The play designed for Vince Carter was being shredded. J.J. Redick stood near midcourt, swarmed by defenders, unable to make the pass with the clock about to run out on an improbable comeback.
Instead, Rashard Lewis caught the ball and surprised everybody.
Lewis made the go-ahead layup with 1.3 seconds remaining, and the Orlando Magic overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics, 96-94, Thursday night.
“Turned the corner with my right hand, took it to the basket and was expecting the defense to collapse,” said the former Seattle SuperSonics forward. “I was surprised when I turned to the basket, there was nobody there.”
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Not one to pass up a 3-point shot, Lewis took the ball after a broken play and sprinted down the baseline past Kevin Garnett for the uncontested layup. Rasheed Wallace missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Magic its second victory in three games against the Celtics this season.
Lewis led the Magic with 23 points, and Dwight Howard overcome early foul trouble to finish with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Ray Allen had 20 points, and Wallace added 17 for the Celtics, who took a big lead on potent 3-point shooting but wilted from outside in the final period.
“We deserved it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we completely lost our focus. An 11-point lead at halftime, I told them it was a joke. We should’ve been up by 25 points.”
The once punishing defensive game became a furious, frantic push to the buzzer with each team matching shot for shot.
On the final Magic possession, Redick tried to get the ball to Carter but was surrouned by defenders. Eventually Lewis got the ball in the corner and went past Garnett for the winner.
“Rashard saved me,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We couldn’t get Vince the ball. It was a poorly designed play, and Rashard bailed my butt out.”