Arron Afflalo tallied 20 points and 13 rebounds for his first double-double since joining the Magic. Tobias Harris added 18 points and seven rebounds of his own, and Jameer Nelson scored 16 with 10 assists.
Jeff Green led the Celtics with 22 points, while Kris Humphries added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Rajon Rondo, in his second appearance of the season following ACL surgery, played 21 minutes and contributed six points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Orlando got off to a sluggish start: after making its first two field-goal attempts, it missed its next nine, allowing Boston to build a 16-6 lead until Afflalo drilled a three-pointer to break that slump. Boston's pressure defense kept the Magic from getting good looks, and Orlando didn't move the ball side-to-side nearly enough to force the Celtics to react.
Kyle O'Quinn checked in during that slump and made an impact for the Magic, tallying seven points, four rebounds, a steal, and a block in his six-minute stint. Though he didn't affect the net score--Boston led by eight points when O'Quinn entered and when the quarter ended--he nonetheless gave Orlando a physical presence on the glass: the second-year big man got four of an available 13 rebounds all by himself. He also gave the Magic's guards a great roll target out of pick-and-roll sets.
The Magic played with greater energy in the second period, with the result of their first possession--a wide-open corner triple from E'Twaun Moore--typifying the activity level on most of their subsequent touches. On this play, the ball rotated to O'Quinn at the top of the key, and he rifled a pass to Afflalo cutting backdoor from the left corner to the hoop. Boston rotated to Afflalo to take away the layup, but he found Moore in the right corner for three. The Magic, in other words, leveraged the Celtics' aggressiveness against them, and it worked.
A three-point play from Victor Oladipo at the 7:02 mark of the second period put the home team up by a point, giving it its first lead since the score was 4-2 for all of 17 seconds in the first quarter. The Magic built their lead to five when Harris drew a transition foul on Jared Sullinger and converted two foul shots; Orlando's ability to push the pace off its own stops paid dividends, as did the fact that the Magic put Boston in the penalty less than six minutes into the period.
All told, the Magic outscored Boston in the second, 35-20, to take a seven-point lead into the locker room. Orlando's defense tightened up to turn the game around, limiting the Celtics to 8-of-23 shooting. Curiously, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn used only seven players in the first half, leaving the likes of Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson on the bench, with O'Quinn and Moore as his only subs.
Both teams got off to sluggish starts in the third quarter, combining for just 11 points on 4-of-20 shooting from the floor in the opening six minutes. Nelson committed three turnovers while trying to thread the needle to roll men, further adding to Orlando's offensive woes.
The Celtics, for their part, worked their way back in the game by putting Rondo in the post and trying to draw extra defenders to him. When Rondo's minutes limit forced him out of the game, Boston went back to a more traditional offense, and Humphries made Orlando's defense pay for leaving him open: he drained three long two-point jumpers in a 13-0 Celtics run, the last of which shots prompted Vaughn to burn a 20-second timeout.
Harris ultimately snapped the Magic's six-minute, 38-second scoreless drought with a lefty finish over Humphries inside; as difficult as it is to believe, the ensuing free throw brought the Magic to within one.
After Vaughn used that 20-second timeout, the Magic surrendered only three points the rest of the period and closed with a 66-64 lead. Nelson's step-back triple with 33 seconds to play served as the go-ahead basket. Given the prolonged scoring drought Orlando suffered, it certainly had to count itself lucky to hold that edge.
A fast-break layup by Avery Bradley put Boston ahead by three with 8:06 to play, but Afflalo answered in short order by drilling his second three-pointer of the game to even the score.
Afflalo made another key play moments later when he properly read Boston's hard trap as he came off a screen on the left side of the floor in floppy action. He immediately fed Davis diving to the rim for a two-handed slam to give the Magic an 80-79 lead with 5:09 to play.
The seventh-year swingman continued his strong play by drawing a foul on Green and converting two foul shots, and then finding Davis for another layup just one possession later. That basket put Orlando up by three points.
With 1:16 to play, Rondo curled off a baseline screen and rattled in a jumper off a Green feed to put Boston ahead by an 89-87 margin, its first lead since Rondo's previous basket gave it a one-point lead with 5:58 to play.
Afflalo answered out of a Magic timeout with a brilliant play, getting his shoulders past Green on the drive--Green had cheated off him a bit to account for Nelson driving to the baseline, and once Afflalo caught the ball, Green closed out too aggressively--and scooping the ball in to re-tie the score. Davis hauled in an errant Rondo jumper on Boston's next play and Nelson drew a foul on Sullinger as he drove the lane. Orlando's co-captain drilled both free throws to put Orlando up two with 35.3 to go.
Boston responded with an even better play as Green found himself open under the rim for a layup, plus the foul on Afflalo. Green, who had made 13 of his previous 14 free throws in the game, missed the and-one opportunity and the rebound squirted loose. Orlando collected the carom and called for time before the Celtics could force a held-ball call, much to the chagrin of Boston coach Brad Stevens.
Nelson's three-point try on Orlando's ensuing possession bounced off wide right, but Humphries fouled Harris as the two bigs jostled for rebounding position. As Orlando had worked its way into the bonus, the foul meant two free throws for Harris. He converted both to give Orlando the lead. Boston would have possession with 10.1 seconds to go.
The Magic's defense suffocated Boston on its final possession, with Bradley unable to even get a shot off before time expired.