Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
The Orlando Magic played a hard-fought game against the Boston Celtics but came up short, losing 102-98.
With the score at 98-96 and the Celtics trying to hold on for the victory, after Glen Davis stole a pass from Avery Bradley and converted a dunk on the previous possession to make it a one-possession game for the Magic, Paul Pierce made a clutch jumper on the next trip down that essentially won the game.
After Davis’ dunk, head coach Doc Rivers wisely didn’t call a timeout so that he didn’t allow head coach Stan Van Gundy to set up Orlando’s defense and possibly adjust the personnel on the floor to best prepare for whatever play Boston was going to run.
Instead, the Celtics put the ball in Pierce’s hands and let him go to work. Boston ran a 3/5 pick-and-roll with Pierce and Garnett, The Magic switched on the play, which meant that instead of Quentin Richardson guarding Pierce, it was Davis that had to try and stop him. Davis hounded Pierce on the right wing. And with Pierce stumbling momentarily, almost losing control of the basketball, as well as the shot clock winding down, it seemed like Orlando was going to get the stop that they needed.
Unfortunately for the Magic, Pierce regained his footing, went to his left while simultaneously creating room for himself, and made a free-throw line extended jumper off the dribble with Davis unable to contest the shot.
If you’ve watched Pierce play over the years, you’ll know that’s probably his favorite shot to go to in crunch time.
After Jameer Nelson made a floater off the dribble to cut the deficit back to two points for Orlando on the ensuing possession, Pierce made two free-throws to ice the game.
Crazy as it may sound, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the Magic lost to Boston — again. Why?
With the loss, Orlando remains 1 game back of the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 36-26. When you consider that the Hawks swept the season series and own the tiebreaker, the Magic are actually 2 games back of Atlanta for the No. 5 seed.
Consider this question: if you’re Orlando, who would you rather face in the first round of the playoffs? The Indiana Pacers or Celtics?
Although the Pacers are 40-22, have won 15 of their last 19 games, and all but locked up the No. 3 seed in the East, the Magic are capable of springing a first round upset against Indiana as opposed to Boston. Especially if Dwight Howard is available to play in the postseason (Hedo Turkoglu is expected to be back in time for the playoffs). The NBA is all about matchups and Orlando matches up favorably with the Pacers.
If you like to look farther ahead, not only would the Magic draw Indiana in the first round as a No. 6 seed but the Miami Heat loom on that side of the playoff bracket, too. If Orlando were able to get past the Pacers, there’s no question they would have a puncher’s chance against the Heat. But again, that is contingent on Dwight being healthy and able to play.
If Dwight is unable to play in the postseason, then throw out all the hypotheticals out the window.
However, it’s still intriguing to think about.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Pierce is a proverbial Magic killer. It’s no surprise, then, that he put up a career-high 14 assists to go along with his 29 points (9-for-14 shooting from the floor and 11-for-12 shooting from the free-throw line) and five rebounds.
In his second game back in Boston this season, Davis had a much better game compared to his first go-around. In fact, he was tremendous and helped keep Orlando in striking distance throughout the game.
That Was … Predictable
The Magic played with as much energy and effort as humanly possible against the Celtics. That garnered praise from Van Gundy after the game. Nevertheless, it still wasn’t enough to beat Boston.