The Magic lost their touch in a series some of their players believe should already be over. The Celtics keep finding theirs just in time. The defending NBA champions wiped out a 10-point deficit in the last five minutes and won Game 5 92-88 on Tuesday night for a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series. If the Celtics lose Game 6 in Orlando on Thursday, they will host Game 7 on Sunday.
"I know we won a lot of Game 7s, but anything can happen and our mindset is to go down to Orlando and just get the win by any means necessary," Paul Pierce said. "We're not a team that gives games away and (says) hopefully we win it at home."
The Celtics beat both Atlanta and Cleveland in seven games last year and went on to their 17th title. In the opening round this year, they beat Chicago in Game 7 after losing three games in overtime.
Then they came through at the end of the last two games against Orlando, winning Game 4 95-94 on Glen Davis' long jumper at the buzzer and on Tuesday when their defense held Orlando to just three free throws in the last five minutes.
"We're grinders and we just (ground) this game out," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "They believe in each other. They're very close. All the experiences from last year (have) helped this year."
They've succeeded without Kevin Garnett, who has missed the entire playoffs with a knee injury and isn't expected back this season. And backup power forward Leon Powe is out for the postseason with a knee injury he sustained against the Bulls.
Yet the Magic can't finish Boston off, even though they'd be headed for the conference finals against Cleveland if Davis had missed his shot and they hadn't let the Celtics go on a 13-0 run to take an 88-85 lead Tuesday.
Should the series be over already?
"From our standpoint, yes," Orlando's Anthony Johnson said. "We feel like we have the better team and we've outplayed them for the most part but we haven't finished ballgames."
The Magic led most of the game by running on offense and making shots. But with the 10-point lead, they tried to hang on by running the 24-second clock down before taking a shot. They didn't always get good ones as they'd try just one pick-and-roll for an entire possession.
"I kept telling them we want to push the ball, but we didn't," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Our guys wanted to get set. That was not the way to try to finish the game."
Rashard Lewis led Orlando with 19 points, Hedo Turkoglu had 18 and Dwight Howard had 17 rebounds but just 12 points while taking only 10 shots
Boston was led by Davis with 22 points and Pierce with 19. But it was Stephon Marbury's 12, all in the fourth quarter, that sparked the comeback.
"From where I was, just being able to get back on the court after not playing the whole year, I know I'm blessed," Marbury said. "I'm just happy that I had the opportunity to come out and help the Celtics win another championship."
He spent most of the season as an unhappy member of the New York Knicks without playing for them. The Celtics claimed him on waivers in late February and his contributions had been minimal _ until Tuesday.
Just in time.
Lakers 118, Rockets 78
At Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant needed only three quarters to score 26 points and the Lakers bounced back from their Game 4 flop to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Pau Gasol had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Andrew Bynum scored 14 points, Trevor Ariza had 13 and Jordan Farmar 12. The Lakers can wrap up the series Thursday night in Houston.
Aaron Brooks was held to 14 points after scoring a career-high 34 on Sunday. Ron Artest had a horrible night, shooting 4-of-15 for nine points. The Rockets shot only 32 percent.