Vince Carter #15 of the Orlando Magic walks towards the bench with his head down against the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 18, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.
So, even though all things are possible, some are more possible than others, and a comeback by the Magic isn’t one of them. They’re down 0-2 and going on the road against a veteran team of champions.
You don’t lose the first two at home in the NBA conference finals and come back to win the series. You can do that in hockey and baseball, but you can’t do it in basketball unless you’re a great, great team, and Orlando does not meet that description.
The only thing that can save Orlando now is a miracle, and it would have to be a good one, too, something biblical, and none of that New Testament stuff. No, this calls for a fire-and-brimstone, sun-standing-still-in-the-sky Old Testament miracle. Or two.
That makes an Orlando comeback as likely as Sarah Palin declaring her undying love of Keith Olbermann or a border collie swearing off chasing Frisbies.
It’s too bad. This could have been a great series, the kind that goes seven games and demands your attention. The Celtics had the Big Three — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — along with point guard Rajon Rondo. The Magic had a team that could shoot the lights out from long range and destroy you inside with Dwight “Superman” Howard. It seemed like the stuff that highlight reels are made of.
Okay, so Orlando lost Game 1. It was understandable. They had hardly broken a sweat in beating Charlotte and Atlanta without losing a game in the first two rounds, then they had to wait for Boston to finish off Cleveland in six games. They were rusty.
All they had to do was win Game 2 at home, then find a way to steal a game in Boston and come back home tied 2-2.
So they came out Tuesday night ready to play. Howard had the huge game he didn’t have in Game 1. Vince Carter had a terrific first half, and J.J. Redick got off the bench and scored 16 vital points.
And it wasn’t enough.
The Celtics are great because they get contributions from everybody, and if one player is having an off night, another star steps up. Ray Allen was huge in Game 1 but not in Game 2. No problem. Pierce and Rondo simply picked up the slack.
The Magic are going to lose because they have no one other than Redick who stepped up. Howard had the big game he was supposed to have, but Carter was fairly dreadful in the second half. Late in the game, he had two free throws that could have made it a one-point game with less than a minute to play. He hit the front of the rim on the first one and bounced the second off the back of the rim. Carter’s supposed to be one of the game’s premier shooters, but he looked like Shaquille O’Neal on both pressure free throws.
The rest of the team was missing in action. Rashard Lewis, who averaged 14 points a game during the season, scored just five. Matt Barnes was invisible and point guard Jameer Nelson had just four assists and nine points.
Game 1 was a blowout Boston win that got close at the end. Game 2 was tight all the way. Twice, Boston built 11-point leads, but couldn’t pull away. Orlando kept clawing its way back in, on occasion taking a sliver of a lead. But if Boston couldn’t pull away, Orlando couldn’t hold a lead.
“We fought hard, but we didn’t play smart enough,” concluded their coach, Stan Van Gundy. “We didn’t sustain what worked offensively.”
Instead, they kept running everything through Howard in the post. It gave him 30 points, but involved no one else. It almost worked — but not quite.
It failed because the Celtics are too good to beat with one man. Cleveland tried it with the best player in the league and got thrashed. The Magic can’t expect to do any better. Howard’s a great player, but he’s a center. He can’t carry the team and the game the way a swing man or guard can.
And so it’s already over. Maybe Orlando wins one game in Boston, maybe not. Whatever happens, they’re probably done in five. If they get that miracle, they may last six.
But they’re not beating Boston, not after falling behind two games to none.
This is one time Yogi Berra was wrong. It’s ain’t over, but it’s over.