Posted by Sekou Smith
LOS ANGELES — Stars are the catalysts for their teams in playoff situations, we all know that.
But they’ve got to get a little help from their supporting cast at some point, right?
Speaking of the the supporting cast, has anyone watching the Eastern Conference finals seen the Orlando Magic bench?
I don’t know what it looks like up close and personal, but from 2,500 miles away — even on the dozens of HD screens a gang of us watched the Celtics’ Game 2 win over the Magic on Tuesday night — you can see that something’s missing from the Magic attack we saw all season.
That boost they could count on from their reserves all season is not there now, when the Magic need it most (down 0-2 and headed to Boston for what could be their final two games of a once-promising season).
Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen and Glen Davis are dramatically outplaying their Magic counterparts, namely Mickael Pietrus, J.J. Redick, Jason Williams and Marcin Gortat. It’s probably not even worth the time asking about Brandon Bass, whose acquisition last summer for $18 million was supposed to lighten the load on Dwight Howard in situations like the one the Magic find themselves now.
Not everyone thinks it’s worth questioning things like the contributions of the bench crews in this series, not when there are greater forces at work.
Go ahead and have at it. Go ahead and try to bisect, dissect and trisect why the Orlando Magic are down 0-2 and on life-support following Tuesday’s 95-92 loss to the Boston Celtics.
But I can save you a lot of time and trouble because the reason is really quite simple:
The Magic have run head-on into themselves — a better, more determined, more poised, more experienced version of themselves.
We are talking, of course, about the Celtics, who have now all but destroyed the Magic’s chances of winning the Eastern Conference finals and ultimately winning a championship.
“These teams are mirror images of each other,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Except the Magic’s mirror is now cracked and shattered and the reflection staring back at them is mouthing the word, “Sweep.”
“We’re coming home to close it out,” said Boston’s Paul Pierce after leading his team with 28 points.
Then Pierce tweeted on his Twitter page: “Anybody got a BROOM?”
Magic center Dwight Howard responded to Pierce’s brashness with some Biblical trash talk: “Pride comes before the fall.”
Howard then added defiantly, “This series is not over. I won’t stop believing and I won’t let my teammates stop believing.”
How can this be? How can the hottest team in the league during the last half of the season — a team that had won 14 in a row and swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs — now be gasping for survival? How can the Magic, who have not lost two straight home games all season long, lose the first two home games of the Eastern Conference finals? How can everything the Magic have talked about and worked for be circling one of the clogged-up drains in one of the musty bathrooms at Amway Arena?
I’ll take a stab at that last one, and I won’t suggest the cruising in the first two round of the playoffs has anything to do with it (like I suggested it might last week before enduring the wrath of the Magic faithful around here for saying so).
The Celtics’ bench/role players are so thoroughly outplaying their Florida counterparts that this series won’t last past four games without immediate and significant contributions from the Magic’s crew in Games 3 and 4.