Out of synch
Magic’s act again surprises Celtics
The Celtics had the Orlando Magic where they wanted them last night. Their big guns and newcomers were ready to go, not worn down by a long season, simply motivated to make up for last season’s Game 7 playoff loss - on their home court.
Instead, the Magic took up where they left off last May, taking an 83-78 victory over the Celtics.
Both presented revamped versions of last season’s teams. But Orlando is making a smoother transition.
“We are not functioning well as a group, all five on the floor,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “We don’t deserve to win games like this. We don’t deserve to win right now, the way we’re playing.’’
The Magic (10-3) merited success because of their first-quarter performance and last-minute ability to close out the contest.
Orlando set the tone with a perimeter game sparked by Vince Carter (26 points). A 12-0 run gave the Magic a lead they would not relinquish until Rasheed Wallace tied the score with 2:55 remaining. The Celtics fell behind, 29-13, after a quarter, shooting 5 for 24 from the field; the Magic were 5 for 7 on 3-pointers and 6 for 10 on 2-pointers.
The Celtics rallied, closing the gap to a point late in the first half. But the Celtics’ starters lost the momentum as the Magic extended their lead to 9 points in the third quarter.
“I just think our team’s playing awful overall,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t think it’s the beginning of the games. I’ve been saying it for a week now. We’re making up stuff on the floor on offense and de fense. We’re not executing. We’re not trusting each other. And, we’re going to win games still, but we’re not going to win against good teams.’’
The Magic led, 66-57, on a Matt Barnes banker with 1:03 left in the third quarter. But Orlando went 1 for 6 on free throws over a 5:16 span covering the final two quarters, the Celtics cutting the deficit to 66-63 on a Ray Allen layup with 10:07 remaining. Paul Pierce (21 points) pulled the Celtics within 75-74 on a layup with 5:16 left. Then, after a Wallace overplay produced a steal, he missed his sixth successive 3-point try.
Carter got a 3-point play out of a timeout with 4:34 left. Then, the Celtics had a 1:16 possession, Eddie House (twice) and Pierce missing threes but Kevin Garnett and Wallace keeping possession. Finally, Garnett got a pick-and-roll layup from House to cut the deficit to 78-76 with 3:27 remaining. Carter missed and Wallace rebounded and scored off a Pierce drive, tying it, 78-78, with 2:55 to play.
The Celtics had rallied without center Kendrick Perkins (foul problems) and point guard Rajon Rondo. And, after Carter scored out of a timeout and Pierce missed at the shot-clock buzzer, Garnett blocked Rashard Lewis’s shot and Rondo returned.
But nothing could ignite the Celtics’ offense.
Wallace rebounded Rondo’s miss, but Garnett was off on an open 16-footer, and Lewis hit two foul shots to make it 82-78 with 58.4 seconds remaining. Allen lost possession out of a timeout, Jason Williams missed a jumper, then Pierce shot off the side of the backboard. Williams’s free throw made it a 5-point game with 10.5 on the clock, time enough for another failed Wallace 3-point launch.
“We had great shots,’’ Rivers said. “I think we would take the wide-open shots they had. I mean, Eddie House missed wide-open ones, Rasheed did, even Ray missed a couple. We’ll take those; I don’t mind those at all. I just don’t like how we’re playing offense or defense right now.’’