The visitors' locker room at the new Boston Garden was nearly empty, cleared of any sign of a celebration after the Orlando Magic beat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
BOSTON — The visitors' locker room at the new Boston Garden was nearly empty, cleared of any sign of a celebration after the Orlando Magic beat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
All that remained on the white board was a simple message: "32-1."
The Magic dethroned the defending NBA champions on Sunday, beating Boston 101-82 in Game 7 for their second straight victory and earning the right to play the Cleveland Cavaliers for a spot in the NBA finals. It was the first time the NBA's most-decorated franchise, which won its record 17th title last year, had lost a series after holding a 3-2 lead.
"I would like to say we played the game exactly the way we wanted. We actually played it better," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "When you look at a team that's 32-0 when leading a series 3-2 and then you win by 19 points, that's a big win. I can't say that I've ever had one that I've ever been happier with."
Dwight Howard scored 12 points with 16 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Hedo Turkoglu had 25 points with 12 assists for Orlando, which trailed for just 36 seconds after the opening basket.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals is Wednesday in Cleveland.
"I believe we can win a championship. We're not going to stop going after one until we get it," Howard said. "We have the right team. We have the talent. We have the coaches. It's just on us to go out there and play hard. I have a long way to go, but I'm still hungry."
Ray Allen scored 23 points for Boston, and Paul Pierce had 16 before they were taken out of the game for a courtesy cheer with 2:30 left and the Magic up 99-78. The other member of the new Big three, Kevin Garnett, awaited them on the bench, where he watched the whole series in street clothes with a right knee strain.
Garnett's absence derailed the Celtics' title defense before it started, forcing them to fight through a seven-overtime, seven-game series against Chicago in the first round and leaving them perpetually playing from behind in the second.
"We still felt like this was a team that could have gone to the championship and won it, regardless of the injuries," Pierce said. "It felt like we ran out of gas."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Garnett had been holding off on having surgery on the chance he could come back if the team prolonged its season.
Orlando beat Cleveland 2-1 in the season series, but the Cavaliers swept both of their postseason matchups and have been waiting for their next opponent since last Monday.
"Cleveland is playing at a much higher level than anybody else in the playoffs. We're going to have to take it up another notch," Van Gundy said. "But that's for us to worry about tomorrow. I am going to enjoy this one until I get on the plane tonight and start watching film."
The Magic nearly blew a 28-point lead in Game 1, then wasted a 14-point lead in Game 5 to give the Celtics a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
But Orlando came back from a 10-point deficit on Thursday night to force Game 7.
And there was no panic on Sunday. Just a lot of Magic.
"We learned a lot, coming in here and beating the world champs on their own floor," Howard said.
"Everybody was talking about experience. The biggest thing was effort and energy. The team that played the hardest was going to win."
Orlando led by 14 in the second quarter before Boston cut it to 45-42 in the third. Rajon Rondo's long 2-pointer at the buzzer to end the quarter made it a 66-61 game, but Orlando scored the first eight points of the fourth to open a double-digit lead.
Orlando led 81-64 with 8:04 left when Howard picked up his fifth foul and went to the bench, then Boston cut the deficit to 90-78 on Allen's 3-pointer with 4:12 to play. But Turkoglu sank a 3-pointer, Kendrick Perkins was called for a charge and Turkoglu made a fadeaway jumper to extend the lead to 17 points.
Turkoglu was 9 for 12 from the field, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Lakers 89, Rockets 70
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the Lakers emphatically silenced the doubters and the Rockets, winning at home in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
With Gasol scoring 21 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, the Lakers looked like the conference's top-seeded team, not the maddeningly inconsistent one pushed to the decisive final game by the undermanned Rockets.
The Lakers dominated the paint on both ends, forcing the Rockets into turnovers and bad shots, and owning the backboards. They had an 8-0 lead a few minutes in and widened it to 25 points on Gasol's jump hook shortly before halftime.
The Lakers, trying to reach the NBA finals for the second straight year, host the opener of the conference finals against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.