With five players out, including starters Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, the Boston Celtics put on a defensive tour de force and held the Orlando Magic to franchise lows in points and field goals with an 87-56 rout on Monday at TD Garden.
A depleted Celtic roster helped to spoil the return of Glen “Big Baby” Davis to Boston. The Celtics acquired power-forward Brandon Bass in a sign-and-trade deal with the Magic in the off-season that set Davis to Orlando. Despite receiving a standing ovation from the crowd and being honored for his contributions with “Thank You Big Baby” posted on the jumbotron, the Celtics made sure Davis’ return was not a memorable one.
In addition to Allen and Rondo being sidelined with injuries, the Celtics were without their regulars, forwards Mickael Pietrus (shoulder) and Chris Wilcox (left calf) and guard Keyon Dooling (right knee). Fortunately, for Boston, they weren’t needed on this night. With one of the “Big Three” missing and their floor general out, perennial All-Star forward Paul Pierce implored his squad, despite the injuries, to take care of business on the latter-end of their back-to-back. And his teammates answered the call. Pierce and Bass carried the offense and the Celtics got some strong play from a cast of splintered-bottom-reserves to embarrass a complete Orlando Magic team.
Avery Bradley set the tone for Boston. The 6’2”, 180 pound, second-year guard out of Texas, frustrated a healthy Orlando team for much of the night. He got into Magic point guard Jameer Nelson full-court, taking Orlando out of their offense and set an infectious pace for the Celtics. Nelson (five points, three assists) was clearly disturbed by the 21-year-old’s defensive stance, as he turned the ball over five times and started jawing at Bradley (six points), telling the kid that he didn’t need to defend full-court. Bradley’s strong play was contagious as Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal, sharing defensive assignments on the Magic’s Dwight Howard, held Orlando’s superstar center to just 18 points on the evening. After he scored 12 points in the first nine minutes, Howard had just six points for the rest of the game -which were all on free throws- as he went 0-for-9 from the floor over the final three quarters. Howard and O’Neal got into a shoving match in the third quarter, resulting in double technical fouls. The skirmish further inspired Boston, who by that time already held a 15-point lead.
The Celtics led by 10 at the half and turned up the pressure defensively to start the second half to score 16 of the first 21 points in the third to pull ahead 62-41. Pierce had seven points in the run and set up Marquis Daniels (eight points) for a layup that gave Boston its 21-point advantage with 2:31 remaining in the quarter. Bradley and Co. held Orlando to one field goal in the opening minutes of the third and the Magic finished the quarter shooting a woeful 2-of-11 from the field, two 3-pointers from Hedo Turkoglu (seven points) and Chris Duhon (three points), and turned the ball over nine times. Howard, who missed 5-of-8 free throws in the quarter and went 0-for-5 from the field, and flung the ball in frustration at the end of the period as the Celtics led 69-46.
Boston kept the pressure on in the fourth until Pierce and Garnett came out with over five minutes to play in the game. Pierce and Bass each scored 19 points to carry the injury-riddled Celtics to a dominant 87-56 victory. The Celtics (7-9) snapped a streak of six straight losses against teams with winning records to shake their early season woes. KG finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, two assists and a pair of blocks. O’Neal contributed nine rebounds and two blocks.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, in their lowest shooting percentage in franchise history Orlando shot 24.6 percent from the field in Monday’s loss. The Magic also shot a franchise low in points (56) and field goals with just 16. Howard led the Magic with 18 points and 14 rebounds, but was just 4-of-10 from the free throw line in the second half. He needs eight points to surpass Nick Anderson as the Magic’s career scoring leader. Big Baby finished with six points and 11 rebounds in his return to Boston.
The Magic will look to rebound against the Pacers in Indian on Tuesday. Orlando will try to avenge Monday’s lopsided contest when they host the Celtics on Thursday. (Photo)