Magic Classic Wins: Games 3 & 6 of 2009 Conference Semifinals Against Celtics

Fox Sports Florida will broadcast these wins on Thursday, May 21 at 6 & 8:30 p.m.
by John Denton

ORLANDO - While the Orlando Magic’s easy, breezy Game 3 blowout of the Boston Celtics in the 2009 NBA playoffs gave them a confidence-building 2-1 lead in the series, their gritty Game 6 win was merely about postseason survival and keeping hope alive.

After splitting the first two games of their best-of-seven series in Boston, the Magic returned to the late Amway Arena and routed the Celtics 117-96 behind Dwight Howard’s defense and the shooting of Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. However, after suffering heartbreaking losses in Games 4 and 5 and suddenly facing elimination, the Magic responded in a must-win situation by grinding out an 83-75 victory in Game 6. That win, of course, set the stage for Orlando becoming the first team in modern history to win a Game 7 in Boston – doing so to reach to the Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, Fox Sports Florida has used much of April and May to show select classic games from the Magic’s glorious, 31-year history. After showing Orlando 4-2 defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2009 playoffs last week, Fox Sports Florida is re-airing Orlando’s thrilling, back-and-forth, seven-game defeat of the Celtics in the East semifinals this week. Game 3 will be televised on Thursday at 6 p.m.), while Game 6 will air later that same night at 8:30 p.m. Game 7, one of the most significant victories in Magic history, will be televised on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Orlando nearly squandered a 28-point lead, but held on to win Game 1, while Eddie House’s 31 points paved the way for Boston’s Game 2 victory to even the series. In Game 3, Howard – the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player at the time – turned the Celtics into a jump shooting team and the Magic’s balanced offense paved the way for a 117-96 win for Orlando.

That night, Orlando shot 59.1 percent from the floor while it’s NBA-best defense limited the Celtics mustered just 43 percent accuracy and 13 of 18 misses from beyond the 3-point line. Howard had a lot to do with Boston’s frustrations by blocking five shots – four of which came in the first half. On one of his swats, Howard leaped high into the air, kept himself from crashing into the backboard with his left hand while swatting a shot several rows into the Amway Arena crowd.

``Just the whole team stepped up the defensive intensity,’’ Howard said following the Game 3 victory. ``It starts with me. I have to do that every night if we want to be successful.’’

In addition to the defense he provided, Howard added 17 points and 14 rebounds. Rashard Lewis (28 points, six rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers) and Hedo Turkoglu (24 points, four assists and two 3-pointers) did the damage from the outside and badly outplayed Paul Pierce (six-of-15 shooting) and Ray Allen (three-of-13 shooting).

Already without starting point guard Jameer Nelson because of a shoulder injury, the Magic were forced to play without his replacement – Rafer Alston – in Game 3 after he was suspended for one game by the NBA for slapping House in the back of the head in Game 2. Alston’s replacement, Anthony Johnson, started that night and contributed 13 points by making five of seven shots with a 3-pointer. Tyronn Lue, who was in his second stint with the Magic, made both of his shots and scored five points off the bench.

Games 4 and 5 wouldn’t go as well for the Magic. Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis drilled a go-ahead, game-winning jump shot at the buzzer in Game 4 to knot the series at 2-2 and then the Celtics rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter of Game 5 to win 92-88 in Boston.

Those losses only hardened the resolve of the Magic. Howard, who had just 12 points on five-of-10 shooting in the Game 5 loss, created a bit of a national controversy when he questioned head coach Stan Van Gundy’s play-calling, but the superstar center responded well in Game 6 to keep the Magic alive in the playoffs. Howard had 23 points and 22 rebounds – 10 of which came on the offensive glass – and the Magic outscored the Celtics 22-13 in the fourth quarter to win 83-75 in the gritty Game 6.

``You’ve got a dominant player, let him be dominant,’’ Howard said following Orlando’s fourth-quarter meltdown in Game 5.

He was plenty dominant in Game 6 while making nine of 16 shots and chipping in three assists and two blocked shots.

``I guess Dwight Howard was right,’’ Boston coach Doc Rivers joked after the performance displayed by the 6-foot-10 Howard in Game 6. ``My gosh. He was unbelievable.’’

The Magic trailed after each of the first three quarters and found themselves down one with three minutes to play before they closed Game 6 on an 11-2 run. Lewis (20 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Turkolgu (seven points and three assists) hit big shots down the stretch to seal the victory.

Rafer Alston (11 points and two 3-pointers) and reserve forward Mickael Pietrus (11 points and two 3-pointers) also had big contributions for a Magic team that won despite shooting just 36.6 percent from the floor and connecting on just six of 26 3-point shots.

Those struggles would disappear by Game 7 when the Magic offense looked like a well-oiled machine while taking apart Boston’s proven defense. Turkoglu, who averaged 16.3 points and 5.3 assists a game in the series, carved up the Celtics for 25 points, 12 assists and four 3-pointers in Orlando’s runaway 101-82 victory in Game 7 in Boston.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

FOX SPORTS FLORIDA MAGIC CLASSIC WINS SCHEDULE

DAY

DATE

TIME

MATCHUP

REPLAY

Tue

5/19/20

7:30 PM

Magic at Celtics (2009 Game 1)

Sat, May 23 at 12 PM

Thu

5/21/20

6 PM

Magic vs. Celtics (2009 Game 3)

Sat, May 23 at 2:30 PM

Thu

5/21/20

8:30 PM

Magic vs Celtics (2009 Game 6)

Sat, May 23 at 5 PM

Sat

5/23/20

7:30 PM

Magic at Celtics (2009 Game 7)

Sun, May 24 at 9:30 AM

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