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Magic Dominate Third Quarter, Overcome 11-Point Second Half Deficit to Down Celtics

Just like they did 10 days ago, the Boston Celtics came out of the gate playing well and had an 11-point third quarter lead, but the Magic, like they did 10 days ago, fought back. Orlando dominated the third period, outscoring the Celtics 36-11 to take a 14-point lead into the final period. Orlando held on late for a 96-89 win. Vince Carter led all scorers with 20 points and Dwight Howard added 16 points and 13 rebounds. Rajon Rondo was excellent for the Celtics – he had 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

Orlando had a bad start early on in the first quarter and when Dwight Howard picked up his second foul with the Magic trailing 16-10, it looked like things were going to get worse, but Jameer Nelson turned up his game. Nelson made three long jumpers, including one three-pointer and dished out three assists as the Magic took the lead with a 9-0 run. The Magic couldn’t hold their lead because of carless turnovers and poor defense. After taking a 19-16 lead, the Celtics got shots from within five feet on four of their next five possessions. The Magic shot the ball very well – they were 10-of-18 from the field and 3-of-6 from downtown with an effective field goal percentage of 63.9%, but their seven turnovers and poor defense in the paint without Dwight Howard allowed the Celtics to take a 24-23 lead as the quarter came to a close.

The game was back and forth for the first half of the second period. The Celtics built their lead up to five early on and the Magic quickly tied it on a three-pointer by Vince Carter and a jumper by Jason Williams. After that Williams jumper, the Celtics ended the quarter on a 17-6 run and took a 51-40 lead into the break. The Magic allowed the Celtics to get hot due once again, to the absence of Dwight Howard, who picked up his third foul with 8:26 to play in the quarter. The driving and passing of Rajon Rondo also played a huge role. Boston was 12-of-24 from the field in the quarter. Rondo had five points and three assists in the period. His biggest highlight was a behind-the-back pass to an open Paul Pierce who hit a three-pointer. Orlando continued to get some pretty good looks but just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Howard played just eight minutes in the first half.

The Magic could not have had a better third quarter. Dwight picked up his fourth foul with 5:58 to play in the quarter and Stan Van Gundy made the decision to leave him in. That proved to be the right choice. Howard had nine points and seven rebounds in the period. Howard went back to the hook shot that worked so well against Kendrick Perkins just 10 days ago. Howard also made another Tim Duncan-esque bank shot. With the Magic trailing 60-51, Orlando really got going. They went on a 19-0 run. The first 12 points of the run were all accounted for by Vince Carter. He made a three-pointer, a three-point play, made an extra pass to get it to Rashard Lewis for three and then hit another three-pointer himself. Carter scored nine points and had three assists in the period. With Boston trailing 70-62, the Magic closed the period by scoring the last six points. Jason Williams got off a shot and drew a foul on Eddie House and hit two free throws to end the quarter. The Magic shot 12-of-17 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the quarter. Boston was just 4-of-17 from the field.

Orlando increased their lead to as large as 17 points early in the fourth quarter and had a 15-point lead with seven minutes remaining in the quarter. That’s when the Celtics started to come back. The Magic seemed to choose to protect their lead rather continuing to play the way they got them the lead. Boston played much smarter on offense and cut Orlando’s lead to as little as five at 94-89 but in what is the norm for the Magic, Rashard Lewis made a big shot. He hit a runner as the shot clock expired to clinch the game and give the Magic a 96-89 win.

This game was won when Orlando stepped up on the defensive end in the second half.

Orlando had a terrible defensive outing in the first half. Boston scored 51 points on 21-of-43 shooting (48.8%) and turned the ball over just three times. In the second half, Boston shot 14-of-40 (35.0%), scored just 38 points and turned the ball over nine times (leading to 11 Magic points).

Dwight Howard was the big difference in the second half. He got into early foul trouble and played just eight minutes in the first half. The Celtics took advantage and went straight to the basket. They got several easy layups and pretty much had their way with the Magic in the paint. With Howard in the game in the second half, Boston could not get those easy baskets. Not only does Howard often block shots (two on Sunday afternoon) and alter several more, but he prevents players like Rajon Rondo, who got into the paint with ease in the first half, from even attempting to attack the rim.

Howard also did his job on the offensive end in the second half. After scoring just two points and grabbing three rebounds in the first half, Howard finished the game with 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. Howard opened up his offense in the third period going back to the hook shot that was so effective in his last battle with Kendrick Perkins and hitting another jump-shot, a Tim Duncan-style bank.

Howard was the only reason that the Magic played so well defensively. Ryan Anderson had several good defensive possessions against Glen Davis in the second half. Anderson did not score but it may have been his best defensive stretch of the season. Plus, he blocked two shots.

Orlando’s offense also came to life in the second half. After a great first quarter shooting-wise (55.6%), the Magic shot just 25% in the second period and had only 40 points at halftime. Orlando scored 56 second half points on 16-of-29 shooting.The Magic also shot 7-of-11 from downtown in the second half and finished the half with an effective field goal percentage of 67.2%. The Magic got to the free throw line 21 times and hit 17 of those attempts in the second half, after going just 6-of-8 in the first half. Orlando’s turnover woes continued in the first half when they gave it up 10 times, but the Magic took care of the ball very well in the second half, turning it over just five times.

Overall, it was a very balanced attack for the Magic on offense. All five starters scored in double figures.

Vince Carter’s struggles have been well-documented but his critics can quiet down for at least a day. Carter was excellent and had what was maybe his most efficient game of the entire season. Carter looked noticeably more energetic, hustled for loose balls, ran down the court to block a shot from behind and even won the battle for a rebound with Kevin Garnett. Carter scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and went 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. He also had three rebounds, three assists and turned the ball over just twice. Carter did a good job of getting to the hoop and best of all, he made better decisions. The Magic don’t need Carter to score 20 or more points per game, they need him to take what’s there, set up his teammates and make smart decisions. Carter did that on Sunday.

Game Notes:

  • The Magic won in the T.D. Banknorth Garden for the third consecutive time.
  • The Magic and Celtics have completed their four-game season series. Orlando took three of the four games and now own tiebreakers with the both the Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks.
  • Jameer Nelson turned the ball over five times but he did have 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting and dished out four assists. His second half defense was also much better.
  • Who is better at Jason Williams at drawing fouls to end the quarter? He did it again in the third quarter Sunday. Williams gave the Magic six points and two assists in 12 minutes.
  • Matt Barnes did all the little things again, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.
  • The Magic had 11 assists and five turnovers in the second half.
  • Surprisingly, no player was given a technical foul, but Boston was issued one for defensive three seconds.
  • As a team, Orlando blocked seven shots – Anderson, Marcin Gotat and Howard each had two while Vince Carter had one.
  • Rashard Lewis continues to be one of the most clutch shooters in the NBA. For the third time in 10 days, he made a huge bucket on a broken play.

Next Up: The Magic head back to Orlando to play host to the Hornets Monday night.

Final Thought: The Magic have to be happy that they have won the season series with both Boston and Atlanta.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)

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