Paul Pierce has done this a million times. Early in games, late in games, in the middle, it does not matter when. Pierce knows exactly how to finish things off and how to brush off any failures. When he stepped into a wide-open 3-pointer with 2:10 left in overtime to break a 108-108 tie, it was old hat for him.
For the Magic, it is not quite second nature to win these close games.
The following possession, Glen Davis got the ball in the middle of the paint, could not free himself up for a shot and ended up dribbling back out to the perimeter. Seeing the shot clock winding down, Davis quickly went back into scoring mode and had to get a shot up quickly. His wild hook shot was no good.
Rajon Rondo, used to big moments himself and setting others up for such opportunities, faked the Magic defense and found a wide open lane for a layup and a five-point lead. Orlando was chasing points from there and could not catch Boston this last time. A strong third quarter and another big rally fell short this time at home as the Celtics won 116-110 in overtime, ending the Magic's two-game win streak.
"That was definitely winnable. We put ourselves in a position to win. We just didn’t close," Jameer Nelson said. "It’s not on any one person, we just have to go out there together and really just be focused and execute. That’s what they did toward the end of the game in fourth quarter and overtime. They executed the hell out of their plays and every play."
Orlando had its chances in this one. A messed up play coming on an inbounds did not help and was a sign of the execution struggles the team had coming down the stretch. Jameer Nelson though, despite all the trouble, still came free ast the top of the key with 15.9 seconds left and a three-point deficit. Nelson said he was a little more open than he expected and jumped off balance because of that.
The final chance for the Magic to secure the victory fell by the wayside and the Celtics hung on.
The Magic were able to fight and claw at every point in this game, erasing a 10-point halftime deficit behind Jameer Nelson's 12-point third quarter and overcoming 17 offensive rebounds turned into 21 second-chance points, but the Celtics had that answer they needed to win.
When Orlando seemingly took the lead and was looking to pull away in the fourth quarter, Boston got a big shot from Kevin Garnett or an offensive rebound from Brandon Bass to help keep the team in the game.
The Celtics had seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, converting them into seven second chance points (on 3-for-7 shooting mind you). Each one seemed to be killer as the Magic tried desperately to hold onto the lead. None moreso than the one on the final possession when Glen Davis lost the ball of his knee following a Garnett miss, giving Boston the final possession.
Again, a lack of execution and the inability to finish offensive and defensive possessions seemed to be the theme for the Magic as the seconds ticked away.
"I would say they [executed better at the end]," J.J. Redick said. "We had our chances. And in overtime, we had a couple just bad possessions offensively. We’ll learn from that.
"This is a new group and, for the most part, those guys have been together for a while. They had J[ason] Terry in at the end of the game, he’s obviously a guy who has been in this situation before and has won a lot of games for Dallas. You can talk about experience or execution, they just executed better than us at the end."
Nelson finished with 20 points, but shot only 3 for 8 from beyond the arc and added only two assists before fouling out late in the overtime period. Arron Afflalo had 15 points and seven assists, but was 8 for 17 from the floor. Glen Davis, who said he puts the loss on his shoulders, scored 15 points thanks for a 9-for-10 effort from the foul line, but made only three of his 12 shots to go with seven rebounds. J.J. Redick had 21 points off the bench to lead Orlando.
Early on, it was Boston's conversion off of Orlando's mistakes and offensive rebounding that spelled trouble. The Celtics scored 23 points off of the Magic's 19 turnovers and scored 60 points in the paint. Orlando was unable to make the same adjustments to cut off the paint scoring that the team did Friday against Cleveland.
It proved to be a big factor in the gmae as Jared Sullinger had six offensive rebounds and Brandon Bass had five — helping him score 13 points albeit on 5-for-14 shooting — for the Celtics.
Orlando still clearly has work to do to win some of these close games, particularly against some of the NBA's better, more experienced teams.
If youth really was the reason the Magic ended up losing this game, Jacque Vaughn took it as a learning experience for his team. No loss is good, as J.J. Redick said, but it was a lesson in the importance of familiarity and execution at the end of games.
"This is a great experience for us," Jacque Vaughn said. "We had guys contribute off the bench. Josh [McRoberts] came in and played some great minutes for us in regulation and overtime. It’s a great sign to see guys wanting to play and wanting to play for each other and contribute. We’ll put it all together."