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Orlando chokes, breathes new life into Boston’s season

Jan 27, 2012, 12:40 AM EDT

Kevin Garnett Getty Images

Boston was having serious trouble finding itself this season — they looked old and the talk was about what was the best way to rebuild — but now there is hope.

Hope because twice this week the pressure of Boston’s defense turned the Orlando Magic into jelly. The first was a Boston 31-point blowout Monday where Orlando set a franchise record for fewest points scored.

Then Thursday night the Magic took charge of the game in the first quarter, led by as many as 27, were cruising along in the third quarter…

And then fell apart. Boston went on a 44-15 run to end the game, Orlando scored 8 points on 12 percent shooting in the fourth quarter in the face of that Celtics defense, and the Celtics roared back to an improbable 91-83 win.

The final 18 minutes of this game were stunning. Vintage Kevin Garnett showed up and played Dwight Howard to a standstill, allowing the focal point of the Magic offense to score just three points in the final frame. Paul Pierce played like he was 10 years younger as well on his way to 24 points. Orlando’s Ryan Anderson, who had 12 points in the first quarter as the Magic took control never scored again. E’Twaun Moore came off the bench and could not miss. Paul Pierce, with 24 points (10 in the final quarter) looked reborn.

For 18 minutes Boston dominated Orlando about as thoroughly as one team can dominate another and in the process staged an amazing comeback. Celtics fans reveled in it (and enjoyed watching Glen Davis take and miss bad shots).

This stat from My Synergy Sport sums up the kind of night Boston started to have — Moore was 0-14 in spot-up situations this season before Thursday, but he knocked down four spot-up threes in this game. Moore had 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Boston has won three in a row, and they did it without Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. They did it by playing defense. You can sense their confidence and swagger. Boston also has a long way to go — they are 8-9 on the season and just the 7 seed in the East as you read this (still behind Orlando). If the measure is championship or bust in Boston, then Chicago and Miami still loom like Mount Everest and K2 in the way. But the Celtics look the last few games like a team that does not want to be blown up, one that thinks it can compete in the East.

Orlando? Good in the regular season. Above average in offense and defense. A system built around the best center in the game but without the players to really compete with the elite of the NBA. It is games like these two losses to Boston that weakens Orlando’s hold on Howard as the trade deadline and then a potential summer of free agency start to loom larger. Here is what Howard said after the game.

“We thought it was going to be easy after the first two quarters,” Howard said. “We can’t allow that to happen. We’ve got to change. We have to change what we do, and guys have to know their roles and do it. That’s just the bottom line.”

Choose to read into that what you wish.

  1. giselleisasucubus - Jan 27, 2012 at 2:18 AM

    Big win. Again, the Celtics are far from dead. They are starting to build some depth too.

  2. pmick999 - Jan 27, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    I am sure it is because Orlando missed open shots eh…

  3. hillzmickelzon - Jan 27, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    Did yall see the kid? KG was blockin supermans shot talkin trash i mean they need another big man so KG can be KG as soon as kendrick left mr.oneal has not been holding his weight. i mean who blocks dwight? i mean really at 35 years old? whats kg drinkin

    • cinnalocks - Jan 27, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      @ 60 I can say REST and TIME TO REST, does wonders for aching joints, tendons and muscles. So the Celtics seem to be over the getting in shape part of it. Get Ray Allen back in the loop and come playoffs expect them to be relevant again…..While Dwight can point at this as another reason to go somewhere else, others can also point out he he faded when it matter. Orlando went 2-17 in the 4th.

  4. loungefly74 - Jan 27, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    …is this the pivotal moment where Dwight decides “i’m done with Orlando?”…could be.

  5. j0esixpack - Jan 27, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    As a Celtics fan this is all good news.

    While there is a scenario in which they can win the Championship this year (young players develop, old players stay healthy but save their energy until they make the playoffs as a low seed and then give everything left in the tank) that’s still a long shot.

    Performances like these might wind up increasing the trade value of the aging veterans. No doubt Garnet, Allen and Pierce can all put another contender over the top.

    If they’re willing to give the Celts something that will actually make them stronger in the long term, Ainge has to seriously consider that.

    All of their trade stock – and their post-season prospects – just rose significantly with this performance.

    • Kansachusetts - Jan 27, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      Howard is certainly the most overrated big man in basketball.
      He is limited in his moves and he does everything from close range.
      He is immature and loses his composure in adversity.
      All it takes is a team that can play good team defense to neutralize him.
      That said, if they had three or four consistent three-point shooters who can stand up to aggressive defense, it would be harder to keep Howard away from his sweet spot and harass him. But they don’t.
      And Turkoglu is a shadow of his former self.

  6. ihatetoneydouglas - Jan 27, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Even my hapless struggling Knicks and the god awful Toney Douglas beat a better team and play decent defense.Celtics fans need to relax.A couple quality wins does not make a Champion.Hell,even a bunch of quality wins doesnt make a champ,ask the Bulls

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