BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics moved a win away from their second NBA finals trip in three years, and the defending Eastern Conference champions barely put up a fight.
Backup Glen “Big Baby” Davis scored 17 points and Rajon Rondo added 11 points and 12 assists on Saturday night to lead the Celtics to a 94-71 victory over the Orlando Magic and a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven East finals.
No NBA team has lost a playoff series after winning the first three games.
The Magic have to win Game 4 on Monday night to avoid a sweep and force the series back to Orlando. They’ll need a better effort than in Game 3, when they fell behind early for the third straight game. This time, they didn’t even mount a late charge to make it close.
One game after scoring 30 points, Dwight Howard had just seven and seven rebounds. Rashard Lewis was also disappointing, scoring four points on 2-for-8 shooting, missing all four 3-point attempts. Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson had 15 points apiece.
Paul Pierce — the NBA finals MVP two years ago when the Celtics won their record 17th championship — had 15 points and nine rebounds. Ray Allen scored 14 points and Kevin Garnett added 10 in just 24 minutes. But this time it wasn’t the aging new Big Three that did the damage, it was the two youngest players on the roster.
Rondo and Davis gave the Celtics energy and defense that the Magic couldn’t match, diving to the floor for loose balls and getting the crowd going with spectacular plays.
Rondo outhustled Jason Williams down the court for a loose ball in the second quarter, diving to take it away and then getting up to beat him again for the layup. Davis celebrated one play underneath the basket with an ecstatic but odd session of running in place; the crowd went wild.
But the Celtics only need to look down the hall for a reminder that they’re not done yet: Just eight days ago in the same building, the Philadelphia Flyers completed their comeback after trailing the Boston Bruins 3-0 in the NHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
Celtics fans either don’t remember or don’t care: They started chanting “Beat L.A!” at the start of the third quarter, when Boston led 75-47. The archrival Lakers led the Phoenix Suns 2-0 heading into Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.
Ten times the Celtics have opened a 3-0 lead in a playoff series. Four times, they’ve swept, and six times they won in five games.
The Celtics scored the first seven points of the game, then scored 14 in a row later in the first quarter to open a 21-6 lead. Howard missed his first four shots, along with a pair of free throws, before he made one of two foul shots in the final seconds of the first quarter to cut the deficit to 27-12.
It was the third straight time the Celtics opened a big lead in the series, but in each of the first two games Orlando eliminated most of the deficit to get within a single basket in the final minutes.
This one only got worse.
In the second quarter, with four substitutes joining Allen on the floor, the Celtics scored seven straight points to extend the lead to 24. It was a 28-point game at the end of three, and Boston led by as many as 32 in the fourth before coach Doc Rivers emptied his bench.
NOTES: Howard and Kendrick Perkins were called for double-technicals late in the first quarter. … Carter made a second-quarter layup after a botched alley-oop that went off Perkins’ head. … Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who missed the end of last season with a knee injury, got a big cheer when he was shown on the scoreboard jogging in place.