The Boston Celtics were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 91-83, winning the game after trailing by as many as 27 points in the second quarter. It was one of the more impressive comeback victories in a regular season in recent seasons for any NBA team. It didn’t seem possible that the Magic would experience a worse loss during the season after Monday, in which they scored a franchise-low 56 points and lost to the Celtics by 31 on the road. Yet Orlando was able to top themselves by blowing a near insurmountable lead against a team missing three of their starters (Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and Jermaine O’Neal). Boston was led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Paul Pierce finished with a game-high 24 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds. E’Twaun Moore came out of nowhere for the Celtics, coming off the bench and putting up 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field (including 4-of-4 from three-point range) in roughly 18 minutes of playing time. Kevin Garnett contributed with 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and four blocks. Mickael Pietrus had 12 points and four rebounds, while Brandon Bass had 10 points, five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Dwight Howard put up 16 points and 16 rebounds.
This was a tale of two halves.
Boston jumped out of the gates with an 8-2 lead thanks to a quick flurry from Pietrus. Then the Magic went on a 30-8 run, which occurred after Howard picked up two quick fouls a little less than three minutes into the first quarter. Orlando’s defense was excellent in the period. Players for the Magic rotated properly while defending with active hands. As a result, Orlando was able to get a number of layups in transition. On top of that, the ball movement for the Magic on offense was great and shots were falling. Considering that, for a second straight game, Orlando had to weather the storm with Howard sitting on the bench with two fouls, there’s no question the opening period went about as well as it could.
Nothing eventful really occurred in the second quarter, as the Magic and Celtics went back and forth exchanging baskets.
As such, with Orlando carrying a 21-point lead into halftime, there was nothing to suggest anything would be different in the second half.
Then everything changed in the third and fourth quarters.
After Howard made a righty hook against Chris Wilcox on the left block in a 4-out/1-in offensive set to put the Magic up by the score of 68-47 with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, that’s when the collapse began. Boston went on an 18-7 run for the remainder of the period to cut their deficit to nine points.
And in the quarter, Pierce was dominant, scoring nine points while also accounting for nine more points for the Celtics. With Hedo Turkoglu on the assignment, Pierce took him to school.
Mind you, Pierce had five points total in the first half.
For Orlando, the collapse continued in the fourth quarter. At this point, all of the momentum was on Boston’s side and it became clear that they were winning the battle on the court not only physically but mentally. The Celtics’ defense on the Magic was stifling, restricting ball movement while also forcing turnovers and bad shots on nearly every possession. Offensively, Howard was bottled up by Garnett while Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson, and Turkoglu could do next to nothing on the perimeter. It’s no secret that when push comes to shove, Orlando is in desperate need of a shot creator. And with Turkoglu struggling to make much happen on offense, there was no one else for the Magic that could step up and fill that void. It was clear that the way Boston was playing, it was getting to the heads of Orlando’s players.
A perfect example of the Magic’s mental toughness falling by the wayside came at the 3:47 mark in the final period. With the shot clock winding down on a possession for Orlando, Ryan Anderson attacked the basket and seemed to draw contact on Brandon Bass and Moore. Unfortunately for Anderson, no foul was called, which prompted him to erupt in anger at official Michael Smith. Not surprisingly, Anderson earned a technical foul. On the very next possession for the Magic, Howard earned a technical foul after arguing a call. For Howard, the play in question came when Turkoglu threw an alley-oop pass, which Bass tried to defend. Howard felt he got fouled on the play but nothing happened.
Needless to say, the fourth quarter was a disaster for Orlando. Moore picked apart the Magic from three-point range, Pierce ran pick-and-pop sets with Bass that could not be contained, and Pierce himself had a field day offensively.
All Orlando could show for themselves was eight points in the period, 25 in the second half, and an ugly loss on the schedule. It was a well-deserved win for the Celtics. On the road no less.
At the end of the day, the Magic got out-coached and outplayed.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.