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NBA PLAYOFFS

Celtics whip Magic to move within one win of NBA Finals

Boston holds Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis to a combined 11 points in a 94-71 rout and a 3-0 series lead.

May 22, 2010|By K.C. Johnson

BOSTON -- If he so chooses, Paul Pierce could Tweet some taunts about a sweep and not blame hackers for it this time.

The Celtics moved one victory away from fulfilling Pierce's tainted Tweet -- "Anybody got a BROOM?" -- with a dominating 94-71 victory over the Magic on Saturday night at raucous TD BankNorth Garden. It was their sixth consecutive triumph in the NBA playoffs.

Game 4 is scheduled for Monday night, which gives the Magic two days to orchestrate a search party and find the missing offense of Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis.

The Celtics' smothering defense -- engineered, in part, by assistant Tom Thibodeau -- limited the Magic to 36.9% shooting and held Howard and Lewis to a combined 11 points.

They say defense wins championships, a subject in which the Celtics are extremely well-versed.

"You have to have confidence," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. "But we want to be humble, and we haven't achieved anything."

The Magic has achieved less. Even the much-ballyhooed switch of the more physical Matt Barnes onto Pierce instead of Vince Carter didn't do anything. Pierce scored the game's first basket, two of his 15 points as five Celtics reached double figures.

For a team already in a deep deficit, the Magic wrote an instructional manual on how not to start a game. It missed four shots and committed three turnovers before Lewis ended a 7-0 Celtics run with a baseline jumper close to four minutes after tip-off.

After pulling to within 7-6, the Magic then failed to score on eight possessions in a row as the Celtics ripped off a 14-0 run over a 5-minute, 31-second stretch. Ray Allen started it with a spry drive and dunk and Kevin Garnett closed it with a wing jumper.

Howard didn't score until he split two free throws with nine seconds left in the first quarter. Carter failed to score until a driving layup midway through the second. Talk about coming up small in big moments.

Perhaps more damning, the Celtics made all the hustle plays. As Jason Williams casually chased a loose ball into the backcourt, a diving Rajon Rondo extended full-out to beat him to it. Rondo then scored a quick layup over the bewildered Williams.

The Celtics once again received solid bench production. Glen Davis tallied a team-high 17 points and Rasheed Wallace sank back-to-back three-pointers during a pour-it-on fourth.

Davis also helped set a physical tone that completely overwhelmed the Magic.

The Celtics are making the Magic discombobulated all over. The league's third-best 3-point shooting team during the regular season suddenly can't hit anything. Swarming defense can do that to a team.

"We try to prepare our guys all the time to win a game when the other team is playing its best," Rivers said before the game. "They're going to get it at some point."

The Magic have one more shot to do so.

kcjohnson@tribune.com

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