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Celtics Hold Off Magic, Take 1-0 Series Lead


It was too little, too late for the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday afternoon. The Magic couldn’t complete a 20-point rally, falling to the Boston Celtics 92-88. Vince Carter led the Magic with 23 points while Jameer Nelson added 20. Ray Allen scored a game-high 25 points for the Celtics.

NBA Stats



The Magic put themselves in a terrible position early on. They played pretty well on defense early in the game, but they just couldn’t score. They shot just 34.2% from the field in the first half, including a 4-of-20 first quarter. They missed all nine of their 3-point attempts and turned the ball over 12 times (leading to 13 Boston points). The Celtics didn’t play much better on the offensive end but Rajon Rondo did a good job of getting out in transition and finding his teammates. The Celtics had 11 fast break points in the first half and Rondo had five assists. The Celtics had a nine-point lead at the break.

The Magic started the second half on an 8-2 run with Jameer Nelson scoring all eight points and the Magic started to look more like the team we have been used to seeing over the past month and a half. The Celtics immediately responded with a 22-5 that run that pushed the margin to 20. The Magic played much better in the fourth quarter and made several key stops but despite scoring 30 fourth quarter points, the Magic missed some golden opportunities that could have put them in position to win the game. After a Ray Allen 3-pointer gave Boston an 11-point lead with 5:33 to play, the Celtics were stuck on 88 until Paul Pierce was followed with 12 seconds left in the game. Pierce and Ray Allen made all four of their free throws and despite a fancy missed free throw that was put-back by Nelson; the Magic couldn’t complete their comeback. J.J. Redick and Rashard Lewis missed a few pretty good looks from the outside and the Magic couldn’t capitalize on a few other chances that would have put them in a position to win in the last three to four minutes of the game.

The Celtics did an excellent job of forcing turnovers but the Magic made unforced errors that helped them unravel in the second and third quarters. Several times a Magic played would get into the paint only to throw the ball away on an attempt to find an open shooter.

“I think the biggest problem on the offensive end was clearly the turnovers,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said following the game. “We’re not going to give ourselves a chance to win with 18 turnovers.  So we have got to handle the ball better against them.”

Orlando also blew some rotations on the defensive end that led to open shots for the Celtics.

But this game wasn’t all about what Orlando did wrong – it was more about what Boston did right, especially on the defensive end. Boston’s ability to successfully single-cover Dwight Howard – he was held to just 13 points 3-of-10 shooting – gave them the ability to stay on Orlando’s shooters, who went just 5-of-22 from beyond the arc.

“I think that, you know, they pretty much guarded everyone one-on-one,” Van Gundy told reporters. “I think we weren’t able to score one-on-one.”

The Magic have made it a point to get to the paint in the series and they did a prety good job of getting to the basket in game 1 but the Celtics would not allow the Magic to finish once they got to the rim. The Magic had 44 points in the paint but shot just 22-of-42 in the paint.

“We got the ball into the paint,” Van Gundy said. “We weren’t real efficient down there. We got into the paint and turned the ball over.”

Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were excellent for the Celtics. The duo combined for 47 points, shot 14-of-24 from the field, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and made 15 free throws. Every time Orlando threatened, it seemed one of these two veterans had an answer.

During Orlando’s fourth quarter run, they used their normal starting lineup with a few exceptions. Matt Barnes was out of the game because his back rendered him ineffective. J.J. Redick came into the game and Vince Carter slid to the 3. At first glance, it looked like the Magic were sacrificing defense for offense, but that unit held the Celtics without a field goal over the last five minutes and 33 seconds of the game. Redick did a very good job of getting to the basket and made plays for his teammates while Carter hustled throughout the game, hit some big shots and grabbed some key rebounds.

“That’s probably our most offensively skilled lineup in terms of being able to have everybody handling the ball, running pick-and-rolls and things like that,” Van Gundy explained.  “I thought we were able to execute offensively a little bit better with him in the game.

Now the question becomes, how often do you use this lineup?

Game Notes:

  • The loss snapped an eight-game playoff winning streak for the Magic.
  • The Magic are now 11-12 all time in Game 1’s.
  • The Magic scored 30 fourth quarter points, which is the most they have scored in the fourth quarter this postseason.
  • Orlando actually held the rebounding advantage (45-38) and the advantage second chance points (19-7).
  • Jameer Nelson had an impressive line rebounding-wise: nine total rebounds with four coming on the offensive glass.
  • 88 points was a postseason low for the Magic.

Next Up: The Magic will host the Celtics in Game 2 Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Final Thought: Relax. It’s not time for Magic fans to panic yet – they just need a few simple adjustments and fans should know by now to trust Van Gundy to make them. Just ask J.J. Redick.

“We know what we have to do to play with these guys,” Redick told reporters after the game.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and on Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).