The Orlando Magic were ready to go home - but not for the summer.
Needing a win to avoid a four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference finals, Dwight Howard had 32 points and 16 rebounds, and Jameer Nelson made back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime to lead Orlando to a 96-92 victory over Boston on Monday night.
No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. With a victory in Game 5 in Orlando on Wednesday night, the Magic would be halfway there.
"We didn't win this game just to win a game and say we were in this series," Howard said. "We want to make this a series and win this series. We all have to believe that. I told the guys before the game, 'Put out all disbelief, anxiety and fear. We've just got to keep playing.'
"We can't think about losing or think about being swept. We have to think about winning and staying together."
Dressing in the same locker room where the Philadelphia Flyers celebrated their comeback from a 3-0 deficit against the Boston Bruins in the NHL's East semifinals, the Magic took a strikingly similar first step toward repeating the feat.
The Bruins also lost Game 4 in overtime.
"At some point, somebody is going to come from 3-0 down and win a series. The only thing I knew for sure was it would start by winning Game 4," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I figured that one out. You have to win Game 4. ... This was a must-win."
Paul Pierce had 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Garnett had 14 points and 12 boards for Boston. Ray Allen hit consecutive 3-pointers in overtime, but Pierce missed two tries in the final minute as the Celtics failed in their first attempt to advance to the NBA finals for the second time in three years.
"They don't want to leave. We're going to have to throw them out," said Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis. "It's just like somebody renting a house."
Nelson finished with 23 points and nine assists for the defending Eastern Conference champions, who led by 10 in the second quarter and were up 85-78 with 2:24 left in regulation before Boston scored eight of the next nine points to force overtime at 86-all.
Neither team scored for the first 2:18 of the period before Nelson hit a 3-pointer and then added another 43 seconds later. Allen made a 3-pointer and, after Howard dunked and drew a foul - but missed a free throw - Allen hit another 3 to make it 94-92.
Howard followed up Nelson's miss with 53 seconds left to make it 96-92, then Garnett sailed a pass over Pierce's head and into the crowd. Pierce missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the closing seconds.
"There were a couple of plays down the stretch offensively that we botched, plain and simple. We're kicking ourselves. We had a great opportunity," Allen said. "There's no need to panic. We like the position we're in. But it's a lesson: We have to take care of the small things and we'll get to where we want to be."
Orlando's revival came just in time to avoid a Celtics walkover that had fans in the new Boston Garden chanting "Beat L.A!" early in the second half of Saturday night's 23-point Boston victory. The Lakers lead the Suns 2-1 in the Western Conference finals, with Game 4 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
But there was no more chanting about the Lakers on Monday night.
"I know they (the Celtics players) heard it. They had no choice but to hear it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't know if they believed it. We didn't play well, I know that. I hope that wasn't the reason."
Only four times in the history of the North American major pro sports leagues has a team come back to win a playoff series after losing the first three games. It's been done three times in the NHL - most recently this month by the Flyers in this building - and once in baseball, when the Boston Red Sox came back to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 AL championship series.
"You never know what can happen," Magic guard J.J. Redick said. "We can be like the Red Sox, coming back from 0-3. You never know."
This program aired on May 25, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.