BOSTON — Put away the brooms. Hold off on those "Beat L.A!" chants. The Celtics still have some work to do before they can play for their second NBA title in three years.
Jameer Nelson made back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime, Dwight Howard had 32 points and 16 rebounds, and the Magic beat the Celtics 96-92 on Monday night to avoid a sweep in the Eastern Conference final.
No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.
"Got to go back to Orlando," Howard said. "Hopefully everybody back there will be ready. Have to keep the faith."
Paul Pierce had 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Garnett had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Boston. Ray Allen hit consecutive 3-pointers in overtime, but Pierce missed two 3s in the final minute.
Nelson finished with 23 points and nine assists.
Orlando led by 10 in the second quarter and was up 85-78 with 2:24 left in the fourth before Boston scored eight of the last nine points in regulation to force overtime.
Neither team scored for the first 2:18 of the period before Nelson hit a 3-pointer and then added another 43 seconds later. Allen made a 3-pointer and, after Howard dunked — but missed an ensuing free throw — he hit another 3 to make it 94-92.
Howard followed up Nelson's miss with 53 seconds left to make it 96-92, then Garnett sailed a pass over Pierce's head and into the crowd. Pierce missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the closing seconds.
The Magic's biggest lead of the series had been a three-point edge in the first quarter of Game 2, but it opened with its highest-scoring quarter of the series Monday to take a 31-26 lead. The Magic made it 42-32 in the second before Boston cut the deficit to four at the half.
With the scored tied in regulation, Pierce missed a jumper, Nelson missed for Orlando, and Pierce lost his handle on the ball in the final seconds.
|Celtics lead series 3-1|
|Celtics lead series 3-1|
ORLANDO (96): Barnes 4-8 0-0 10, Lewis 4-10 3-4 13, Howard 13-19 6-14 32, Nelson 7-14 6-9 23, Carter 1-9 1-1 3, Bass 1-2 1-2 3, Redick 3-6 3-3 12, Gortat 0-0 0-0 0, J.Williams 0-2 0-0 0, Pietrus 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 33-74 20-33 96.
BOSTON (92): Pierce 11-25 10-13 32, Garnett 5-12 4-5 14, Perkins 0-2 3-4 3, Rondo 3-10 3-4 9, R.Allen 7-12 3-4 22, T.Allen 1-2 0-0 2, Finley 0-0 0-0 0, Wallace 2-7 0-0 4, Davis 3-5 0-0 6, Robinson 0-1 0-0 0, Daniels 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-76 23-30 92.
3-Point Goals—Orlando 10-28 (Redick 3-5, Nelson 3-6, Lewis 2-3, Barnes 2-6, J.Williams 0-2, Pietrus 0-3, Carter 0-3), Boston 5-18 (R.Allen 5-7, Davis 0-1, Wallace 0-4, Pierce 0-6). Fouled Out—Nelson. Rebounds—Orlando 51 (Howard 16), Boston 54 (Garnett 12). Assists—Orlando 19 (Nelson 9), Boston 19 (Rondo 8). Total Fouls—Orlando 27, Boston 30. Technicals—Garnett, Wallace. A—18,624 (18,624).
nash's nose broken: Suns point guard Steve Nash sustained a slight nose fracture in a collision with Derek Fisher during Sunday's victory over the Lakers but said it won't be a problem in Game 4 tonight. During the game he tried to slide his nose back into place. "I was trying to move it while it was still fresh," he said.
hornets: New Orleans is reportedly working up a coaching contract proposal for Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. An offer could come this week. In nearly two decades as an assistant coach in the NBA, Thibodeau has become known as a defensive strategist.
knicks: Center Eddy Curry defaulted on a $570,000 personal loan while his lifestyle included a $17,000-a-month suburban New York home, a $6,000-a-month personal chef and a dozen cars for himself and relatives, a judge said. A Manhattan court ordered Curry to pay $75,000 a month to lender Allstar Capital Inc. to resolve a debt that swelled to $1.2 million with interest.
Pacers: Guard A.J. Price needs 4-6 months to heal from a knee injury he suffered in a charity game. Price was injured in New York on Saturday night. Surgery for a fractured left patella is scheduled today.