Denton: Magic Have Revenge in Mind

By John Denton
January 25, 2012

ORLANDO – For the Orlando Magic, Boston’s TD Garden has recently been the site of so many memories – both good and bad.

There was, of course, the second round of the 2009 NBA playoffs when the Magic stormed into Boston and won a Game 7 that put them in the Eastern Conference Finals.

A year later, things didn’t go as pleasantly as the Celtics eliminated the Magic from the Eastern Conference Finals in Boston and ended Orlando’s hopes of a second consecutive NBA Finals run.

But now, after a Monday massacre in Boston, there’s another episode to add to the Magic’s memory bank. And it could be some time before they are able to wipe this one from the psyches.

The Magic were historically woeful on Monday night, setting all-time franchise lows for points scored in a game (56), points in a half (20), field goals in a game (16) and shooting percentage (24.6 percent) in an 87-56 loss to the Celtics.

The good news for the Magic (12-5) is that they get another shot at the Celtics (7-9) on Thursday and another shot at wiping the memory of the 56-point nightmare out of their minds. This game will be at the Amway Center and on national television, and the Magic can’t wait to redeem themselves against the Celtics.

``Like I told the guys, `That game is over with now and we can’t get this game back again,’ but what we can do get the next game against them,’’ said Magic superstar center Dwight Howard, who became the Magic’s all-time leading scorer on Tuesday in Indiana and will be honored before Thursday’s game. ``There’s no need to hang our heads about that (Boston) loss because we’ve been playing great basketball other than this subpar game. We just have to learn from it and be better next time.’’

Next time comes on Thursday when there will be no place for the Magic to go but up against the Celtics. On Monday, Orlando actually trailed 34-33 with 3:01 to play in the first half before the bottom fell out. The Magic scored just 36 points in the first half, had only 10 points in the third and fourth quarters and turned the ball over 25 times. The third quarter was especially poor as the Magic shot just two of 11 and turned the ball over nine times.

``Because of the pressure we really went sideways and instead of executing better and making the extra pass and getting to third and fourth options, we panicked,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``It became a one-on-one game and one-on-one they dominated us. It didn’t start well and it got worse as the game went on.’’

The Magic bounced back in a big way on Tuesday night by beating the much-improved Indiana Pacers in impressive fashion. The Magic got contributions from practically everyone on the roster, made 16 3-pointers and authored a solid defensive effort over the final three quarters of the 102-83 victory in Indiana.

The Celtics escaped the cold and dreariness of Boston on Tuesday flew to Orlando a day early before practicing in Central Florida on Wednesday. The Celtics hope to have starters Ray Allen and Rajon Rondon back for Thursday’s game in Orlando.

What the Magic must figure out before Thursday’s game is how to better attack Boston’s defense. For years, the Celtics have single-covered Howard, while staying up on Orlando’s 3-point shooting. On Monday, the Magic made just four of 16 3-pointers – most of them contested.

The Celtics have three 7-footers to run at Howard – including defensive ace Kevin Garnett – and they never shy away from taking their whacks at the Magic center. Howard made four of his first six shots in the first quarter, but he missed his final nine field goal tries over the final three periods.

``We just allowed them to get into our heads. They won the mental battle,’’ Howard said. ``They’ve been doing it for a couple of years. They get in our heads and we have to learn to play through that.

``We can’t let a team beat us mentally, and that’s what they did,’’ Howard continued. ``We’ve got to stay together. That’s one thing we didn’t do which is not characteristic of us as a team. We started pointing fingers and blaming each other. I have to do a better job of policing that, me being the captain of the team. We’ll get better.’’

One defining characteristic of this Magic teams so far this season was its ability to fight through any situation in games, stay positive along the bench and keep fighting.

That perseverance allowed the Magic to usually play their best basketball in the fourth quarter of games and come from behind in wins against New York and Toronto.

That’s another reason why Monday’s poor second half when the Magic scored just 20 points was so shocking. The Magic didn’t share the ball, didn’t explore second and third options and didn’t hang in when punched by the Celtics. Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who was frustrated by some of the grabbing and holding tactics employed by the Celtics, vowed that his team won’t come apart again like it did Monday night.

``We didn’t help each other and it was a very selfish game from everybody,’’ Nelson said. ``We didn’t stick together throughout the game and it’s my job to make sure we do a better job of that and making sure we do it together. We just have to do a better job. We’ll put that (Boston) loss behind us quickly because we have a great team here.’’

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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