Celtics trample Magic
Offense has field day in wire-to-wire rout
Two nights earlier, Doc Rivers had benched his starters in the fourth quarter for not playing defense. Last night, Rivers sat his starters for much of the fourth quarter as well -- because the other team wasn't playing defense.
His starters were enjoying a rest and a rout.
Eventually, Rivers had to reinsert most of the first string to preserve a 119-101 romp over the Orlando Magic, the only bummer of the game from the Boston viewpoint. And it was a minor bummer at that.
This one was never really in doubt even as Jameer Nelson erupted for 17 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and a 30-point bulge was reduced to 14 with 4:30 to play. The Celtics never trailed in beating Orlando for the second time in as many meetings and led by double digits for the last 34 minutes.
The 119 points were the most scored this year in a non-overtime game by the Celtics. Their previous non-overtime high? They had 117 against Orlando Nov. 29. It may be a new team, but it's the same old Magic defense. Who does their sets? Mike Martz?
"We threw a lot of points at them," said Rivers.
Eight Celtics were in double figures, led by Paul Pierce, who had quiet 18. Tony Allen had 16 points, three others (Gary Payton, Ricky Davis, and Raef LaFrentz) contributed 15, and Big Al Jefferson notched his second double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) while leading everyone in rebounds despite playing only 16 minutes.
This, clearly, was a far cry from Saturday night, when the Celtics were embarrassed in Chicago. Rivers called out his starters in that one for their pathetic defense. He had no such qualms last night. The energy was there. The effort was there. And even though Orlando topped 100 points, there was never a time when the game was in serious doubt after the Celtics took a 15-point halftime lead and expanded it to 27 after three.
"It was a new night. We came out and played hard," said LaFrentz. "I wish I had the answer. We have to continue to search for ways to bring out an effort like this as opposed to the one in Chicago."
This figured to be a wide-open affair. The Magic and Celtics each were averaging 100 points on offense and defense. But the Celtics caught a break. The Magic closed a deal for guard Cuttino Mobley (who can be a real thorn), and Mobley, now headed to Sacramento for Doug Christie, never left the locker room. As Rivers put it, "We seized the moment." The Magic didn't adjust real well to the sudden loss of their third-leading scorer and top 3-point shooter.
"We just came out emotionally drained," said Orlando's Steve Francis, a close friend of Mobley's who was clearly irked by the move. "It's hard to put into words."
Said Rivers, "I don't think Orlando had a lot in them because of the trade."
Trade or no trade, history will show that this one was never really a contest. The Celtics led, 22-6, before the game was 6 1/2 minutes old. Orlando had its only meaningful run of the game at that point, cutting the Boston lead to 32-26 after one. Included in that spurt were a couple of vintage Grant Hill plays, one a block on Pierce and the other a finish of an alley-oop from Nelson. The Magic blocked six shots in the quarter and were within 4 points early in the second when the roof collapsed.
It was the Boston reserves who did all the damage, led by the hyperkinetic Allen, whose energy is as infectious as it is effective. He started and finished a 14-0 run in less than three minutes that blew the lead out to 18. He also had two assists and a steal in the run.
"The only thing holding him back is focus," Rivers said of his rook. "And he has been locked in lately, which is good for us."
The Celtics cracked the half-century mark less than 18 minutes into the game. They led, 65-50, at the half. Orlando briefly got its hopes up (67-54 after two Hill free throws) until the Celtics responded with a 14-3 run that blew the lead out to 24. It was 93-66 after three.
Nelson was the story in the fourth. Until last night, his high game had been 11 points. He had more than that (12) in the first seven minutes of the fourth. Orlando scored 13 straight points (Nelson had 9 of them) to cut a 30-point deficit to 17. A Hill hoop made it 105-91 with 4:30 left. If Hedo Turkoglu (0 for 9) had had any range, Orlando might have made a real charge.
But at 105-91, Davis coolly knocked down a 3-pointer and Orlando never got closer than 15 the rest of the way.