The Boston Celtics used smart, physical defense to dispatch the Orlando Magic with ease, 120-88, on Saturday night. Orlando never led in the penultimate home game of its season, falling to 12-28 at Amway Center. Celtics center Kevin Garnett put on a clinic, contributing 14 points and nine rebounds on 7-of-8 shooting in just 19 minutes. Six other Celtics scored in double figures.
The Magic used a new starting lineup--their 28th of the season--in order to counteract the Celtics' size up front. Kyle O`Quinn started at power forward to match up against Brandon Bass, shifting Harris down to small forward and Maurice Harkless to shooting guard. The change didn't pay dividends: Boston scored the game's first seven points, prompting Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to burn a timeout less than two minutes into the game. O'Quinn picked up his second foul less than six minutes in, and Vaughn replaced him with Andrew Nicholson, who doesn't offer the same level of strength or rebounding prowess as O'Quinn does.
Orlando didn't scratch until the 8:21 mark of the period when Vucevic tipped in a miss by O'Quinn. The Magic didn't score out of a half-court set until Beno Udrih's driving layup past Avery Bradley at the 6:59 mark, making the score 10-4.
The teams combined for seven turnovers in the game's first seven minutes, but the lack of rhythm didn't slow the Celtics, who made seven of their first 12 shots. Speaking generally, Boston creates high-percentage opportunities for itself, but commits scads of turnovers in the process.
Boston went 2-of-7 to close the first quarter, helping Orlando to get to within six points at 23-17. Vucevic's six points and five boards were key, as was Orlando's 7-of-14 shooting in the painted area.
Once the Celtics got their turnover issues under control, they took over the game. Boston scored on 8 of its first 11 trips of the second quarter and used a 15-0 scoring run to build a 39-21 lead. A driving, left-handed layup and-one by DeQuan Jones, just 11 seconds after he had checked in, ended that run.
Boston built a 57-37 lead at hafltime on the strength of its defense. The Magic shot 32.7 percent in the half, and 4-of-23 (17.4 percent) outside the painted area.
Shot selection played a factor in those poor percentages as well: O'Quinn and Harris in particular took some iffy shots, and Nicholson even tried one with 23 seconds on the shot clock. Given its lack of three-point shooting and inability to draw fouls, Orlando has to be more judicious with its shot selection than some other teams.
Orlando cut Boston's lead to 19 on two occasions in the third quarter, but both times the Celtics mounted a response. The first was a driving, one-handed dunk by Chris Wilcox, a play which sent all the players on Boston's bench into hysterics. The second was an off-balance triple by Avery Bradley. A little more than a minute later, Bradley hit another three to put the Celtics back up by 25, one shy of its largest lead of the night.
After an 0-of-7 start, Harris found the range in the second half, making seven of his next nine shots and reaching the 20-point mark more quickly than any other player on the night. Cynical Magic fans might point out that the game was well out of reach before Harris got it going offensively, but some credit goes to Harris for taking better shots as the game progressed: instead of trying to create force the issue for himself off the dribble, Harris let the game come to him in the second half, with good results.
Harris and Vucevic scored 26 of the Magic's 27 third-quarter points. Udrih had the other point, which came on a technical free throw for a delay-of-game violation.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Jordan Crawford and Courtney Lee gave Boston a 101-70 lead with 7:19 to play. Vaughn used the timeout he called after Lee's basket to get Vucevic and Harris out of the game, letting the team's other youngsters--specifically Nicholson, O'Quinn, Harkless, Doron Lamb, E'Twaun Moore, and Jones--gain some experience in extended garbage-time action. Lee used the opportunity to light up Orlando, which drafted him in 2008 and traded him after one season: he scored 15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, and punctuated his strong night with a one-handed jam on a fast break.
Lamb shot 5-of-5 in the fourth quarter for 11 points in an extended audition for a larger role in 2013/14.