Ford Keys to the Game: Magic 98, Celtics 102
Magic 98, Celtics 102
The Truth set the Boston Celtics free tonight.
Boston was missing three of its top players against the Orlando Magic, but its captain more than made up for the absences. He scored Boston's final four points, all coming in the final 7.6 seconds, and handed the Celtics their fifth consecutive Atlantic Division title.
Boston’s lead stood at only two points after Glen Davis stole a bad pass by Avery Bradley and slammed home a dunk on the fast break with 31.6 seconds left. Bradley’s flounder could have cost the Celtics the game, but per usual, his captain was there to bail the team out.
Pierce took control of the ball on the next possession and ran a pick-and-pop play with Kevin Garnett at the top of the key. As Pierce came off of the screen while moving to his right, Orlando’s defenders chose to switch. Pierce now had Davis defending him 25 feet from the basket.
If you turn the clock back exactly two weeks, Pierce was in nearly the exact same situation with the game on the line against San Antonio. The exact same play was ran and Tim Duncan switched off to defend Pierce. No. 34 wound up missing a jumper as time expired and the Celtics lost.
Tonight was a different story.
After briefly losing his footing on the right wing, Pierce went right at Davis and drove to his left toward the lane. When Pierce reached the right elbow, known by many to be his sweet spot, the captain pulled up and nailed the jumper to put Boston back on top by four with 7.6 seconds remaining in regulation.
Many thought the game was over at that point, but Jameer Nelson’s quick floater on the ensuing possession made this a two-point game yet again. And so Pierce’s number was called yet again.
Pierce was immediately fouled by Quentin Richardson once Boston inboundned the basketball. He headed to the line for two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining in the game. Both of those free throws fell through the basket to seal the victory for the C’s.
Those four big points in the final 7.6 seconds helped the Celtics grab their 37th win of the season and completed an incredible comeback in the Atlantic Division. When this team was 15-17, winning the division was not even a thought. Thanks to Pierce’s big performance tonight, now that accomplishment an afterthought.
Key Box Score Line
What can you say about Paul Pierce? The guy just delivers when his team needs him to.
With three key Celtics missing tonight’s game, including the hottest point guard n the league, Rajon Rondo, Pierce delivered a gem against the Orlando Magic. He recorded a game-high 29 points on just 14 shot attempts and orchestrated the offense to the tune of a career-high 14 assists. That number also led the game.
Those raw totals don’t even do this performance justice. Pierce was so dominant and so unstoppable that the Magic sent him to the line for 12 free throw attempts, 11 of which he made. The two biggest points of the game arrived with 2.9 seconds left in regulation when Pierce canned two freebies to put the game on ice. He also hit the second-biggest shot of the game just 3.7 seconds earlier, when he made a slick jumper from the right elbow over former teammate Glen Davis.
It’s not easy to win NBA games against playoff teams when three of your top seven players are out with injuries, but it’s a lot easier to pull it off when you have The Truth on your side.
Box Score Nuggets
- Both teams' benches accounted for 14 points.
- Boston won the first and third quarters, while Orlando won the second and fourth.
- Paul Pierce recorded game highs of 29 points and 14 assists.
- Pierce's 14 assists set a new career high.
- Avery Bradley tied his career high with 23 points.
- Brandon Bass tied his season high with three assists.
- Orlando outrebounded Boston by a count of 43-29.
- Greg Stiemsma blocked a game-high four shots, which was twice as many as Orlando's entire team recorded.
- The Celtics finished with phenomenal shooting numbers: 54.3 percent on field goals, 42.9 percent from 3-point range, and 85.2 percent from the free-throw line.
- Former Celtic Glen Davis scored a team-high 27 points for Orlando.
- Five of Ryan Anderson's nine rebounds in the game came at the offensive end of the floor.
- The Celtics never trailed by more than two points in the game.
- There were two technical fouls called in the game, and both of them were whistled against the Magic. The two players who picked them up were Anderson and Jameer Nelson.
- Nelson scored 21 points and dished out nine assists.
- Three Celtics, Pierce (29 points), Bradley (23 points) and Bass (21 points), scored at least 20 points tonight.
- Orlando shot just 6-of-24 from 3-point range and just 20-of-30 from the free-throw line.
Quote of the Night
Keyon Dooling on Avery Bradley's defense: "If you poll around the league, if you ask point guards who they hate playing against the most, everybody would probably say Avery Bradley."