They made magic in backcourt

By Jarrod Rudolph
Globe Correspondent / May 9, 2009
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ORLANDO, Fla. - It didn't take Anthony "Grandpa" Johnson long to make people forget about the Magic's suspended starting point guard, Rafer Alston, last night. Johnson was playing too well for anyone to waste time thinking about a guy in street clothes.

"Anthony Johnson, I thought, set the tone of the game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He's a wily, tough, old veteran and he came to play. He deserved that performance."

The 11-year veteran got the start in Game 3 in place of Alston, who served a one-game penalty for slapping the Celtics' Eddie House in the head Wednesday night. And Johnson quickly made his presence felt in Orlando's 117-96 rout, making his first three shots, including a two-handed dunk over Celtics center Kendrick Perkins.

"I was able to use my old legs and throw one down," said Johnson, 34. "I still can spring up a little bit."

Motivated by the chatter that his extended playing time would benefit the Celtics, Johnson immediately made it known that he wouldn't be the liability many had suggested. Johnson finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 28 minutes, shooting 5 of 7 from the field.

"It adds fuel to the fire," Johnson said. "I've always been talked about for the things I can't do. Trying to fight that battle is a waste of time."

Johnson will return to his reserve role tomorrow. The Magic still need two more wins before they can move on, and they will need the same type of performance off the bench.

Johnson's solid performance wasn't the only boost the Magic received. Courtney Lee returned from the sinus fracture that forced him to miss Orlando's previous three games. Wearing a protective mask, the rookie guard continued his solid postseason with an 11-point performance that received rave reviews from his teammates.

"He was great tonight," Dwight Howard said. "He played like himself tonight and it just feels good to see him back."

Aside from the feel-good stories, the Magic's growing disdain for the Celtics' physical play is becoming a hot topic.

"It's a playoff series, it's very physical. We understand that," Howard said. "We have to stay composed. We know that Boston is a very physical team; we have to be able to take those shots."

They've already sent some nasty glares the Celtics' way after hard fouls.

"We're not into fighting, but you're a human being too," said Hedo Turkoglu, who was whistled for a double technical (with House) in the fourth quarter last night. "You're man enough to stand up for yourself and sometimes you have to."

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