BOSTON (AP) — No historic comeback for the Orlando Magic, no second straight trip to the NBA finals.
Dwight Howard and his underachieving teammates flopped in their bid to become the league's first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit when the Boston Celtics battered them 96-84 Friday night to clinch the Eastern Conference finals in six games.
The Magic led for just 11 seconds. They were outrebounded 56-44. And they couldn't control the Celtics' 3-point shooters.
"Early on we were OK, we just didn't make shots," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "And then we let it get to us, and when we did, it broke down."
Orlando reached last year's finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers then had the NBA's second best record this season. It won its last six regular-season games then swept both Charlotte and Atlanta in the playoffs.
But then it faced the Celtics.
The Magic lost the first two games at home before coming to Boston, where they played listlessly in a 94-71 rout that made the Celtics the 94th team in NBA history to take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. Orlando showed plenty of life in the next two games, winning 96-92 in overtime then 113-92 at home on Wednesday night.
"You're just not playing as free and easy as you are when you're up 3-0," Van Gundy said before Friday's game. "We've been there."
But those first two playoff series this year seemed a long time ago as the Celtics dominated from start to finish in the decisive Game 6. Rashard Lewis gave the Magic their only lead, 12-11, with a short jump hook with 6:47 left in the first quarter. Then Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer and Orlando played catchup the rest of the way.
"We started forcing our offense instead of continuing to play and trying to get the same kind of shots we got early," Van Gundy said.
The Celtics hit 10 of 22 shots from beyond the arc. The Magic were just 6 for 22 after making 13 of 25 two days earlier. And they trailed by at least 12 points throughout the second half.
The Magic had little chance against a team determined not to sully its 17 NBA titles with a collapse from a 3-0 lead.
Last year, Orlando beat Boston in a seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal, winning the clincher by 19 points on the same floor where their 2009-10 season ended.
Hedo Turkoglu starred in that game with 25 points and 11 rebounds, then led the Magic in scoring in the NBA finals. But he left for Toronto as a free agent and Orlando traded with New Jersey for Vince Carter, hoping he could make up for the lost scoring punch.
But despite his $16.3 million salary, 16th-highest in the league, he hit just 6 of 15 shots and had 17 points Friday.
Lewis, the NBA's ninth-highest paid player this season at $18.9 million, had an even worse night and series. He averaged 12.5 points in the six games and had only 7 on Friday.
Point guard Jameer Nelson, who spearheaded Orlando's comeback from a 3-0 deficit, was held to 11 points and four assists.
Howard was Orlando's only solid player in Game 6 — just as Miami's Dwyane Wade and Cleveland's LeBron James were the only two dangerous players the Celtics faced in their first two series. But the muscular center's 28 points and 12 rebounds were too little to carry his team to a spot in the both the NBA finals and history.