and it is downright ugly for the guys from the ugly wasteland of mid-Florida. Boston’s Game 3 lead peaked at 32 points.

Forget about the 3-0 hockey jinx. The Celtics are not the Bruins and the Magic are not the Philadelphia Flyers. Not even close. No NBA team has ever rebounded from a 3-0 deficit and the 2010 Magic have clinched North America’s Milk-Bone Dog Biscuit Award for 2010.

St. Louis had its Gas House Gang with the 1934 Cardinals. Orlando has the Gas Pipe Gang with the 2010 Magic. After going 8-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Magic are 0-3 and ready to get swept tomorrow night. Orlando has a roster of frauds with some explaining to do:

■Superman Dwight Howard is Super Bad. And we mean bad in the literal sense of the word. Howard scored 7 points with 7 rebounds in 39 minutes of Game 3. Credit the Celtic defense.

■Rashard Lewis, who makes north of $18 million, has a three-game total of 15 points on 6-of-24 shooting (1-13 from 3-point range). Credit the Celtic defense again.

■Vince Carter, who blew a chance at winning Game 2 by missing a couple of free throws in the final minute, responded by going 0 for 4 as the Celtics went ahead by 16 in the first quarter. Carter didn’t put the ball in the basket until the 18th minute of the first half just after the Celtics went ahead, 43-19.

■Jason Williams was badly outhustled when Rajon Rondo hit the floor for a loose ball on a fast break. While Williams slept, Rondo skidded on the floor, corralled the ball, got up, and scored. It was one of the great plays in Celtic lore (“If that doesn’t give your whole team energy, nothing will,’’ said Doc Rivers), but it also demonstrated that maybe Williams spent too much time with Randy Moss in high school.

“That was probably the play of the playoffs to me,’’ said Kevin Garnett. “It was pure, ‘I want it more than you.’ Shorty is in the zone.’’

The only member of the Magic who took a charge all night was coach Stan Van Gundy, who got in the way of Garnett when KG was bumped out of bounds by Matt Barnes in the third quarter.

“I’m not happy with where I had our team tonight,’’ said Van Gundy. “They just riddled us. The hustle plays all went their way. I think they worked harder than we did. They outcompeted us.’’

“ . . . effort . . .,’’ said Howard. “We haven’t brought that these three games.’’

Enough about the inept visitors. Too many words have been wasted on those who can’t handle the Celtics this spring. It’s time Basketball America took note of the spectacular defense being applied by the men in green.

“It’s an outstanding team, playing very, very well,’’ allowed Van Gundy.

This has simply been too easy. Boston’s 2008 champs won 66 regular-season games then needed 20 games to get to the Finals. It looks like it’s going to take only 15 games this year. Rivers, in the name of Red, has found the magic (not to be confused with Magic) formula with an eight-man rotation. The old guys are healthy, Rondo has emerged as the best point guard in the league, Big Baby is more nimble than Vince Wilfork, Tony Allen is a knucklehead no more, and infuriating ’Sheed has done exactly what he said he would do.

“This being an older team, it’s probably easier for me to get their focus in the playoffs,’’ acknowledged Rivers.

Amen. The Celtics are playing better defense than the 2001 Patriots. Given the Lakers’ ability to score, it should make for a spectacular Finals.

Boston’s offense isn’t bad either. Rivers cited one possession in which the Celts made eight passes, without a bounce, before Garnett drained a jumper.

The Celtics play the Magic again tomorrow night in what certainly should be the last game of this series. Then they can look forward to a week of “How are they gonna stop Kobe?’’ and “Will Bynum make a difference this time?’’ and “Eastern Conference Bruiserball vs. West Coast Showtime.’’

Meanwhile, David Stern is stuck with these conference final bowsers. How many folks do you think stayed tuned with the Celtics leading, 75-47, after three quarters?

Those who hung around heard Boston fans chanting “Beat LA’’ early in the fourth. They also got to see Wes Welker getting his Gino on during a timeout with the Celtics leading, 87-56, and 5:34 left.

The only thing missing was “Sweet Caroline.’’

So good.

So good.

So good.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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