Celtics 102, Magic 98: Boston's Paul Pierce Comes Up Big to Hold Off Orlando Comeback Attempt

April 18, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) drives against Orlando Magic forward/center Glen Davis (11) during the fourth quarter at TD Banknorth Garden. The Celtics won 102-98. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Both the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics came into the game missing several key players, with the Magic missing Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu and the Celtics missing Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and Mickael Pietrus. Boston's Paul Pierce scored 29 points on 9 of 14 shooting, including a long fade-away jumper and two free throws with both coming in the final 10 seconds with the Magic within two points, along with a career-high 14 assists. Guard Avery Bradley tied his career-high with 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting. Former Magic forward Brandon Bass had one of his best career games with 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Glen Davis, after missing a game with a hyperextended knee, had the second highest-scoring game of his career with 27 points on 12 of 16 shooting for the Magic, along with 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Jameer Nelson added 21 points with 9 assists, but shot 7 of 19. All five Magic starters scored in double figures. The 102-98 Celtics' victory clinched the Atlantic Division title for them.

Boston looked to have the game under control as they lead 91-78 following a three-pointer from E'Twaun Moore with 7:16 remaining in the game. Orlando then proceeded to go on a 14-2 run to come within 93-92 with 2:47 remaining after two Ryan Anderson free throws. After a short Pierce jumper put the Celtics ahead 95-92, the Magic had two excellent looks on the ensuing possession at a three-point field goal to tie the game, but J.J. Redick and Nelson both failed to connect. After Boston went ahead 98-92 after two Kevin Garnett free throws with 1:31 remaining, Redick and Davis each scored to pull the Magic within two, but Pierce's clutch field goal and jumper held off the Magic.

The Magic struggled defensively again without Howard defending the low post, as the Celtics shot 54.3% for the game, with Pierce, Bradley, and Bass combining to shoot 26 of 39. Poor free throw shooting also hurt the Magic, as they made just 11 of 20 free throws through three quarters before finishing up 20 of 30 for the game. Meanwhile, the Celtics were a solid 85.2% for the game from the charity stripe as they finished 23 of 27. The Magic also turned the ball over 16 times, which did not help their cause.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 90.2 108.6 50.0% 25.6 39.5 17.7
Celtics 90.2 113.0 56.4% 32.9 10.3 16.6
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Boston started the game out strong, shooting 74% in the first quarter as the Celtics led 33-22 after the opening frame. Pierce was credited with 8 assists in the opening quarter, along with 7 points. Bradley scored 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting, with Pierce assisting him on 3 baskets. Davis scored 12 first-quarter points for the Magic on 6 of 8 shooting.

After being held scoreless for the first 17 minutes of the game, the Magic's Jameer Nelson came to life in the second quarter, scoring 13 points, including 3 three-pointers. Redick scored 7 points in the second quarter, and tied the game with a trey at 47-47 with 2:24 remaining. Pierce scored 6 of the final 8 points in the quarter for the Celtics as they went into halftime with a 55-51 lead. Even though the Magic shot a respectable 50% for the half, that couldn't compare with the Celtics' 62% shooting. Pierce already had a double-double with 13 points, 11 assists. Bradley scored 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Davis led the Magic with 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting.

Boston was able to extend their lead to 67-59 in the third quarter with 6:41 remaining, but the Magic then went on a 9-0 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes at 68-67 when Jason Richardson drilled a three-pointer. The quarter did not end well for the Magic though, as Boston scored the final 10 points with Bass scoring 6 points and Pierce 4 points as the Celtics led 79-70 going into the fourth quarter. The momentum changed in the Celtics' direction when, with the Magic trailing 71-70, reserve forward Earl Clark went driving for a possible slam dunk when Celtics' reserve center Greg Stiemsma blocked Clark's attempt. On the ensuing fast break, Pierce made the short bucket, was fouled, and made the free throw.

Boston completed a 12-0 run after a Kevin Garnett basket to open the fourth quarter made the score 81-70 Celtics, and extended their lead to 91-78 before the Magic's comeback attempt in the final 7:16 fell just short because of the clutch play of Pierce.

After two embarrassing losses earlier this season to Boston, one in which the Magic were held to a franchise-low 56 points and the other where the Magic somehow blew a 27 point lead, the Magic can be proud of their effort against Boston this game. Granted, the Celtics were missing Rondo and Allen, but the Magic were without their three-time reigning defensive player of the year in Howard. The Magic could have easily folded after the Celtics led by 13 points with just over 7 minutes remaining, but they tried valiantly to come back. They dominated Boston on the boards 43-29, including 17-3 offensively.

One thing Magic coach Stan Van Gundy might want to reconsider is his decision to go back to Chris Duhon as the backup point guard to Nelson, with Ish Smith back on the bench. Duhon played 9 minutes, did not score, committed two turnovers, and was a dreadful -16.

Other game notes:

-Ryan Anderson led the Magic with 9 rebounds, but struggled from the field shooting 4 of 11, including 0 for 4 on threes for 12 points. Redick added 13 points and Jason Richardson 11 points.

-Garnett scored 15 points with 9 rebounds.

-Von Wafer led the Magic bench with 6 points, including four points to help in the Magic's final run in the fourth quarter, as the Magic reserves combined for 14 points for the game.

-Reserve center Daniel Orton scored 3 points, along with 4 rebounds, in 5 minutes of play.

-Greg Stiemsma blocked 4 shots in 23 minutes off the Celtics' bench.

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