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Celtics 96, Magic 89: Boston narrowly snaps losing streak

Orlando drew to within a point in the fourth quarter, but couldn't re-take the lead from a balanced Boston team.

Jared Sullinger and Glen Davis
Jared Sullinger and Glen Davis
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic couldn't match the Boston Celtics' balanced offensive attack on Super Bowl Sunday, falling by a 96-89 final for their 11th straight road loss.

Starting in place of the injured Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo struggled to run Orlando's offense, finishing with 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting from the field. Nik Vučević tallied a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double, and Arron Afflalo scored 18 to lead the Magic.

Jared Sullinger led a balanced Celtics squad with 21 points and 12 rebounds of his own. Rajon Rondo scored a season-best 19 points with nine assists.

The Magic struggled to create offense in the first quarter, with only three different players making baskets. Tobias Harris got off to a promising start, going 3-of-3 from the floor for seven points before picking up his second personal foul and sitting for the remainder of the period.

Former Magic big man Brandon Bass scored nine points in the opening period to help Boston build a 27-19 lead. His ability to score quickly inside off feeds from the Celtics' guards bedeviled Orlando defenders, as did his deceptively effective first step.

Rondo continued his strong game in the second period, scoring nine points to tie his season-high of 13 at halftime. Orlando followed the scouting report on the veteran point guard by going under him on screens and daring him to shoot, but Rondo converted those jumpers at a significantly higher rate than his career average. Sullinger's work inside also gave Boston a lift, scoring 12 with six boards in just 18 minutes. With Orlando's offense continuing to flounder--apart from Afflalo, whose aggressiveness and ability to draw fouls benefitted him--Boston built a 54-45 lead at intermission

After Rondo picked up his fourth personal foul, the Magic responded by going on a 6-1 run to cut their deficit to four points. The Celtics' halfcourt offense looked lost without the four-time All-Star at the helm, missing bad shots and committing silly turnovers--including two travels--to let Orlando back into the game. A triple from Oladipo at the 4:02 mark of the third brought Orlando within three points, but Boston answered with an Avery Bradley layup to force a Magic timeout.

Boston re-took control with a 6-0 scoring run of its own, and Vučević did his part by inadvertently tipping in a Kris Humphries miss for Boston.

Trailing by seven entering the fourth quarter, the Magic squandered three chances by committing turnovers on each of their first three possessions: facing that deficit on the road with just 12 minutes to play, the Magic simply don't have a large enough margin of error to allow for miscues of that nature.

But the Magic responded by using an energetic and unconventional lineup with E'Twaun Moore and Doron Lamb at the guards, Maurice Harkless and Kyle O'Quinn at the forwards, and Glen Davis in the pivot. That group ground Boston's lead down to three points before coach Jacque Vaughn reloaded with his starters for the stretch run.

A big put-back score by Davis in traffic brought Orlando to within two, but Boston rebounded nicely from there: Rondo drilled a jumper, Jeff Green canned a three-pointer, and then Vučević turned the ball over on a moving screen. Off that last play, Bass drained a long jumper over the hard-closing Oladipo to put the Celtics up eight points with 1:22 to go, nearly putting the game out of reach.

Davis kept Orlando in the game by drilling a three-pointer--his fourth of the season and 10th of his career--from the top of the arc to bring the Magic within five points. After a Magic stop and a timeout, O'Quinn's lob pass to a wide-open Oladipo at the rim sailed too high for the rookie to control cleanly. The Celtics took possession with the game in hand.