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Magic face 1st playoff adversity

May 18, 2010
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

ORLANDO (AP) - Play time is over.

The trick shots that had become a ritual after Orlando Magic practices were gone Monday. So were the usual jokes and playful banter.

They were small but telling signs of just how much has changed in the Eastern Conference finals after the Boston Celtics took home-court advantage, shattering the Magic's playoff invincibility.

Orlando now must overcome a loss for the first time in more than six weeks when it faces the resurgent Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night.

"It was a good wake-up call for us," forward Matt Barnes said. "I can't speak for everyone, but we may have been feeling ourselves too much. They kicked our tail last night, and now we have to get back to work."

There's plenty on the agenda.

The Celtics swarmed Dwight Howard from the opening tip, with four different big men - Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett - all taking turns. Boston bullied its way past the Magic in punishing fashion.

Howard was held to 13 points and 12 rebounds on 3-for-10 shooting, but he also had a game-high seven turnovers, some coming at the worst of times.

Boston's scrappy play in the paint, elbows and forearms constantly jabbing, frustrated Howard again.

"I'm just playing him tough," Wallace said. "The difference is I'm clean with it. Some guys who do that, they're dirty with it. They're walking under you when you're shooting a jump shot. I'm just playing him tough. I don't do no dirty play. It's just all tough."

The ripple effect allowed the Celtics to close out fast on the Magic's potent three-point shooters, who went cold - especially early when Boston went ahead by 20 - and never allowed to get in rhythm. Orlando shot 41 percent from the field and 22 percent from beyond the arc.

The Magic, who swept Atlanta and Charlotte in the first two rounds, haven't lost consecutive home games all season. They're banking on that streak continuing heading into Game 2, or their hopes of redeeming last year's NBA finals loss to the Lakers could be crushed.

"You can't allow it to happen again," Howard said.

While the Magic are trying to prove they can overcome adversity, the Celtics are looking to regain their knockout punch.

Streaky for parts of the season, the Celtics have only now started to find the defensive prowess that carried them to an NBA title two years ago. They spent the season, hobbled by injuries, dazzling one minute and baffling the next.

How the Magic react after their first playoff setback is unknown.

They cruised through the first two rounds with relative ease, beating Atlanta by the largest margin of defeat in league history. Boston, of course, is a much more proven opponent.



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