Orlando Magic, in a cheerier mood, finish off Boston Celtics

With Stan Van Gundy in a happy mood — waving his pom-poms instead of standing on his soapbox — the Orlando Magic held on for an 83-78 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

It was, in some ways, a win reminiscent of the Magic team we all pictured coming into the year — inspired defense by Dwight Howard, timely scoring by Vince Carter (even if it took him 113 shots to do it), efficient production from Rashard Lewis and the best game Mickael Pietrus has played since the summer. The Magic jumped out to a 29-13 lead, something that has become a habit against the Celtics in games the Magic win, and were able to withstand a furious Celtics comeback that culminated by them tying the game at 78-78 with 2:54 to play.

The Celtics didn’t score again, though, and Vince Carter put the Magic ahead for good with a contested mid-range fadeaway, the ultimate shot that makes you yell “No!” before it goes in.

After Carter’s go-ahead jumper, the Magic didn’t score on their next two possessions. But with tenacity and focus on the defensive end, the Magic stopped the Celtics on their final five possessions and preserved the victory on the strength of their — yes, finally — defense. No wonder Stan Van Gundy’s so happy.

  • Three seconds

    1. Dwight Howard scored only 9 points, but he made his presence felt on the defensive end. Not unexpectedly, Howard had trouble scoring against two premier Dwight stoppers, Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace. Howard went 2-for-4 from the field for just nine points, his worst per-minute scoring output of the season. But don’t let that distract you from the otherwise marvelous game Howard put together. He controlled the boards (15 rebounds), blocked shots (3 blocks), and didn’t get into foul trouble. The Celtics shied away from entering the basket-zone with Howard in the game, and it shows in the following breakdown, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information.

    Howard in the game Howard out of the game
    FG% 20-67 (29.8%) 10-20 (50%)
    FG% in paint 13-33 (39.4%) 6-9 (66.7%)
    Points in paint 26 12
    Net points Magic by 14 Boston by 9

    2. Vince Carter carried the team to a victory, but he was certainly inefficient. Carter scored a game-high 26 points and hit the game-winning shot, and that can’t be ignored in a game of this magnitude. But overall, Carter used 37 possessions (29 shots, four free-throws, six turnovers) to score 26 points, a ratio that Zach Randolph wouldn’t even be proud of. With the way Howard couldn’t sniff the basket, and with Jameer Nelson missing with a knee injury, a lot of responsibility fell on Carter to handle the scoring load — and he did just that, firing from anywhere and everywhere, often early in the shot clock. His shot chart looks like that of an entire team:

    3. The Magic held the Celtics to an offensive rating of 83.8; they came into the game with a rating of 107.2. Certainly, in addition to Howard, you must credit every player of the Magic with working on defense and constantly being where they need to be. Their rotations were perfect and their on-ball defense was suffocating as a team, as it seemed the Celtics had an incredible amount of difficulty getting to the rim.

  • What to like Finally, the Magic have a win they can hang their hat on. It’s been a pretty tumultuous first 13 games for a 10-3 team — even with all the stuff Orlando’s been through, they still have the NBA’s second-best record. Part of that can be attributed to a fairly easy schedule, and part of that can be attributed to a resiliency that this team formed over the second half of last season. Jason Williams played another solid game in the absence of Jameer Nelson, posting seven points, six assists, four steals and two turnovers in 33 minutes. He knows his role so well, staying out of the way and getting the ball to Orlando’s playmakers. The same kudos go to Pietrus, who went 4-for-4 from three-point range. We’ve been waiting for Pietrus to wake up from his offensive slumber all season long, and he finally did tonight.
  • What not to like Really, you can’t say a bad word about any players specifically. But looking at the game closely, the Magic were up by 16 points early in the game and had a chance to put it away. Granted, you’re not going to run the Celtics off their own court, but you’d like the Magic to keep the Celtics from tying it up late in the game.
  • Magic number: The Celtics shot 10.5 percent from three-point range on Wednesday night, compared to 37.5 percent during the first 12 games.
  • Up next: The Magic visit the Raptors on Sunday for another day game, this one at 12:30. Three weeks ago the Magic played at 1 p.m. on a Sunday in Toronto. Hedo Turkoglu has been nursing an injury, but he’s expected to play on Sunday.
  • Philip Rossman-Reich

    About Philip Rossman-Reich

    Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily