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Monday, May 24, 2010

Celtics one win away from berth in finals

BOSTON (AP) From start to finish, the Orlando Magic were several steps and far too many points behind the determined Boston Celtics.

That domination happened in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night.

And it can happen for the entire series if the Celtics complete a sweep Monday night.

The team that rolled through the first two rounds against Charlotte and Atlanta without a loss was handed a 94-71 beating by the focused and energetic Celtics, a team that was supposedly too old but showed youthful energy throughout the game.

"All season long, I don't think there's been a game where the other team's outplayed us, outhustled us and just worked harder than us," Dwight Howard said, "and they did that for the last three games and that's why they're ahead."

Ray Allen, a 196-cm guard, dunked over the 211-cm Howard in the first quarter.

Rajon Rondo dove to beat Jason Williams to a loose ball at Boston's foul line, then got up and went around Williams for a layup in the second. That highlight reel play gave the Celtics a 36-17 lead with 8:31 left in the second quarter.

"That what it's always about, playing hard," Williams said. "We didn't play hard at all tonight."

The Magic trailed 7-0, then scored the next six points. But the Celtics responded with a 14-point run for a 21-6 lead with 2:03 left in the first quarter.

The closest Orlando came after that was 12 points.

"You have to chip away," Vince Carter said. "There's no 15-point plays. There's no 20-point plays. You just have to chip at it and give ourselves a chance to win like we've done throughout the year. They've just done a great job. When they jump on us, they stay on us, especially tonight."

The Magic arrived in Boston with hope.

They did lose the first two games at home, but both were very close. They won both of their regular-season games in Boston. And with three days between Games 2 and 3, there was a chance the Celtics might cool off. After all, in the other two playoff games they played with a three-day break, they were beaten twice by Cleveland. The last was a 124-95 rout, the worst home playoff loss in Celtics history.

Plus, the Magic won Game 7 of last year's Eastern Conference semifinals on Boston's court, 101-82.

But for the third straight game, the Magic were controlled by the Celtics' coordinated team defense.

Rashard Lewis, held to 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting in the first two games, struggled again. He scored just four points, went 2-for-8 from the field and missed all four 3-point attempts.

"They've pretty much been playing the same defense that they have against me, against us, period," Lewis said. "They're a good defensive team and they came out defensive-minded again."

Howard, who scored 30 points in Game 2, was held to just seven with seven rebounds.

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