Dwight Howard pumps up his Magic teammates in the huddle before Orlando's game against Boston on Sunday. The Magic held on to deal the Celtics their first loss of the season, 104-102.
Photo by Fernando Medina, NBAE/Getty Images
Can anyone doubt the Orlando Magic are for real? We dealt the high-and-mighty Celtics their first loss in a hotly-contested game on our home floor. Here's the boxscore.
Our starting five came out gunning against the Celtics, which helped us jump out to an early lead. Keith Bogans scored 7 of his 10 points in the first quarter. Jameer Nelson was similarly keyed-in, dishing 4 of his 6 assists in the period. We lead by 11 at the end of the first and by 17 at halftime, and it appeared as though we had the game in-hand.
But the Celtics came roaring back, lead by Paul Pierce's 15 third-quarter points. By my unofficial count, Boston was a blistering 14-of-18 in the third period. Meanwhile, we couldn't get anything going offensively. Despite the fact that we held a 7-point lead going into the final quarter, Boston held a distinct edge in momentum.
We traded baskets with the Celtics for much of the final period before they took their first lead of the game, courtesy of a James Posey three-pointer. But we took of the Celtics' being in the penalty, and hit our free throws down the stretch. Hedo Turkoglu, who was having a bad game, nailed two key three-pointers with under 5 minutes to play. The Celtics had no choice but to foul for much of the rest of the game. Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis converted their free throws, and the Magic held on for the victory.
The teams were evenly matched, at least statistically. The Celtics shot 53%, while the Magic shot 50%; the Celtics shot 25% from three-point range, the Magic shot 25%; the Celtics shot 69% from the foul line, the Magic shot 70%. The real difference was turnovers. Boston coughed the ball up 20 times for 17 Orlando points. We committed 14 turnovers for 14 Boston points. That's a +3 points-off-turnovers differential in a game we won by 2 points.
Obviously, we're happy with the victory. But at the end of the season, it's not going to matter that we won this game. It will only matter if we win a title. So let's not get too carried away with this win. We face the 9-2 Hornets in New Orleans tomorrow night. They may be without Chris Paul, their franchise player, but that only means more playing time for career Magic-killer Jannero Pargo. So we have to look out for that.
I'd like to give a final shout-out to Keith Bogans for playing stellar defense on Ray Allen, who shot just 7-of-17 from the field for 19 points. Without his efforts, we might not have won this game.
- James Augustine got the first non-garbage-time minutes of his career, subbing in for Dwight Howard in the first quarter. Auggie got the call over Adonal Foyle because Stan Van Gundy thought he would be a better match against Brian Scalabrine, the perimeter-oriented Celtics center.
- Rajon Rondo, the Celtics point guard who shot just .418 from the field in his rookie season, made all of his shots in the first half. He finished 8-of-9.
- Dwight Howard needed only 9 shots to score 24 points, thanks to plenty of free-throw attempts. He was just 10-of-20 at the line.
- Trevor Ariza was called upon to defend Kevin Garnett for parts of the game.
- On one third-quarter possession, Rashard Lewis had the ball matched up against Kevin Garnett, an NBA All-Defensive Team selection in each of the past 7 seasons. Lewis spun around Garnett, exploded to the basket, and dunked with one hand.
- Dwight Howard, who entered the game leading the NBA in rebounding at 15.0 per game, grabbed only 6 boards tonight. The Magic were outrebounded 41-28.