Magic stay cool at crunch time against BostonMay 15, 2009 - 10:07 PM By ANTONIO GONZALEZ Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla.(AP) -- The Magic's shots were not falling. Orlando was not getting rebounds and couldn't make a defensive stop.
The season was slipping away.
But the team that has practically made collapsing a hobby this postseason finally came up big in the final minutes, prompting coach Stan Van Gundy to even poke fun at his "master of panic" title for what his critics say is a lack of composure at the end of games.
The Magic and their coach will again have to keep their cool at crunch time on Sunday if they want to do what few teams ever have: win a Game 7 at Boston.
"We've been very, very good in difficult situations, which is really hard to understand with a coach that panics like I do," Van Gundy joked after the Magic's 83-75 Game 6 win Thursday. "It's really hard to understand how in those situations guys can just go out and get the job done and fight through it. But it's been a trademark."
Actually, it hasn't.
The Magic lost Game 5 at Boston after losing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Celtics nearly rallied from 28 points down to steal Game 1, and Orlando also blew two 18-point leads against Philadelphia in its first-round series - losing one of those games.
But Game 6 against Boston was different.
The Magic won despite failing to do what they do best - make shots at a high percentage. They could not hit from short range. Not from 3-point range. Not even on free throws.
Everything was clanking.
Orlando shot just 36.6 percent from the floor and was a dreadful 17-for-31 on free throws. Boston's Paul Pierce made three straight jumpers to give the Celtics a 73-72 lead with 4:51 remaining, the kind of push the has consistently made the Magic fall apart.
"We thought we had them beat," Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said.
Only this time Orlando's ballhandlers didn't breakdown.
Rafer Alston hit a 3-pointer and a floater in the final minutes. Dwight Howard had a put-back layup, and Hedo Turkoglu broke out of a shaky shooting night with a 3-pointer that sealed the win.
"We took better shots down the stretch than we did the other night in Boston," Alston said. "That's the key: down the stretch you want to get good, key opportunities at the basket. The game is played on instinct. If they give you an alley I think you should drive it hard and attack the rim."
The pattern had all the makings of a Celtics win.
The defending champions have made ugly games their winning formula. The Celtics were called for 28 fouls to the Magic's 15, playing the kind of physical game that usually makes Orlando crumble.
The Celtics lost two 10-point leads in each half. They committed 19 turnovers, and despite holding the Magic to a low-shooting percentage, they were the team that failed when it counted most.
"We didn't run out of gas. I guess we choked," Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said. "We turned the ball over and things did not go our way. We did not get shots. Turnovers led to a lot of points."
Now comes the tough part for the Magic: doing it again.
Orlando has come back from losses nearly every time this year. The Magic have lost consecutive games only four times this season, including the playoffs.
This time, there will be no second chance.
"Now we're in a different situation because we're coming off a win," Van Gundy said. "There's no bounce back if you don't get it done in Game 7. The bounce back is next November."
ORLANDO 83 FINAL
May 14 9:48 PM
ORLANDO 61 END, 3RD QTR
May 14 9:06 PM
ORLANDO 45 HALFTIME
May 14 8:14 PM
ORLANDO 22 END, 1ST QTR
May 14 7:35 PM
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