Denton: Magic-Celtics Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
January 17, 2011

BOSTON – In a classic game with 26 lead changes and 18 ties, it was only fitting that this Orlando-Boston slugfest came down to the final minute. And appropriately enough, the team that has been intact for years (Boston) was better with its execution than the one that was dramatically reconfigured (Orlando) a month ago.

Regardless of the reasons for Orlando’s 109-106 loss to Boston, the frustrating final minute from Monday’s epic is sure to stay with the Magic until they get another shot at the rival Celtics again in three weeks.

``Executing down the stretch is what separates good teams and great teams and it was the only difference in this game,’’ muttered Dwight Howard, who did plenty of executing with 33 points and 13 rebounds. ``Twenty-one seconds to go and we don’t get a shot off. In the fourth quarter you’ve got to be able to get good shots and not turn the ball over. You can’t that way, turning it over.’’

For the Magic (26-15), the loss was the fitting end to a tantalizing, but also somewhat troubling stretch of games. A week ago Orlando was riding a nine-game lo0sing streak, but it dropped three of four games on the trip because it was unable to get stops at big times. New Orleans won in overtime, Oklahoma City shredded the Magic for 125 points and the Celtics often scored at will and shot 60 percent from the field.

``We couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch and that was probably the theme of this trip,’’ Magic guard J.J. Redick said. ``All three games that we lost were close games and it came down to us not being able to get stops at crucial times. We have to play better against the (better) teams and bring our defensive energy.’’

With the game tied at 104, Boston’s Paul Pierce got Orlando’s Jason Richardson in the air, absorbed the contact and drilled a 17-footer from the elbow. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy diagrammed the play that the Celtics would run in the huddle and the Magic defended it well other than Richardson’s foul.

Said Richardson, who had 14 points and two 3-pointers: ``I knew (Pierce) was going to go to the pump fake and he got me in the air. I’m a veteran and I should know better than that. But he threw the bait out there and I bit on it.’’

The Magic followed with missed shots by Hedo Turkoglu (11 points, seven assists) and Ryan Anderson (16 points and four 3-pointers), but their chances ended when Boston defensive ace Kevin Garnett reached over Jameer Nelson and tipped away a pass with 13 seconds left to seal the game. Nelson, who had tied the game up with a clutch jumper with 51 seconds to play, was dejected about the turnover.

Said Nelson: ``I was trying to get it to the open guys, but it was really crowded over there. I was just trying to make the right play. If it was anybody else (other than Garnett), they wouldn’t have gotten that steal.’’

The Magic and Celtics were meeting for the first time since Christmas Day when Orlando won 86-78 in bizarre fashion. The Magic scored the first 13 points of that game, struggled afterward and closed with a 15-1 spurt for the victory. The two rivals, who have met in the Eastern Conference Finals each of the past two seasons, meet again on Feb. 4 in Boston in a prelude to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

The Magic are back at Amway Arena on Wednesday for a rematch against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers beat the Magic on Dec. 18, the day Orlando pulled off the two blockbuster trades for Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark. With 41 games played and 41 games to go, the season now shifts to preparation for the playoffs.

``We don’t look at it like we have this new team because this is our team now and we can’t be making mistakes,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We have 41 games left to get ready to play at this level. And two things are going to have to change – our defense and bringing more energy to the start of games.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from a Monday night game that very much had the feel of a playoff game in late May:


John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at