It's been a stunning collapse for the reigning Eastern kings. The Magic entered this series with 14 straight wins dating back to the regular season but slunk to the brink of elimination with a horrid performance in Game 3 of the set on Saturday.
"He's giving an amazing effort to the loose ball, to plays like that he's making," Boston coach Doc Rivers said of Rondo. "Never giving up on any possession. When you have that speed and then you have that heart, you become a pretty good player."
Glen Davis had 17 points off the bench for the Celtics, who won their sixth straight playoff games thanks in large part to a dominant first quarter. Boston held a commanding 27-12 lead after the opening frame, holding Orlando to 4-of-17 shooting in the period.
Paul Pierce added 15 points and nine rebounds, while Ray Allen chipped in 14 points for Boston, which is aiming for its second title in three seasons, having beaten the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008. Kevin Garnett scored 10 points.
Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson each had 15 points for the defending Eastern Conference champions, who will try to overcome tremendous odds, as no team in NBA history has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
"It's tough on the squad. We didn't come out with a sense of urgency," Carter said. "We really didn't do that. They did a good job of playing like they were down and needed to win more than we did."
The Celtics remain on a collision-course to face their longtime rival, the Lakers, again. Los Angeles leads the Suns, 2-1, in the Western Conference finals, with Game 4 slated for Tuesday in Phoenix. Late in the game on Saturday, fans were already looking ahead to the Lakers.
"I understand the fans with the 'beat L.A,'" Davis said. "We have one more game to win and this team is highly capable of winning three in a row. We have been playing great, but at the same time we need to realize it is not finished until we win the next game."
After winning their final three games against Cleveland in the conference semifinals, the Celtics are rolling versus the Magic and have shut down Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard. He was limited to seven points and seven rebounds while going 3-for-10 from the field Saturday night.
"All season long I don't think there's been a game where the other team outplayed us, outhustled us, and just worked harder than us," Howard said. "They did that for the last three games. And that's why they're ahead."
Another win tonight For Boston secures the sweep and would end Orlando's now slim hopes for a second consecutive berth in the NBA finals.
"I'm somebody who says I'm never shocked but I was shocked (Saturday) night that we didn't handle the situation better and play with more intensity and determination," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after practice Sunday.
The fans in Beantown are a still a bit wary, however, since the Boston Bruins led the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 in this year's NHL Eastern semifinals and lost the next four, completing the collapse in TD Garden.
"That's a whole different sport," Rondo said. "I don't know what happened in the locker room of the Bruins. I know in our locker room we're going to stay focused and try to close it out."
Last season, the Celtics took a 3-2 lead over Orlando in the East semis but lost the next two games, including the first Game 7 loss at home in the franchise's storied history.
The Magic also won three of four games vs. the Celtics in the regular season this year and has taken both previous playoff matchups between the two franchises, last year's semifinals set and a first round win back in the 1994-95 season.
Game 5 in the best-of-seven set, if necessary, will be Wednesday back in Orlando.