Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY
The Magic had an uphill battle the entire game after falling behind early. There were mistakes made — plenty of missed shots at the rim and stagnant offense — and the fight to come back and win the game.
When push came to shove though, and execution mattered, having veterans like Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass mattered most. They ran the pick and roll several times during an 6-0 run to turn a two-point lead into an eight-point lead late in the game and force the Magic into desperation mode.
Orlando was not getting the stops late in the game as Boston went on to shoot 50 percent from the floor and the chance to win slipped from the team's fingers late.
Bass scored twice in the final two minutes and finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Rajon Rondo looked the best he probably has since returning from injury on his way to 19 points and 10 assists on 9-for-11 shooting, hitting a few jumpers with Victor Oladipo and the Magic playing off him to prevent drives to the basket.
The late-game push was enough for the Celtics to hold on for a 96-89 win over the Magic at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.
Orlando, playing without Jameer Nelson because of a sore knee, struggled at the beginning of the game, fell behind early and were playing catch up the rest of the game.
Boston never quite pulled away. The Celtics led by 8-12 points for much of the first half and into the third quarter. Orlando made the push to come back, but the slow start set the tone and the inability to get stops built up to make this a tough task for Orlando.
The Magic shot 41.3 percent from the floor and committed 14 turnovers for 18 Celtics points. In the first half, Orlando's offense was very stagnant as the team watched Glen Davis try to operate in the post. The team's drives to the rim were contested and met by players rushing through their shots to get the ball into the basket.
It was an extreme struggle for the Magic. The score reflected that. But the Celtics could not pull away.
Things got better for the Magic. You did not have to look any further than Glen Davis' stat line for evidence of that. Davis was 1 for 6 for four points and no rebounds in the first half. He ended the game with 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting.
The Magic's ball movement and ability to finish in the paint were much different in the second half. They seemed much more composed and willing to pass when the defense came up to stop them. Oladipo especially struggled with this as he got to the rim numerous times in the game, but could not get the ball to fall through. He had 12 points on 3-for-16 shooting.
Orlando's passing generally got better as the game went on, but the team had just 18 assists on 33 field goals. That is not a recipe for success for this Magic team with the way they are able to play offense. This was not a game the Magic were likely to win unless that stat changed.
When it finally did in the fourth quarter, Orlando made its comeback and really threatened Boston's lead.
The young group that included Doron Lamb, Kyle O'Quinn and Maurice Harkless made the biggest push in the fourth quarter. Harkless scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench. He too missed several shots at the rim, but never let that phase him on his way to a solid game in the end.
You could say that about too many players in this game. There were a lot of players who ended up putting in nice statistical performancesbut struggled at the beginning.
Arron Afflalo had his consistent 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting, but aside from him, the first half was a struggle for most and teh second half was a desperate push to get back into the game. Orlando was good enough to get close, but not good enough to finish.
That seems like a common refrain in these games. Too common.