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Magic Hold Off Celtics: 83-78

In was called a ‘pivotal game’ by Rashard Lewis, the Magic defeated the Celtics a second straight time in Boston.

The Celtics couldn’t put the ball in the ocean, starting out 5 for 24 in the first quarter and shooting just .345 on the evening, the lowest since the Kevin Garnett trade, according to the TV announcers. Not only did they shoot 2 for 19 from the three point line, but they even missed numerous lay ups all night long.

No doubt part of that was solid defense from the Magic, and especially the presence of Dwight Howard. While Howard has miles to go offensively, he isn’t given enough credit for just what his presence in the middle does to opposing shooters without even challenging every shot. The thought of him near by causes NBA players to miss easy shots.

Paul Pierce must have missed at least four lay ups, Rajon missed a couple, and who knows who else did.

Paul Pierce led the Cs with 21 points on 7 of 19 shooting, 0-4 from the three point line. Kevin Garnett had a double double (13 and 11) and 3 big blocks, including one on Dwight Howard, and 2 steals. Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo tied for team honors with 6 assists each.

Kendrick Perkins
received another technical and played just 14 minutes on the evening due to foul trouble. Rasheed Wallace replaced Perk and led the Celtics with 13 rebounds, though his shooting also had the disease.

The difference in the Celtics tonight was that they played gamely throughout, but were lacking the supreme confidence we are used to seeing from them in previous years. They would know and we would see that they knew…that they were going to hit the shots that would give them the lead and continue hitting shots to crush the will of their opponents. That was missing in this game and has been for at least seven games now.

That they were able to play tough, solid defense was an improvement over previous recent games. They held a team that averages 100 points a game to 83 points and just 41% shooting .

Off season acquisition, Vince Carter, replacing the departed Hedo Turkoglu in the Magic’s line up, helped Orlando hold off numerous Boston runs to hold on to this win. Carter scored 26 points on 10 of 29 shooting, but dropped 10 of those points on difficult shots in the critical 4th quarter to beat Boston.

Rasheed Wallace

Wallace was having a bad shooting game with everyone else, going 1-9 until the comeback in the fourth. Rasheed finally played a game below the arc and showed why he should be there much more often. His defense was solid and he helped the Celtics out rebound the Magic 43-42.

Sheed still took too many three point shots, coming up with a goose egg, 0-8. I hope the Celtics move away from this strategy and begin to use Wallace in a more traditional way. It will benefit everyone. Even when Rasheed is hitting them, I can’t get behind that as a singular and limited use of the man.

Wallace played a clutch 4th quarter, scoring 6 points on 3 of 7 shots, while grabbing 6 rebounds and picking up two big steals.

Wallace finished with 9 points, 3 steals, and a block.

The Celtics got into an immediate hole, 22-8, in the first quarter, and ended the quarter down 29-13. They closed the gap but couldn’t catch the Magic until Rasheed Wallace made a jump shot with 2:54 left in the game tying it at 78.

Vince Carter then made one of his most difficult shots and the biggest of the game. With Paul Pierce right on top of him, Carter stepped towards the basket, moving Pierce backward, and spun and hit a fade away over the recovering Pierce’s outstretched arm for an 80-78 lead.

The Celtics would not score again, missing 5 straight shots on basket and turning the ball over once.

The loss drops Boston to 3-4 over their last seven games and they are now 5-3 at home. The Celtics lost only six home games all last season. They are 9-4 overall.

Poodles Bite Pit Bulls?

Their previous win was the 7th game ‘thumping’ of the then reigning champs in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season. That officially ended the Celtics reign and announced that the Magic were for real.

Right after the NBA Finals, Paul Pierce tweeted that the Magic looked like poodles against pit bulls in their series against the Lakers. Seemingly always under rated by many, the Magic are for real.

Any doubts about that legitimacy were erased last night in a game that the Magic took control of in the first quarter 29-13. The Celtics defense was lacking again as Orlando shot a blistering .647% in the quarter, making 11 of 17 shots.

That the Magic made big shot after big shot to stop Celtic runs through out the game was the testament to their character on this evening.

This truly was a character deciding contest. The Magic showed that they could and would hold on to a lead in the face of some gutsy, if not efficient basketball. They made enough shots and played very solid defense to take home a win.

With Jameer Nelson out again, Rajon Rondo was unable to take advantage of 34 year old Jason Williams, shooting just 3-11, with 3 turnovers, but handing out 6 assists and grabbing 6 rebounds.

Ray Allen scored 15 points and added 4 rebounds.

While the Celtic bench players played relatively well (all had pluses in their time in the game), it was the starters that needed to play and they again were outplayed by their counterparts.

The Celtics had 17 fast break points to the Magic’s 5. They outscored the Magic in the paint 38-24.

The Celtics had 21 points off turnovers to the Magic’s 9.

It was those statistics that kept the poor shooting Celtics in this game.

The team’s lack of clutch shooting down the stretch ultimately lost this game.

The Celtics next game is Sunday in New York against the Knicks at 1:00 pm.

Thomas Halzack

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