BOSTON - From start to finish, the Orlando Magic were several steps and far too many points behind the determined Boston Celtics.
That domination happened in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night.
And it can happen for the entire series if the Celtics complete a sweep Monday night.
The team that rolled through the first two rounds against Charlotte and Atlanta without a loss was handed a 94-71 beating by the focused and energetic Celtics, a team that was supposedly too old but showed youthful energy throughout the game.
“All season long, I don’t think there’s been a game where the other team’s outplayed us, outhustled us and just worked harder than us,” Dwight Howard said, “and they did that for the last three games and that’s why they’re ahead.”
Ray Allen, a 6-foot-5 guard, dunked over the 6-11 Howard in the first quarter.
Rajon Rondo dove to beat Jason Williams to a loose ball at Boston’s foul line, then got up and went around Williams for a layup in the second. That highlight reel play gave the Celtics a 36-17 lead with 8:31 left in the second quarter.
“That what it’s always about, playing hard,” Williams said. “We didn’t play hard at all tonight.”
The Magic trailed 7-0, then scored the next six points. But the Celtics responded with a 14-point run for a 21-6 lead with 2:03 left in the first quarter.
“You have to chip away,” Vince Carter said. “There’s no 15-point plays. There’s no 20-point plays. You just have to chip at it and give ourselves a chance to win like we’ve done throughout the year. They’ve just done a great job. When they jump on us, they stay on us, especially tonight.”
The Magic arrived in Boston with hope.
They did lose the first two games at home, but both were very close. They won both of their regular-season games in Boston. And with three days between Games 2 and 3, there was a chance the Celtics might cool off. After all, in the other two playoff games they played with a three-day break, they were beaten twice by Cleveland. The last was a 124-95 rout, the worst home playoff loss in Celtics history.
Plus, the Magic won Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals on Boston’s court, 101-82.
But for the third straight game, the Magic were controlled by the Celtics’ coordinated team defense.
Rashard Lewis, held to 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting in the first two games, struggled again. He scored just four points, went 2 for 8 from the field and missed all four 3-point attempts.
Howard, who scored 30 points in Game 2, was held to just seven with seven rebounds.
Matt Barnes had asked to guard Paul Pierce after the Celtics star scored 28 points in Boston’s 95-92 win on Tuesday night. Pierce made his first shot Saturday and finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. Barnes wasn’t the only one to blame.
“I played like 12 minutes (actually 15:47),” Barnes said. “So I don’t think I affected him at all. I wasn’t out there.”
Carter and Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 15 points apiece, but the team hit just 37 percent of its shots.
“We’re not bowing down to anybody,” Nelson said. “They’re playing well, but we’re beating ourselves a lot of times.”
Even coach Stan Van Gundy couldn’t even escape the beating.
With his team taking a game-long pounding, Van Gundy tumbled backward into the front row in a chain-reaction crash when one of his own players, Barnes, shoved Kevin Garnett into him as the players pursued the ball in the third quarter.
Van Gundy got up quickly. He hopes his players can do the same Monday night.
“We’ve got to play hard,” Barnes said. “Since Game 1, they’ve played harder than us and that’s very unlike our team. So if we have a chance at doing anything, we’ve just got to play hard.”
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
Celebs shined at the NBA playoffs
A look at the many celebrities who made appearances during this year's NBA playoffs.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Reason for optimism after Game 1 loss?
PBT Extra: The Heat snuck past the Pacers in the final seconds of overtime in Game 1, and PBT’s Kurt Helin breaks down where the Pacers can go from here. Paul George had a monster game, and Helin believes the Pacers have a real chance at upsetting the top-seeded Heat.
Latest from ProBasketballTalk
Report: Cavaliers considering Otto Porter with No. 1 pick4 hr 42 min ago
Get your NBA cheer on
Check out some of the dancers from the NBA.
The NBA finals
Lakers def. Celtics 4-3
A look back at the 17 championships the Boston Celtics have won.