The Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics did what they almost always do – played a back-and-forth game that came down to the wire. Unlike their first meeting on Christmas day, which Orlando won 86-78, it was the Celtics who executed better down the stretch and came away with a 109-106 victory. Dwight Howard was an absolute monster, finishing with 33 points and 13 rebounds while Ray Allen used a huge fourth quarter to lead the Celtics to victory, scoring 26 points for the game.
The Magic used free throws (27-of-36) and the three-point shot (11-of-27) to rally from a 10-point first quarter deficit, cutting the lead to one at halftime and tying the game at the end of the third quarter. The Celtics pushed their lead back to seven at the 7:20 mark but a Ryan Anderson 3-pointer started an 8-0 run that put the Magic on top 95-93. From there, it was back-and-forth. Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu each made three-pointers, with Turkoglu’s giving the Magic a two-point lead with 2:31 to play. Ray Allen answered with a three-pointer of his own before Dwight Howard tied it at the free throw line. Kevin Garnett hit two free throws and after Jameer Nelson’s jumper tied the game, Paul Pierce used his patented move to get a 3-point play. Nelson then threw a pass away and Allen iced the game at the free throw line.
Click “continue reading” for thoughts and observations from the game.
- Dwight Howard was a beast and clearly the best player on the court. The big man exploited his matchups with both Glen Davis and Shaquille O’Neal. He used a variety of moves, including the Tim Ducan-esque bank shot. Howard was 10-of-19 from the field and an impressive 13-of-18 from the free throw line. Howard was not credited with a black for the first time in 45 games, although it appeared as though he blocked a Garnett shot in the first half.
- Orlando’s defense was atrocious. Again. Although, the three-point ball didn’t really fall for them (3-of-10), the Celtics shot an astonishing 60.0% from the field and went 22-of-26 from the free throw line. They finished with 52 points in the paint. Orlando’s poor play on that end of the floor is looking less like a defensive slump and adjustment period to a big problem that could cost them in April and May.
- Orlando’s balance has been well documented and they did have five players in double figures but it was the Celtics who put six players in double figures and had all nine players who played score at least three points.
- Ryan Anderson continued to play well, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. His 14-point first half barrage (5-of-6 from the field, 4-of-5 from beyond the arc) got the Magic back into the game. He also grabbed three key offensive rebounds in the final quarter with one resulting indirectly in a Jason Richardson three-pointer.
- Jason Richardson made some key shots but overall had a very poor an inefficient night, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Richardson could not keep up with Ray Allen as he ran through screens in the final quarter and inexplicably fouled Paul Pierce on his go-to move at the end of the game. Magic fans are questioning the decision to leave J.J. Redick (three points on 1-of-4 shooting in 18 minutes) on the bench when he’s had some success against the Celtics and as done as well guarding Allen as you could possibly ask from him.
- Overall, it was an off-night for several Magic players and their offensive numbers are a little inflated by the performances of Howard and Anderson. I don’t want to completely bag on everyone else because there were several clutch shots, including Nelson’s big jumper that tied the game at 104. Nelson and Turkoglu couldn’t get it going scoring wise but each still did a decent-to-good job getting their teammates involved. Gilbert Arenas also had a couple of nice drive and dishes (a few which resulted in missed shots) but he continues to struggle on the offensive end.
Next Up: The Magic will finally be back home Wednesday night when they host the Philadelphia 76ers.
Final Thought: Magic fans shouldn’t get too down after this loss in what was one of the most entertaining games of the year but their defense is a real issue.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080’s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).