Vince Carter and the Magic scratched and clawed their way into a game they had no business being in after scoring just eight points in the second quarter and being pushed around by the physically dominant Celtics. After trailing by double digits for most of the second half, Orlando cut the lead to three on a Rashard Lewis corner trey.
The little sputter of an offense Orlando desperately found in the fourth quarter was quickly squashed when Ray Allen hit a mid-range jumper off the dribble and gave Boston a five-point lead. Lewis could not hit another three and a forgettable night offensively ended with a 86-77 win for the Celtics.
Neither team was in the Christmas spirit of giving as both defense yielded very little. Orlando shot an icy 33.3 percent (26 for 78) and Boston shot 42.5 percent for the game. Both teams were doing a good job clogging the lane and making their opponents shoot contested jumpers.
Orlando was especially abysmal though as the shooting percentage shows. The Magic had just eight points in the second quarter and saw a 25-20 lead with 7:52 to play in the half turn into a 38-27 deficit at the half. That is a 18-2 run for those too lazy to do the math.
In this stretch the offense is as abysmal as it looks. Orlando dribbled right into Boston’s traps and settled for jumpers. Dwight Howard does not play great against the Celtics’ front line of Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, but he was especially bad today. It was not entirely his fault as they did a good job denying entry passes and kept the ball away from him. But Howard struggled in the paint too, shooting one for seven and scoring only five points.
Orlando stayed down by a good margin for much of the third quarter and relied completely on Vince Carter for its offense.
Carter broke out of his shooting slump with 27 points on 10-for-20 shooting. He attacked the basket and was the only player making anything happen inside of Boston’s defense. Otherwise it was the Celtics imposing their will on the Magic. And Orlando, honestly, looked a little scared of contact. Boston is a great defensive team, so no surprises that there were some offensive struggles.
But the Magic also had a great defensive day. To hold any team to 86 points usually gets you a win. And as much as the Celtics were doing a good job trapping the Magic’s players, the Magic also did a good job forcing the Celtics into bad spots. Boston had 20 turnovers and also struggled offensively.
As bad as Howard was on the offensive end, he continued his strong defensive play. Howard had 20 rebounds to go with four blocks. He did a good job protecting the basket and kept Kevin Garnett off the glass (seven boards) and Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace in foul trouble (each had four). Howard is playing his best defense of the year right now and continued to dominate on that end.
Orlando is not going to have many offensive nights like this one. The team may not have many defensive nights either. But there is no shame in losing to Boston. Yes the Magic have championship aspirations and every game should be a win, but to play as poorly offensively as the Magic did and still have a chance to win is a good sign in late December.