Ladies and gentleman, your Orlando Magic are back. Yes, I said it… BACK. The Magic defeated the Boston Celtics today 86-78 in front of a raucous Christmas day crowd and showed heart and determination that has been deficient in Orlando since the 08-09 Finals team. A week ago, a month ago, a season ago, this team would not have been able to win this type of grind-it-out physical game, but today was a new day and the team responded.
This Magic team had been owned by Boston lately and they took that to heart tonight. Gilbert Arenas noticed the difference and pointed out after the game that there was no joking around like usual and it was all business before the game. The team even had a late meeting before the game in the time that the locker room is normally open to the media. They took it seriously and it showed.
The Magic came out of the gates with a 13-0 during the first 4 and ½ minutes but were immediately countered by a 15-0 run by Boston. The Magic would be coming from behind for the majority of the game and wouldn’t hold a lead from roughly the 5 minute mark of the 2nd quarter all the way until Jameer Nelson (12 points) hit his second huge 3-pointer with 1:19 left in the game.
The Magic were led in scoring by Brandon Bass, who finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds. At halftime, Stan Van Gundy and the Magic players challenged Bass to attack Kevin Garnett when he had the ball and he did just that with 13 strong second half points.
Dwight Howard had a frustrating game offensively and that was exactly how Doc Rivers planned for it to go. The Celtics players attacked Dwight any way possible whether that was by grabbing, poking, slapping or flopping. The C’s had two big bodies with not a lot to contribute except for fouls, but they used those fouls well.
Dwight finished with only 6 points on the night but still found a way to contribute on the defensive end. His 5 blocks, including 3 during the 4th quarter, helped the Magic own the paint and force the Celtics into mostly jumpers. Which was an extremely effective maneuver considering the C’s starting backcourt (Allen and Robinson) shot 5-28 for the game.
The team showed the type of resolve and fight that has been absent for a long time. Every player that was on the court contributed tonight despite the fact that they were not shooting the ball well. Gilbert Arenas even had a big blocked shot during the 4th quarter which seemed to help trigger the defensive stands that would lead the Magic back (Gilbert was also quick to point out during his post game interview that he is 3rd on the team with 13 blocks).
The Celtics were without two key pieces of their team tonight with Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins sidelined, but that should not deter Magic fans from enjoying this victory. Throughout the Celtics previous 14 game winning streak, Rondo had missed 6 of the games and Perk has been out the entire season. This is one of the best, if not the best team in the league and the new look Magic, after being together less than a week, defeated them.
More notes and analysis from tonight’s game after the jump:
- The Magic have played arguably the top 3 teams in the league over the last 3 games and beat two of them (Spurs, Celtics) and were right there against Dallas. There is a lot to look forward to once this team starts to come together but the real challenge is having the guys not get too full of themselves. They definitely have a long way to go still if they are going to be legit title contenders.
- With the win tonight, the Magic became the first team in 13 years to end two 10-plus game winning streaks in consecutive games (Celtics, 14 games and Spurs, 10 games).
- J.J. Redick, along with Ryan Anderson, was once again the first sub(s) off the bench tonight and finished with 11 points on 4-7 shooting. J.J. was also in the game during crunch time at the end and Stan said the reason for that was that he felt most comfortable with J.J. knowing the system on both offense and defense. He responded to being left in by playing shut down defense on Ray Allen (scoreless in the 4th) and hitting a 20’ jumper with 43 seconds remaining that sealed the win.
- With the win, the Magic improved to 5-3 all-time on Christmas day, including a 5-1 home record. The Magic’s lone Christmas day loss came last year to Boston.
I’ll leave you all tonight with a post game quote from Doc Rivers that truly sums up tonight’s game: “Jameer to me willed that game for them tonight. I thought Jameer Nelson, he’s got the biggest heart on the team. He’s just a warrior, and he does it all the time.”
The next game for the Magic is on Monday night in New Jersey. Game time is set for 7pm and will be televised locally on Sun Sports.
Brian Serra is the Vice President of Recaps for Howard the Dunk and founder of MagicBasketballOnline.com. You can follow/add him on Twitter and on Facebook. Compare pricing and find the cheapest tickets for all future Orlando Magic games using TiqIQ.