Magic End Slide by Beating Celtics
Orlando 100, Boston 91
ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 4 (Ticker) -- Steve Francis and Dwight Howard helped the Orlando Magic end their drought while keeping the Boston Celtics in the dumps.
Francis and Howard scored 18 points apiece as the Magic halted a four-game losing streak with a 100-91 victory over the struggling Celtics, who have lost five straight contests.
Orlando came out strong, making 13-of-20 (65 percent) shots in the opening quarter for a 31-20 advantage. Former Celtic Tony Battie scored eight of his 14 points in the period and Francis added seven.
"(Francis) has played very under control and at the same time has been aggressive in driving the basketball and creating opportunities," said Hill, whose team won for the eighth time in its last 10 home games.
The Magic built a 39-24 advantage with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter and the Celtics faced a 69-60 deficit with 3 1/2 remaining in the third quarter before closing the session with a 9-2 burst, capped by Brian Scalabrine's 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We have to figure a way to buckle down early in games, execute, get good shots and now allow teams to run out and get easy buckets," Boston guard Wally Szczerbiak said. "It just takes so much energy to get back into games."
The Celtics ran out of energy as the Magic opened the final period by making 7-of-8 shots in a 15-6 charge, capped by Howard's dunk that made it 86-75 with 6:43 to go.
"We just kept fighting and I was happy with that," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "We had great opportunities but missed a couple of layups and had a defensive miscue (on Howard's dunk). We'd just got done talking about that and that burns you as a coach." Keyon Dooling, who scored six points during the burst and eight of his 10 in the fourth.
"Keyon was awesome," Howard said. "He wants to get to the hole, wants to play good defense, wants to stop his man. It's always good when he's healthy and gets to get in there and give us a spark on both ends of the floor." Francis kiddingly called Dooling a maniac, but quickly added that "he controlled the game at times when we needed it."
Paul Pierce tried to singlehandedly lead Boston back by scoring 15 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter. He scored 14 of the Celtics' last 16 points but could not prevent them from dropping their sixth consecutive road contest.
"It's been the story of our season right now," Rivers said. "It just seems like we're close enough but we can't close games out."