Denton's Dish: Magic at Celtics (4/18/12)
By John Denton
April 18, 2012
BOSTON – The Orlando Magic insist that their health and rhythm are much more important to them than who their first-round opponent is come next weekend by the start of the playoffs.
That’s totally understandable logic because the Magic undoubtedly will need franchise center Dwight Howard and small forward Hedo Turkoglu healthy if they are going to make a run in the playoffs.
That said, Orlando still might want to avoid the Boston Celtics at all costs considering how the storied franchise continues to haunt the Magic.
The undermanned Magic continued a trend of late of playing well offensively, but they had little success at all at getting defensive stops against a Celtics team that won 102-98 to sweep the three-game season series.
Longtime Magic nemesis Paul Pierce gashed them all night with 14 assists and 29 points, none bigger than the two points he scored with 7.6 seconds remaining and Orlando within two points of the lead. He then followed that up with two more free throws with 2.9 seconds left to seal Orlando’s fate.
Boston (37-26) won the Atlantic Division for a fifth consecutive season, meaning that it will fall no lower than the fourth seed. The Magic (36-26) currently sit in the sixth seed and could very open the playoffs against Indiana (40-22).
Considering that they whipped the Pacers three of four times this season, facing Indiana would seem to be a better option than taking on a Celtics team that won all three meetings this season.
``I still haven’t won here against these guys and winning the game is what it’s all about,’’ said Magic power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who scored 27 points against his former team. ``I was pleased with us continuing to fight, but at the end of the day you’ve got to win the game.’’
The Magic suffered two of their worst losses of the season against the Celtics – scoring a franchise-low 56 points on Jan. 23 and blowing a 27-point lead at home four days later. But Orlando fought throughout on Wednesday and was just a point down with 2:47 to play. The Magic missed two chances to tie after that and could get no closer than two points because of an inability to stop Boston’s offense.
The Celtics shot 73.7 percent in the first quarter and 54.3 percent for the game – the fifth opponent in the past six games to shoot better than 50 percent. Orlando outscored Boston by 14 in the paint and owned a 43-29 edge on the boards, but lost because of the defensive struggles.
``Our effort was great, but we just can’t guard anybody,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``I know we’re a little small, but we are just not able to stop anybody. … Offensively, we are playing better. I think we are staying together and fighting hard. But we’re just able to stop anybody right now.’’
Jameer Nelson had 21 points and nine assists, while Ryan Anderson added 12 points and nine rebounds. It was just the fourth time all season that Anderson (0 of 4) did not make a 3-point shot in a game. J.J. Redick added 13, while Jason Richardson had 11 points.
The Magic were without Howard, who stayed in Orlando to rehabilitate his back injury, for a sixth straight game. Orlando also didn’t have Turkoglu, who is close to resuming conditioning drills after suffering three facial fractures two weeks ago. Boston was again without Rajon Rondo (back injury) and Ray Allen (ankle injury), the third time this season that the Celtics’ starting backcourt didn’t play against the Magic. Former Orlando forward Mickael Pietrus (sore knee) also missed the game for the Celtics.
Here is a look back at some of the key moments from Wednesday’s nationally televised game at Boston’s TD Garden:
Davis gave himself a shot to do just that with a stellar first half offensively. He made eight of his 11 shots in the opening two quarters for 16 points. Rather than settling for jump shots, Davis attacked the rim and took pick-and-roll feeds for dunks and layups.
And he was just as good after halftime, carrying the Magic for long stretches with his tough, aggressive play inside. And his most athletic play of the night came with 31 seconds left when he swiped a pass, dribbled down the court and dunked to draw Orlando within two points. He finished 12 of 16 from the floor, grabbed seven rebounds and added three steals.
``Sometimes when you lose a game you say, `what did you learn from the loss,’ but I really think we went a step forward tonight,’’ Davis said. ``There have been multiple games where we have been down and we just went away. But I liked how we fought today.’’
``Our 3-point shooting was horrendous,’’ said Van Gundy, referring to the Magic’s six of 24 shooting from beyond the arc. ``We had the one possession to tie and we missed two open ones. We executed really well. Two good opportunities, but we just couldn’t knock them down. But I thought our guys fought hard and stayed in the game.’’
A night after scoring 43 points against the New York Knicks, Pierce carved up the Magic with his shooting, passing and driving. With his 13 points and 11 assists in the first 24 minutes, Pierce accounted for 35 of Boston’s first 55 points. He made four of his first six shots, hit all five free throws and assisted to five different players in the first half.
Four different times Pierce found a streaking Avery Bradley (17 first-half points) for layups or dunks. And he had a hand in six of Boston’s final seven points of the first quarter with assists to Greg Stiesma and Garnett (twice).
Pierce made nine of 14 shots and 11 of 12 free throws. He also filled in nicely for the injured Rondo with 14 assists.
``I was able to take care of business and wrap up our division,’’ Pierce said. ``I was just looking to be aggressive in everything that I did. Whether that was scoring the ball or finding the open man, I just wanted to continue to put the pressure on the defense.’’
The usually mild-mannered Anderson was whistled for a technical foul near the end of the third quarter when he continued arguing a non-call when his shot was blocked by Greg Stiemsma. Orlando led 70-69 late in the third period before Boston scored the final 10 points of the quarter to grab a 79-70 lead.
``I told the (referee) that he was doing a great job. That’s all I said and I didn’t curse and I didn’t give him the harsh face,’’ Anderson said with a sarcastic tone. ``I think I said that a bunch of times so maybe he got frustrated hearing it too much. Maybe it was the fact I took two charges in a row, practically on two plays consecutively and I got fouled on the other end. Whenever we are playing in Boston, the refs are great and they just keep on getting better.’’
``She’s a neat leady. I got to know her a little bit and it’s sad in a lot of ways,’’ Rivers said. ``When you see a giant like that leave the game and leave because of health it’s just sad. She’s not just a women’s basketball coach, she’s a great coach. The longer I’m in this the more I realize how much coaching means to all of us. For her to not be able to (coach), for me it’s very sad.’’
``We are right there. I really like the spirit of our team,’’ Davis said. ``When you have the spirit of the team in the right place a lot of things can happen because everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to win. If we keep that mindset, keep following the coaches and what we need to do as leaders of the team, we’ll do really well in the playoffs.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org
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