Roundtable: Magic vs. Celtics, Game 6
It's never happened in the NBA. Never has a team been down 3-0 and won a playoff series.
But Orlando has put itself in a position to pull off what 93 other NBA teams couldn't. With two more wins, the Magic would make history and the city of Boston would have to swallow the second such catastrophe in 17 days, following the Bruins' collapse from up 3-0 versus the Flyers -- and just six years after the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in the same fashion, making baseball history.
But before we can get to Sunday's Game 7, we have Friday night's big Game 6 in Boston (ESPN/ESPN3, 8:30 ET; ESPN Radio starts at 7:35 ET).
Here are five questions for our writers going into Friday's showdown:
1. On a scale of 1 to "LeBron's last game," how huge is Game 6?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: I give it a 6. Not as in LeBron's Game 6 vs. Boston. Just a 6 out of 10.
Nothing concludes in this game. If the Magic win, they still haven't accomplished the unprecedented. And if they lose, we can't write an epitaph because Dwight Howard and the core are too young to write off.
And while the Celtics don't want to be on the wrong side of history, it wouldn't erase their 2008 championship.
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• Chat: Daily Dime Live
Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine: While it's big, it's nowhere near as big as the Celtics' last Game 6, which happened to be LeBron's final game of the season. Friday night's game may not even decide the series; the LeBron game may have decided the future of the NBA for the next 5-10 years.
Plus, there was all the intrigue over how LeBron would play, what was wrong with him, the Eastern Conference favorite on the brink, Mike Brown's job in jeopardy, and of course, was it LeBron's last game as a Cavalier?
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston.com: For Boston, it's a 7. As in Game 7, which is what the Celtics have been calling just about every game since dispatching the Heat in the opening round. Except this time they might actually mean it. Boston can't afford to let this series shift back to Orlando for an actual Game 7.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: I'd give it an 8 right now.
It's a 9.5 if Orlando wins and wins Game 7 to become the first team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit, but it's going to seem a lot less historic if the Celtics win by 12.
Unlike two weeks ago, when the is-it-LeBron's-last-game story dominated Cavs-Celtics Game 6, this one doesn't become a monster story until or unless there's a Game 7.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: For the Magic, a 9. for the Celtics, a 9.5.
This comes down to being a validation game for each franchise in Year 3 of its big plans. But the Celtics are farther down the road and have more at stake now because of their age and the impending free agency of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
With a win in Game 6, Orlando would get what it worked for all season, home-court advantage. Meanwhile, Boston has its best chance to get back to the Finals.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I've gotten the impression since Orlando's Game 5 win that a decent amount of folks out there won't be surprised if the Magic can come all the way back from 3-0 down. Which is something I find surprising.
Even with the huge potential advantage of playing Game 7 at home, don't forget that Orlando totally mailed in Game 3 and is trying to do something that has never been done in the NBA before. So maybe this Game 6 isn't LeBron big, but it's a game that can lead to a game of real historical significance.
David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: Well, considering that the winner of this game could very well be the favorite to win the ring in June, I'd say it's even bigger than LeBron's possible last game in Cleveland.
I like how Orlando matches up with either team from the West, and neither of those teams would like to see this Boston team next week.
2. Should Glen Davis play?
Adande: Glen Davis shouldn't play. Did you see that wobbly walk downcourt? Let him figure out what week it is before we ask him to do anything more serious.
Broussard: I'll leave that up to the Celtics' doctors. They're the experts, so if they clear Davis, then I guess it's OK for him to play. But this should be about Davis' health, period, not how much the Celtics need him.
Forsberg: No. A player's well-being should never be trumped by the importance of a single game. The C's can win without him.
Hollinger: Obviously the docs (and Doc) have more info than we do, but in general I feel like NBA teams are behind the curve on concussions.
Even if Davis plays, I wonder how effective he can be. My memory of Jermaine O'Neal foggily playing his way through Game 7 in Atlanta last year still sits pretty heavily with me.
Sheridan: Yes, if he is cool with it. Football players have played with much worse, and if we start talking rugby ... well, never mind.
Glen should play because he's tough, and he shouldn't be ruled out just because he had a 10-second brain sputter unless the doctors specifically say it is unsafe.
Stein: I've always been extra, extra cautious on injuries. But we're not talking about a quarterback with a history of sack-induced concussions. If Big Baby is cleared by the Celts' doctors, I won't second-guess it.
Thorpe: I'm from a football state, so dealing with concussions is a common thing. My perspective is always, "This is not an elbow, knee or ankle issue, this is a brain problem." That means doctors won't say, "There is not much risk to playing," since any risk means his overall well-being is potentially in the balance.
So unless he is 100 percent OK, meaning his brain is 100 percent back to normal, he should not play.
3. Should J.J. Redick start instead of Vince Carter?
Adande: No. If this were strictly a meritocracy then Redick would deserve to start because of his solid play. But the NBA is about egos, and Vince would go into a funk if he lost the privilege of starting. Better to keep him happy, emotionally vested and making slight contributions rather than be of no use at all.
Broussard: No. You've won the last two games while starting Vince. Granted, he played poorly, so if he plays poorly again just keep giving his minutes to Redick. Changing the starting lineup, especially with a star like Carter, can disrupt team chemistry and possibly take Carter totally out of it mentally. So keep starting him; just don't play him as much if he doesn't step up.
Forsberg: No. Why should a team that's won 59 regular-season and 10 postseason games mess with what works? As invisible as Carter has been at times, Redick is killing Boston off the bench. This is no time to tinker with personnel.
Hollinger: On recent form it seems like the right move -- Redick has defended Ray Allen as well as anyone else on Orlando's roster and his shot seems in better shape than Carter's.
The one lingering doubt in my head is one of ceilings. Orlando can get a 30-point game from Carter at some point; the same can't be said for Redick. That's why I think starting Cater and using a quick hook if he struggles remains the best option.
Sheridan: Absolutely, yes. J.J. is an upcoming free agent with something to prove after all these years of sitting quietly, and he has been breaking out for two games, while Vince has consistently shown what he has to offer: A strong drive to the basket followed by a weak hesitation and the same fadeaway we've seen for nine years.
Coach Stan Van Gundy needs to lean on the guys he knows and trusts.
Stein: There's no sense burying Carter's fragile confidence any more than they have to, especially since the Magic might somehow find themselves with another whole series to play if they can pull this miracle off.
The current arrangement hasn't stopped Redick from making an impact, so let Vince try to make a contribution. He's due, right?
Thorpe: No. But getting him in earlier and playing him longer is expected.
Carter, like Lewis in Game 5, is just a few made shots away from getting his game on. The absence of that should lead to a quick pull.
4. If Magic win series, greatest comeback ever or greatest collapse ever?
Adande: This would be an all-time great comeback, not a choke. I always say that even when a team blows a lead -- the other team still needs to make shots. And with the mounting injuries and concussions, the Celtics aren't the same team that got the 3-0 lead.
Broussard: I'd say greatest collapse because Boston has looked so great throughout the playoffs. Also, the Celtics have three likely Hall of Famers who, because of their veteran savvy, would not be expected to crumble like this, and they have a top-flight point guard in Rondo. Plus, while a very strong team, this Magic lineup isn't exactly historic.
Forsberg: Neither, but if forced to choose, it's been more of a comeback than a collapse. Orlando is the higher seed after all and should have been in this series to begin with. It took three games, but now the Magic are playing like the team we expected.
Hollinger: Depends on the outcomes of the last two games -- if they feel "blown" by Boston or "taken" by Orlando. At the moment I lean more toward "comeback" because I think the Magic did a tremendous job to pick themselves off the mat after Game 3, but I remain open-minded on this one.
Sheridan: The final play in regulation of Game 4: greatest coaching adjustment by SVG or biggest coaching second-guess of Doc Rivers' career? I'll say yes to both while declining to directly answer the question.
Stein: Neither. Not quite. The historical implications of an Orlando triumph in seven games, on this scorecard, still can't trump what happened in the 2006 NBA Finals. That series remains synonymous with playoff comebacks (and collapses) for me.
Thorpe: We don't know that until it happens.
Thus far, it's more Orlando's excellent play than Boston's collapse. The Celtics played at an extremely high level in Games 1 and 3, so it was not likely they could remain at that level anyway, especially against a team that's been tops in the league on defense over the past two seasons.
5. Who wins the series?
Adande: Boston still wins. The Celtics still have a game at home. And if that doesn't work, the Magic will be asked to win their fourth consecutive game against the Celtics. Don't see that happening here.
Broussard: Sorry to end all the drama, but the Celtics close out the series Friday night.
Forsberg: Celtics in 6. Law of averages says that Orlando -- despite back-to-back sweeps to start the playoffs -- is unlikely to win four straight games against a quality opponent. Injuries have complicated matters for Boston, but the Celtics win Game 6, buoyed by their home crowd, by avoiding foul trouble yet playing physical defense.
Hollinger: I picked the Magic at the start of the series so I'll keep riding that pick out here. Boston has an advantage being up 3-2 and going home, but the Celtics are a lot more banged-up than Orlando right now. If the Magic win, I think the Celtics' injuries will end up being a major reason why.
Sheridan: Orlando in 7, and afterward Stan Van Gundy writes 93-1 on a grease board.
Stein: The Celtics closed out LeBron's Cavs in similar circumstances and have the vets to do it again.
There are plenty of reasons to pick against Boston now -- because Rajon Rondo has curiously lost some zip on top of Rasheed Wallace's bad back and the twin concussions suffered in Game 5 by Davis and Marquis Daniels -- but I just have a feeling that Boston finishes this off... probably because I picked Orlando to win the series.
Thorpe: If the Celtics can put together an excellent offensive game, they'd give themselves a huge edge. But Orlando has found its stride on both ends of the court, and is still not playing its best basketball.
Jameer Nelson and Stan Van Gundy are exactly the types of men who overcome odds and history, thanks to their talent, their stubbornness and even their arrogance. And Dwight Howard is evolving yet again right in front of us, into a superstar on the court and not just on TV.
It's going to require some good fortune, but I'm taking the Magic.
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