Posted by John Schuhmann
BOSTON — There’s no other way to put it. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals was a thorough beatdown.
But as bad as it was for his Magic, Stan Van Gundy believes his team had the right mentality when it came out of the locker room, and was in decent shape for most of the first quarter.
The Celtics began the game with a 7-0 flurry, but things settled down after that. The Magic responded early and held Boston scoreless for seven straight possessions (four minutes of game time).
The problem was that the Magic weren’t scoring themselves. But Van Gundy believes that were OK on that end as well … for those first few minutes.
“We had two turnovers real early, but on five of our first seven possessions, we moved the ball and got good shots,” Van Gundy said after practice on Sunday. “We didn’t make shots and then right from there, that early in the game, we just really quit on moving the ball and guys tried to do it on their own. And it just got worse and worse and worse.”
The offensive struggles then affected the Magic on defense and after the Celtics ended their seven-possession drought, they scored seven straight times. And the rout was on.
“It was 10-6 after 7 1/2 minutes,” Van Gundy said. “We weren’t scoring, they weren’t scoring, and we were hanging in the game. Then it went layup, layup, layup. And from there, it was on. We just didn’t stay with the game, our offensive frustration mounted into not playing defensively, and then we were done. That was disappointing.”
The lack of mental toughness the Magic displayed in Game 3, unable to get up off the canvas after taking a first-quarter punch from the Celtics, probably doesn’t bode well for Game 4. But Van Gundy believes that his team can respond better Monday night.
“Because something happens to you once or you act a certain way once, it doesn’t have to define who you are,” he said. “In other words, you can have the nicest person in the world who, for whatever reason, being tired, bad day or whatever, goes crazy and acts like an [expletive]. It doesn’t make the person an [expletive]. They had a bad day.
“I think we have not been a team that’s been a soft team. We have not been a mentally weak team. We have not been a team who hasn’t competed. Now, last night, we were. But that doesn’t need to define us. And we need to make sure tomorrow night that does not define who we are.”
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Follow him on twitter.