OFFSEASON

Celtics chemistry is too much for Magic

191544.jpg

Celtics chemistry is too much for Magic

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The faces were familiar and so was the end result.

With less than a minute on the clock and the game tied at 104-104, Doc Rivers stuck with the lineup of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis.

It was a group that has been intact since the 2007-08 season. They won a championship together. And on Monday night, they won the game together.

Theyre just smart, Dwight Howard said after the Celtics' 109-106 victory over his Orlando Magic. They dont let a lot of things get to them. And thats how youre supposed to play. You never see those guys arguing with each other, mad about little things. And those are things we need to learn as a team -- just not get frustrated when teams make runs, just play through it.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers subbed Davis in for Shaquille ONeal with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter and the score tied at 93-93. Each player made a difference down the stretch, whether it was a basket, a rebound, a block, or an assist.

With 38 seconds to go, Pierce nailed a jumper (and drew a foul) with Jason Richardsons hand in his face. Garnett, playing in his first game back from a calf injury, picked off a pass by Jameer Nelson and got it down the court to Allen, who iced the game with free throws.

From one teammate to the next, each of the Celtics played a role in the win.

Theyve been together long enough, Hedo Turkoglu told CSNNE.com. They just know how to play and they know how to execute together offensively. And defensively, too. You have to be really in the same mind with them going into the game and just executing and reading the situation and making smart decisions. But like today, it was down to the wire and they made a good play at the end.

Between six lead changes and three ties, the victory was up for grabs until the final seconds. In a game of instability, the Celtics turned to their foundation - defense. Even without Kendrick Perkins, one of their biggest defensive weapons against Howard, they held the Magic to just two points in the final 51 seconds.

I told them the last three minutes we turned back to who we were, said Doc Rivers. We were a defensive team and became that, and thats why we won the game.

The Celtics' 31st win of the season was a testament to their team chemistry. The Magic, on the other hand, continue to build their own with new faces acquired just last month. Of the players on the court at the buzzer, Richardson was traded from the Phoenix Suns in December and Turkoglu re-joined his former team in the deal.

We dont look at it that way, 'cause this is our team now and we cant be making excuses like that, said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. Were like everyone else now. We got 41 games left to get ready to play at this level.

As for the Celtics, they proved they can already play there.

Follow Jessica Camerato on Twitter at http:www.twitter.comjcameratonba

OFFSEASON

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

The wheels of the Kevin Durant free agent train have been set in motion.

"Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations" for meetings with a list of six teams, which includes the Boston Celtics, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. The other teams listed are the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. The Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers, Rockets, and Wizards could "could still find audiences with him," but they are considered outsiders.

Wojnarowski says the Thunder remain the frontrunners, but "the Warriors have Durant's attention."

If Durant chooses the Warriors, it could happen very quickly. Warriors restricted free agent Harrison Barnes could sign an offer sheet for a contract on July 1, which would mean the Warriors would have only have three days to match the deal. They'd likely need a decision from Durant before then, or they'd risk losing one of their valuable pieces without being able to fill his role.

Durant plans on making his decision before July 9 anyway, according to Wojnarowski, because that's when he's leaving for a publicity tour in the Far East.

The fact the Celtics are even on Durant's primary list shouldn't come as a surprise considering his actions after his game in Boston against the Celtics earlier this year. They do have tough competition though. Both the Warriors and Heat have the cap space to absorb Durant's likely max contract worth about $26.4 million, and the Spurs can easily create the space if necessary.

The Clippers are interesting though, because they'd have to deal one of their stars (Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, or Blake Griffin) to free the cap space to sign Durant. If he does choose the Clippers, maybe Danny Ainge could help Doc Rivers swing a deal. How about something involving Blake Griffin and Jae Crowder?

But the Celtics have an edge. They're the only team listed that can sign two max contract free agents. If Durant wants to play with his buddy Al Horford, or anyone else for that matter, the Celtics can make it happen. How about a 2007 draft class reunion with Durant, Horford, and Jared Dudley? It's an odd trio, but Dudley has already expressed interest in joining the Celtics.

No matter what happens though, the Celtics are in the race. Fans might be disappointed after Thursday night, but we're just getting started, folks.

Kevin O’Connor can be followed on Twitter: @KevinOConnorNBA