Ford Keys to the Game: Magic 106, Celtics 109
Magic 106, Celtics 109
Just as it usually goes when the Celtics and Magic meet, this one was destined to go down to the wire. It happened on Christmas Day, and it happened again tonight. This time, however, it was the Celtics who were superior in crunch time.
Just 51.1 seconds remained on the clock when Jameer Nelson drained a 16-foot jumper from the foul line to tie the score at 104-104. Boston’s ensuing possession was about as critical as it gets, which normally calls for a timeout to allow the coach to draw up the perfect play. But with only one timeout left in the bank, Doc Riverschose to allow his team to execute a play with no sideline instruction.
Consider it done.
The Celtics immediately gave the ball to Paul Pierce and allowed him to take it up court, eventually making his way to the top of the key. At that moment, Ray Allen, who was scorching from the field all night long, came over to run a pick-and-roll with his captain. Such a play put Orlando in a predicament; essentially a lose-lose situation.
Do the Magic switch with the hope of assuring airtight defense on Allen? If so, that leaves a shooting guard defending Pierce. Not a good situation.
Do the Magic not switch, hoping to keep their small forward, the 6-foot-10 Hedo Turkoglu, on Pierce to disrupt his possible shot? If so, that means Allen could flare out for a wide open jumper off a Pierce pass. Also not a good situation.
Orlando opted to use the former tactic, the switch. That’s exactly what Boston predicted would happen, and that’s exactly what it wanted.
“It was just a play we worked on,” Pierce said after the game. “I’ve run it a number of times. We got the switch with Jason Richardson and coach just said to be aggressive.”
When Pierce got the switch, aggression was at the forefront of his mind. His teammates spaced the floor and allowed him to go to work at the elbow, where he often knifes up opponents in crunch time. This moment was no different, as Pierce made a move, threw his patented pump fake and got Richardson to fly into the air. At that point, we knew a trip to the free-throw line was coming, but Pierce one-upped that result.
When Richardson came down to the ground, Pierce leaned in and accepted the contact before falling away and firing up a jumper from 18 feet. The whistle blew, and the shot soared through the air, seemingly in slow motion. It eventually fell through the net to give Pierce an opportunity to put Boston ahead by three points with 38.7 seconds remaining. His free throw was just as pure as the jumper, putting the C's ahead 107-104, and Orlando called a timeout to regroup the troops for a deciding possession.
What happened next seemed to be fate. Put it in the current chapter of Kevin Garnett’s career-long book.
Turkoglu bricked an 18-foot jumper on the Magic’s ensuing possession, but Ryan Anderson grabbed the offensive rebound to give Orlando one last shot at tying the game up. He gave the ball to Nelson on the right wing, directly in front of the Celtics’ bench, hoping that the point guard could make something happen. But when Nelson attempted to sneak a pass over to Richardson, the Big Ticket stuck his right hand out and intercepted the pass.
In his first game back after sitting out nine contests with a muscle strain in his lower right leg, KG came up huge with the critical steal, and that was after he scored 19 points and grabbed a team-high eight boards. When he gained possession after the steal, he found Allen waiting in the wings to catch his pass and eventually be fouled. That pass and foul did, in fact, occur, and Allen's two free throws sealed the dramatic win for Boston.
Key Box Score Line
To the opponents out there who are hoping to stop Ray Allen this month: Good luck.
Allen lit up one of the top defenses in the league tonight for a team-high 26 points. He shot a ridiculous 8-of-11 from the field and hit three of his four 3-point attempts. Those three treys were Boston’s only makes from downtown in the game.
With those numbers in tow, Allen upped his overall shooting percentage in January to unthinkable status. He has made 62.5 percent (70-of-112) of his field goals this month and 70.0 percent (28-of-40) of his 3-point attempts. It doesn’t matter who is defending him or where he’s shooting it from – it’s going in.
In addition to continuing his lights-out shooting performance, Allen also chipped in five boards (tied for second on the team) and dished out two assists.
Tonight was one of those nights where you believed that every time the ball left his hands, it was destined to fall through the hoop. We were wrong with that assumption three times, but we’ll take an 8-for-11 showing.
Box Score Nuggets
- Ray Allen led the Celtics with 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
- Allen made all three of Boston's 3-pointers.
- Orlando made more free throws (27) than Boston attempted (26).
- The teams combined for only 25 turnovers, 12 by Boston and 13 by Orlando.
- Dwight Howard recorded game-highs of 33 points and 13 rebounds.
- Howard also attempted a season-high 18 free throws, making 13.
- After missing nine games, Kevin Garnett returned to the lineup to score 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
- Rajon Rondo recorded Boston's only double-double with 10 points and 13 assists. He also had four rebounds and three steals.
- Rondo recorded 13 assists while committing only one turnover in the game. He was one of seven Celtics who committed either one or zero turnovers.
- Each team's backup power forward had a huge game. Glen Davis scored 15 off the bench for the C's, while Ryan Anderson dropped in 16 for Orlando.
- Three Boston players (Davis, Paul Pierce and Shaquille O'Neal) each blocked two of Orlando's shot attempts to account for Boston's six blocks.
- The first quarter, in which the Magic scored 22 points, was the only frame in which both teams did not score at least 25 points.
- Howard played a game-high 43:08, and Jason Richardson was right behind him with 42:26 of playing time. No Celtic played more than 39:00.
- Orlando's point guards, Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas, combined for 16 points, seven assists and five turnovers.
- Howard did not block a single shot tonight.
- The game featured 26 lead changes and 18 ties, but Orlando's largest lead was only two points. Boston led by 10 at one point.
- The Celtics outscored the Magic 52-26 in the paint.
Quote of the Night
Stan Van Gundy on the last minute of the game: "Look, to me the biggest shot was Ray Allen in the corner. That was an unbelievable shot. We defended the shot (and) he made a dead run going away from the ball, and to knock that in, that’s an unbelievable shot, and that’s why you’ll see him in the Hall of Fame."