ORLANDO, Fla. Wow!
The Boston Celtics only needed two - not four - quarters of good play to beat the Orlando Magic. After trailing by as many as 27 points in the second quarter, the C's put together a wickedly effectively stretch of play in the second half to come away with a 91-83 win.
"Everybody was big tonight," said Paul Pierce, who led all scorers with 24 points which included 19 coming in the second half. "We needed each and every guy, to give everything they got. Especially with us being in a hole so deep."
There were a handful of factors we highlighted prior to the game as being important in determining the game's outcome.
Let's see how they played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Boston's pressure defense not only took Jameer Nelson totally out of his game, but it also generated 25 turnovers which led to 24 points for the Celtics. Avery Bradley, who will start again for an injured Rajon Rondo, was the key to Boston's defensive success on Monday. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy praised Bradley for his defensive prowess leading up to tonight's game.
"It's generally those guys who don't have to play 3,000 minutes in a year who can come in and use that energy," Van Gundy said. "So you're not used to seeing it a lot. You might see it a possession or two, but that full-game thing I give him (Bradley) a lot of credit. It's the best job of anybody doing it, I've seen in a lot of years in this league."
WHAT WE SAW - Jameer Nelson wasn't nearly as rattled by Bradley's on-the-ball pressure as he was on Monday. Still, it was good enough to keep Nelson from making much of an impact on the game's outcome. He had 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting, with five rebounds and five assists.
MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Dwight Howard: With Jermaine O'Neal (left knee) out, Garnett will begin tonight's game attempting to guard Howard. Garnett's ability to hold Howard in check will likely come at the cost of him scoring as much. But the C's know all too well, that's the price you have to pay if you plan on beating the Magic.
WHAT WE SAW - This battle was a lot closer statistically than many expected. In fact, one could argue that Garnett outplayed Howard. And that is always a good thing for the C's when facing the Magic. Garnett had 12 points and 10 rebounds along with four assists, three steals and four blocked shots. Howard had a fairly typical Howard-type game with 16 points and 16 rebounds but he only had one blocked shot.
PLAYER TO WATCH - Ryan Anderson: The Celtics held him to zero points in more than 23 minutes of action on Monday. Look for Anderson to play significantly better than that tonight, especially with him beginning the game matched up with Brandon Bass instead of Garnett.
WHAT WE SAW - Anderson didn't waste much time getting into the scorer's column, as he scored 12 points in the first quarter. Here's the problem. He didn't score a single point the rest of the game. So in eight quarters of play against the Celtics, Anderson has gone scoreless in all but one of them.
STAT TO TRACK - Points off turnovers is an area that the Celtics are improving in, and it was one of the main reasons why they easily defeated Orlando when the two played on Monday. If the C's can continue to cash in on Orlando's mistakes, the Celtics will be well positioned to hand the Magic another loss.
WHAT WE SAW - It wasn't so much the amount of turnovers on Monday, but the timing of them, that ultimately became a factor in Boston's favor. Boston forced Orlando to turn the ball over 10 times in the second half, which led to 12 points for the C's. Compare that to the first half when Boston had only forced three turnovers which it converted into just three points. It's clear that the C's ability to get a few points off Orlando's mistakes, was part of the second half rally by the Celtics.