3-point play: Extra sloppy

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Rajon Rondo walks off the court dejected after a Game 4 loss to the Magic.BOSTON -- A trio of ESPN.com's featured stories after the Orlando Magic defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night at TD Garden:

Forsberg: Final play tells the story for C's

It seemed like an appropriate final scene, even in a game the Celtics seemed desperate to give away.

After spearheading a feverish late-game rally, Boston captain Paul Pierce found himself with the ball and a chance to punctuate a four-game sweep -- a sweep he alluded to six days earlier on national TV -- with a trademark game-winner.

With the clock winding down, Pierce dribbled right on J.J. Redick and ... broom goes the dynamite.

In a perfect microcosm of Boston's night, Pierce lost control of the ball and couldn't recover as the clock ran out. The game spilled into overtime, where the Celtics continued to sputter, allowing Orlando to emerge with a 96-92 triumph in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals that kept its season alive.

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Hollinger: Celtics show their flaws in Game 4

This game wasn't about what it means for the current series as much as what it means about the next one.

No team has ever lost a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series, and the Boston Celtics remain highly unlikely to become the first -- even after losing 96-92 in overtime to Orlando in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday.

Instead, the big takeaway is that the weaknesses exposed by this defeat could leave the Celtics vulnerable in the next round. Additionally, it's hard to write it off as a bad night when these are the same problems that plagued Boston in the regular season.

For starters, the Celtics' offense went into a funk late in the game, continuing a season-long pattern of fizzling down the stretch. Boston lost the fourth quarter to Orlando for the fourth straight game, scored only 39 points in the second half, and produced only six in the five minutes of overtime.

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May: Can Magic make this a series?

One of my favorite moments covering the NBA came back in the 1980s at the old Boston Garden. The very, very good Boston Celtics hosted the very, very bad Utah Jazz. The Celtics won, handily. And as he came out of the locker room to address the media after the game, Jazz coach Frank Layden said, "What? You expected us to win?"

I reference that anecdote after the Celtics blew an opportunity to eliminate the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals, denying them at least a week's rest in the process. The Magic, trailing 3-0 in the series and coming off one of the more humiliating and lame efforts in their playoff history, rose up and took Game 4, in Boston, 96-92, in overtime.

What, you expected the Celtics to sweep?

Well, actually, yeah, we did. Who didn't, especially after the Magic put a 44-cent stamp on critical Game 3 on Saturday night? This hadn't even been a series in the first three games, with the Celtics winning twice in Orlando, then returning home to rout the Magic in Game 3.

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* Check out Tuesday's Daily Dime for more coverage, including Chris Sheridan's take on Jameer Nelson's overtime heroics.