8:00 PM ET, January 22, 2009
Amway Arena, Orlando, FL
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Stan Van Gundy blamed only one person.
After Orlando slipped from the top perch in the overall NBA standings with a 90-80 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday night, the Magic coach didn't want to hear any excuses. No talk of four-day layoffs, no griping about calls, nothing.
• The Orlando Magic had the Eastern Conference's best record coming in but dropped to third behind Boston and Cleveland with Thursday's loss.
• The Magic were held to a season-low 80 points and shot 38.2 percent from the field.
• After a season-high four-game losing streak, the Celtics have rebounded to win seven straight -- with each of the last five wins coming by double-figures.
• Paul Pierce had a team-high 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
-- ESPN research
"I'm pretty big on holding players accountable," Van Gundy said. "On this one, it's me. I've got to find a way for us to get some ball movement and freedom of movement where we can get some shots. So I'm frustrated in myself."
It's a common reaction among coaches after seeing the Celtics these days.
Kevin Garnett scored 16 points to help the Celtics (36-9) extend their winning streak to seven games.
The Celtics appear to have their ship righted following a recent 2-7 swoon, reeling off seven straight wins in convincing fashion. Here's a look at how good they've been:
|Prev. 9 games||Last 7 games|
|Opp FG pct||43.6||41.6|
|Reb diff PG||-1.8||+6.7|
So was this a statement game for Boston?
"Not at all," insisted Garnett, whose Celtics are 2-0 against Orlando this season.
Dwight Howard, who on Thursday became the first player in league history to receive 3 million votes in a season for the All-Star game, was held to a relatively ordinary 11 points and 11 rebounds. He fouled out with 2:30 left, and Orlando's run of seven straight wins was snapped.
"It felt like a playoff game," Howard said, "for a minute."
During their winning streak, the Magic averaged 111 points, shot 49 percent and hit an average of 13 1/2 3-pointers. But Thursday, Orlando finished 22.3 points below its season average, shot only 38 percent and was a mere 4-for-15 from beyond the arc through three quarters.
Still, when the Magic hit few shots -- and Nelson scored five straight points -- they were within 82-75 with 3:10 remaining.
But Davis hit an 18-footer from the left wing on Boston's next possession, Howard fouled out seconds later, and the Celtics held on from there.
"With Baby, it's all about consistency," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, calling Davis by his nickname. "I wish that was every night."
Boston improved to 33-1 when scoring at least 90 points this season. When the Celtics score 89 or less, they're 3-8.
Both teams tried to dispel the notion that this would be a bigger-than-usual game.
It didn't seem to work.
Tiger Woods sat a few feet from the court, tapping his foot and swaying his shoulders to the booming arena music. People pleaded for tickets three hours before tip-off, standing outside in unseasonably chilly air, and inside, there was a distinct something-other-than-ordinary feel.
Heck, it was even on the Jumbotron screen: Fans at halftime saw this message -- "It's A Big Game! Get Loud!"
Maybe Van Gundy tried the same tactic in the Orlando locker room at intermission, because in the first half, his team struggled in ways he hadn't seen this season.
Boston led 44-36 at the half, as Orlando shot just 32 percent on the way to a season-low for points in the opening two periods.
The NBA's leaders in 3-pointers made and in accuracy coming in, the Magic started just 1-for-11 from beyond the arc -- meaning they were, through the first 5 1/2 quarters of their season series with Boston, just 6-for-37 from long range.
Turkoglu hit a pair of 3-pointers from the left wing late in the half, helping to ensure the Celtics wouldn't pull away too soon.
But the second half didn't start much better for the Magic.
And when Pierce got loose for a dunk with 7:22 left in the third, the Celtics had a 12-point cushion that immediately had Van Gundy calling time-out and clearly took some of the buzz from the building.
"I don't think it was ugly," Howard said. "We just didn't play as well as we needed to."
Lewis scored seven points in the first 8 minutes of the third quarter -- the only seven points for the Magic at that point in the period. The Celtics weren't exactly a high-octane offensive machine, but made shots on four straight possessions to stretch the lead to 56-40 with 5:54 left in the third, eventually settling for a 65-54 edge entering the final 12 minutes.
"Defense is our staple," Pierce said. "All year long, regardless of what the offense does, we're going to depend on our defense night in and night out."
The Magic had 36 points at the half; they've had at least that many in a quarter seven times this season. ... Woods wasn't the only golfer with a rooting interest. LPGA Tour star Paula Creamer was two seats to his left, and Scott Hoch -- a longtime basketball fan, who lists Michael Jordan as his favorite athlete -- was two rows back. ... Rajon Rondo, Boston's 6-foot-1 point guard battled the 6-foot-10 Lewis for a rebound with 4:16 left in the half, earning a jump ball -- which Rondo actually controlled, to the delight of the Celtics' bench.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||35-75 (.467)||26-68 (.382)|
|3PM-3PA||0-6 (.000)||7-22 (.318)|
|FTM-FTA||20-25 (.800)||21-29 (.724)|
|Fast Break Points||3||3|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||27 (1/0)||22 (0/0)|