A simple question: Do the Orlando Magic have heart?
The answer, thus far in Orlando's lopsided series against the Celtics, is mostly no. While Boston has demonstrated the tenacity of a telemarketer, the Magic have shown the structural toughness of a downed paper airplane.
Magic-Celtics series: Boston up 2-0
There was Orlando's comeback in Game 1 and the second game was close but no one envisioned the Magic losing its first two contests at home as their bladders weakened against the gritty Celtics.
As a result, here we are. A Magic loss in Game 3 effectively ends this series. Some say it's already over and the sweep chatter has increased reaching an apex for Saturday's crucial contest.
So, the question, again: Do the Orlando Magic have heart?
If so, they prove it by winning this game. They find a way and for once, impose their will on the Celtics instead of the other way around. If they don't, they lose the series, and the season and postseason accomplishments mean very little.
A loss also means the questions begin. Those of us who've criticized Dwight Howard for his big-game shrinkage will have more material. There will be speculation about Stan Van Gundy's job and Vince Carter's basketball virility. It will all come crashing down on Orlando's head.
That's why this game is one of the most important thus far in the team's short history. Check that. It's themost important once because if Orlando takes another step toward getting swept, it's entirely possible parts of the team could be dynamited.
While what the Celtics are doing is both enhancing already sparkling legacies and creating new ones -- Rajon Rondo has stomped his way into the scene like a newborn colt -- if the Magic aren't careful, players like Howard and Carter will take a step toward infamy.
The metrology of this is simple: Magic win and they live another day; lose and they're dead. That's it -- that is all.
The Magic haven't been just outcoached and outhustled. Thus far the Celtics have demonstrated a tendency for true team play while the Magic have disintegrated into shrieking fits of one-on-one and mild infighting. That's got to change.
And if Orlando can't draw motivation from being embarrassed thus far then maybe the cockiness of Paul Pierce will do the trick. Pierce strutted a tad too much after Game 2 during a nationally televised postgame interview.
"Our fans aren't going to let us relax," he said. "Y'all are not going to let us relax. We're going to try to close this out in two games, you hear me? We're coming home to close it out."
"I didn't like it," coach Doc Rivers explained to the media. "I don't mind the confidence part. That's good. You've got to have confidence, but we want to be humble and we haven't achieved anything. I think that's what he was trying to say. ... I wish they had taken the mike away [before] the last couple of words."
Pierce would have been better to silence his yapper and he seemed to realize his blunder several days later. "It wasn't a big deal to me," Pierce said. "I'm just saying I want us to go home, I want our crowd to be ready, I want us to play our best and I want us to win two games. That's it."
Pierce said more than that. He was basically forecasting a Celtics sweep and though in a separate incident he denied a Tweet that taunted the Magic with a broom analogy it was clear that Pierce was (to borrow a phrase) performing a little premature joculation.
So it ends where we started with an important question.
Do the Magic have heart?