WALTHAM, Mass. — Playing better may not save the Orlando Magic’s season. Playing harder just might.

The team that charged into the Eastern Conference finals with 14 straight wins rolled over Saturday night when it lost its hustle – and its third game in a row – against the Boston Celtics.

Another loss tonight would give Boston a sweep and end Orlando’s hopes for a second consecutive berth in the NBA finals.

“I’m somebody who says I’m never shocked,” Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said after practice Sunday, “but I was shocked (Saturday) night that we didn’t handle the situation better and play with more intensity and determination.”

Down 7-0 in the first two minutes. Trailing by 16 points in the first quarter. Never closer than 14 after that. And behind by 32 before Boston Coach Doc Rivers began clearing his bench in the fourth quarter.

When the 94-71 rout was complete, the Magic could hardly believe their predicament. They had the second-best regular season record in the East, then swept Charlotte and Atlanta in the first two rounds to make it to the conference finals.

But now this?

“I expected us to be up 3-0,” Jason Williams said, “but down 0-3 is a big surprise.”

And an obstacle that’s never been overcome in the history of the NBA.

The Celtics are focusing simply on one game. A win tonight would send them to the NBA finals with a chance for their second championship in three years and their 18th overall.

“This team is not complacent,” Paul Pierce said. “We’re too close to our goals. You’ve got a team that’s won the championship so we understand what it takes. We understand the mental toughness that you’ve got to have at this point in the season. So I don’t see any slippage from us and, hopefully, we can close this thing out on Monday.”

Boston has won the first three games in 10 other series; it won four of those in four games and the other six in five. This year, teams took 3-0 leads in five series that have been completed and swept four of them. In the other, Boston beat Miami in five games.

Rivers is among coaches who have been ahead in such series who would prefer that his players ignore those numbers.

“Every time now a series goes 2-0 or 2-1 or 3-1, you hear all these stats,” he said, “and I guarantee you, wherever that coach is, he’s cussing at the TV. … You’ve still got to play the game.”

Garnett is overflowing with the qualities the Magic have lacked in the series – desire, determination and effort.

“They thumped us pretty good,” Van Gundy said. “Everything has to change, from our defensive disposition to our effort to our offensive energy and decision making.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.