Magic survive Celtics’ fourth-quarter rally

Magic 86, Celtics 79 With Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett out of the lineup, the Magic used a stifling defensive perofrmance to build a 20-point first-half lead in a 86-79 win over the Celtics. The Magic were able to hold on despite 17 fourth-quarter points from Ray Allen, who missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final minute. Under normal circumstances, we’d be ecstatic about a road-win against the defending champs – but you could tell that the Celtics lack a certain edge without two of their starters. Even with Dwight Howard battling foul trouble, the Magic were able to pound the Celtics in the first half, building a lead that would be too much for Boston to overcome. If the Magic couldn’t beat the Celtics today, they were never going to beat the Celtics. Feed him During the last five minutes of the fourth quarter – you know, when the Magic were getting dominated and watching the clock to see if the Celtics had enough time to come back – Dwight Howard barely saw the ball. He took one field goal, which was a desperate hook shot as the shot clock was expiring. Instead of feeding their franchise player, the Magic did the following before the Celtics started fouling:

4:30 79-68 ORL Courtney Lee missed 3-pt. Jump Shot 4:07 82-70 ORL Hedo Turkoglu made 3-pt. Jump Shot 3:40 82-72 ORL Rafer Alston missed Jump Shot 3:07 82-75 ORL Dwight Howard missed Hook Shot 2:33 82-75 ORL Rashard Lewis missed Jump Shot 2:01 82-77 ORL Hedo Turkoglu missed Jump Shot 1:41 82-77 ORL Rafer Alston missed Jump Shot 1:02 82-79 ORL Rafer Alston missed 3-pt. Jump Shot Eight possessions, 1-8 FG, 3 points

That’s seven jump shots, most of which weren’t even good looks. I know the Magic are a finesse team built around the big guy in the middle and a collection of jump-shooters, but they have to make an effort to take the ball to the rim. It’s not like Kevin Garnett was waiting in the paint for any potential slashers. Some praise for Hidayet Hedo Turkoglu did a masterful job on Paul Pierce, who turned in the worst performance against the Magic that I can remember. Pierce scored just 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting, and he turned the ball over six times. Turkoglu – and Mickael Pietrus, too – did a good job of keeping Pierce away from the basket. 13 of his 15 shots were jumpers, and he made only four of them. Congrats, Cavs With this current slide by the Celtics, it’s all but certain that the Cleveland Cavaliers will head into the playoffs with the top seed in the East (barring a LeBron injury, of course). This is not good news for the Magic. There’s not a Magic fan out there who would rather play the Celtics than the Cavs. I have confidence that the Magic could top the Cavs – something I’ll get into later – if things fell the right way. But it appears that Boston will be waiting for the Magic in the second round. That’s assuming, of course, that Detroit doesn’t snag the sixth seed and upset the Magic in the first round. A new look: Dwight + Marcin Stan Van Gundy unveiled a look we’ve never seen from the Magic: Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat on the floor at the same time. It was in the second quarter, and it worked well: the Magic outscored the Celtics by 11 points while the pair was on the floor. Granted, it was against mostly Celtics backups, but it gives opponents something else to look at on film. And it’s always nice to see this on the play-by-play:

6:22 37-21 ORL Dwight Howard made Turnaround Jump Shot, Assist Marcin Gortat

Magic’s best: You can’t really pinpoint one guy on the team – nobody really played poorly and nobody played out of their mind, either. It was a fantastic team effort on defense, led by Dwight Howard’s five blocks. Magic’s worst: It’s official – Tony Battie is clearly behind Marcin Gortat in the big-man rotation. Battie, who got a DNP-CD on Tuesday against Phoenix, probably wouldn’t have seen the floor if Howard didn’t get into foul trouble. Telling stat: The Magic had nine steals and nine blocks, compared to two and two for the Celtics. The Magic were pestering the ball all night, and you could tell the Celtics were missing the stability of Rondo at point guard. Defending Dwight: Like the previous two meetings, the Celtics didn’t double-team Howard when Perkins was in the game. It was mostly effective, as Perkins is able to keep Howard off the glass and shooting hooks going away from the basket. Howard made 6 of 13 shots and shot just six free throws (making all six of them). Whenever Glen Davis or Mikki Moore found themselves on Dwight’s backside, the Celtics would “soft double team” meaning they’d wait for Dwight to get into his move before making the switch. Photo courtesy of NBA.com

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

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