And the beat goes on.
If Orlando was decidedly upbeat during their 113-92 win that extended the series to at least six games, the Celtics were simply beaten down.
Ironically, Boston was supposed to be more physical than the Magic (especially on defense) and also, with their Big Three Plus One, much more resourceful.
But the Magic put on another courageous performance and dominated every aspect of the game. Their in-your-face defense closed the middle and mostly limited the Celtics' half-court offense to mid- and long-range jumpers. In addition to Dwight Howard's five shot-blocks, his intimidating presence turned another five gimme's into misses.
Without Pierce shaking loose for his deadly step-back jumper, and with Kevin Garnett--5-14--getting his not-so-big-ticket punched by Rashard Lewis, the Celtics were ever able to develop a go-to offensive threat.
Because of his perpetual use of screens, Ray Allen's 3-11 shooting was more a consequence of Orlando's team defense than the efforts of any single defender.
In fact, Rasheed Wallace--7-9, including 3-5 triples for 21 points--was the only opponent who escaped the Magic's control. However, Wallace was last seen holding his aching back while limping to the locker room after having fouled out.
Meanwhile, the Magic had consistent success running Jameer Nelson off of high screen/rolls. Counting foul shots, baskets scored by Howard on the roll, by Nelson's jumpers, and uncontested treys bagged as a direct result of kick-out passes when Boston's defense collapsed in the middle, 38 of Orlando's points came via their S/Rs. One problem for Boston here was Garnett's turning sideways whenever he showed on the far side of the screens, thereby offering a minimal physical presence that the ball-handler could easily evade.
In the fourth quarter, the Magic developed another fail-safe scoring situation when Rashard Lewis repeatedly chumped Pierce in the low-post. And throughout the game, Howard was still another viable offensive weapon.
Plus, the Magic thoroughly brutalized the visitors on the boards by the sizeable margin of 43 to 26. Furthermore, Orlando led in concussions dispensed by two to nothing.
To add insult to injury, the Celtics touted defense twice allowed Nelson to dribble coast-to-coast to score unimpeded layups.
Meanwhile, the Magic shot the lights out--52.2 percent overall, including 13-25 from triple-city--attacked the rim with a shared passion, and ran the floor like the devil was chasing them. From the get-go, it was Orlando who established the type of game that would be played--one in which elbows flashed, bodies collided, and players (mostly those wearing green) were sent crashing to the floor.
And whenever the Celtics tried to counter-attack, one of the three blind mice tooted his tooter and pointed a one of them. Speaking of which, the biggest choke of the game was made by Eddie F. Rush -- and old antagonist of mine back when we both were toiling in the CBA. I was a rookie head coach in Savannah and, because Rush lived in Atlanta, he literally worked about 20 of the Savannah Spirits 28 home games. Familiarity bred both contempt and disrespect, resulting in Rush's tagging me with sixteen technical fouls.
But I deserved every one of them infinitely more than Kendrick Perkins deserved the T that banished him from the game and might well disqualify him from Game 6.
In any case, after getting so completely roughed up in Games Four and Five, what do the Celtics have to do to close out the series back in Boston?
It's a certainty that Davis will not make a miraculous recovery from the brain-clobbering elbow he took from Howard. It's also highly probable that at least one of Perkins' unjust T's will be rescinded. So both Perkins and Wallace have to match Orlando's bigs blow-for-blow without incurring excessive fouls.
The Celtics must also find a way to limit the damage caused by Orlando's S/Rs and staggered screens. One tactic they haven't yet attempted is simply to double Nelson with the big man who's defending the screener. Since Nelson has never been accused of being a pinpoint passer, clamping him and blocking his vision just might result in open-court turnovers and breakaway buckets.
Above all, the Celtics have to take the fight to the Magic. Hard fouls. Savage battles for rebounding position. Crunching screens. Punishing assaults on any of the Magic players who are willing to put their bodies on the line to draw charging fouls.
The Celtics realize, of course, that if they lose Game 6 in Boston they'll never win Game 7 in Orlando. So they must battle tooth and nail to save their pride, their reps, and their season.
And whoever the officials might be, this should be their guiding principle: No blood, no foul.