Nelson: Magic are going to win Game 5 in Detroit
"We're going to make some adjustments and we're going to win this game," Nelson said after Orlando's 90-89 loss on Saturday. "I'm not being arrogant or cocky or anything like that. I think [Saturday] we let it slip out of our hands. Game 2 we let it slip out of our hands. We're going to win this game in Detroit."
That's a tall order for a Magic team that couldn't even the series at home despite a 15-point, third-quarter lead against a Pistons team that had All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups sitting on the bench in a sport coat. Even so, Orlando remains optimistic.
"Devastating is the fourth loss in a series. It's a bad loss but it's not devastating," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "The series goes on."
Not for much longer if the Magic can't get Dwight Howard on track. After becoming the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to record three 20-point, 20-rebound games in a series during the first round against Toronto, the Magic's 22-year-old All-Star has struggled. He had just eight points Saturday -- all but two of them in the first quarter -- with Detroit's veteran front line tugging persistently on Superman's cape.
"He couldn't get in there and get the easy buckets that he wanted," said Pistons center Rasheed Wallace, who along with Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell have banged Howard around all series. "We definitely saw that. That is what we want -- we want a physical game. That's right up our alley."
Howard was 3-of-12 from the field and shot just two free throws, making both. He had 12 rebounds, but even that was below his league-leading average of 14 during the regular season.
"They were very physical with him, and how the game is called is a huge thing," Van Gundy said."
Howard admitted he was frustrated that the Magic were forced into Detroit's half-court game. They couldn't get out in transition, which was the key to their 111-point effort in a Game 3 victory, and he couldn't get the ball in position to score.
"We've got to play our game -- that's the only way to beat these guys," Howard said. "We can't get stuck into playing the way they play basketball."
The Magic's challenge is not impossible. Detroit did it to them in 2003, winning three straight to wipe out a 3-1 deficit and advance to the second round. That was the beginning of a nine-game playoff losing streak against the Pistons that the Magic finally broke in Game 3.
Needing only one win in the next three games to move on to the next round, it's not clear whether the Pistons will try to rush back Billups. The team was aggressively treating the hamstring he strained Thursday, but coach Flip Saunders said Billups was still too sore to play Saturday. Saunders said it didn't matter "whether it was a Game 7 of the NBA Finals or it's Game 4 against Orlando."
"His leg's just not ready and he can't do anything to be really effective," Saunders said.
He wouldn't guess when Billups would be ready again.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press