Coach Van Gundy is still figuring out how to best use his early Christmas gifts (Arenas, Richardson & Turkgolu). The Magic were in for a long day with the Boston Celtics streaking into town. Winners of 14 straight Boston hoped to put coal in the Magic stocking and were almost successful. Fortunately almost doesn’t count and the Magic prevailed in an ugly game 86-78.
Orlando blitzed Boston with an 11-0 run to start the game sparked by 8 early points from Turkgolu. Dwight Howard picked up two quick fouls the Celtics then seemed to realize a basketball game was being played. Boston answered with a run of their own finishing the 1st quarter up 20-19. Even with Arenas and Howard on the floor to start the 2nd quarter, there was not much reprieve for Orlando. Boston continued to frustrate the Magic as Brandon Bass and Turkgolu were the only Orlando players able to get going. To make matters worse the Magic suffered lapses on defense and allowed Boston to push the lead to 40-32. Van Gundy ripped into the team during a timeout but Boston finished the half ahead 46-36. The Magic shot 31% from the field and Dwight Howard finished the half with 1 point and 6 rebounds.
The Christmas Day Nightmare continued into the 3rd quarter when Howard picked up his 4th foul at the 9:24 mark. Nevertheless Orlando cut the Boston lead to 6 at the end of third quarter behind Bass, Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick. Howard started the 4th quarter extremely well rested and provided a brief spark. Howard’s sudden presence allowed open opportunities on the perimeter with Turkgolu and Richardson hitting threes to pace to Magic. The Celtics were forced to go with undersized Glen Davis on Howard the rest of the way since Shaq fouled out at the 9:20 mark. Slowly but surely the Magic’s fortunes were about to change. Orlando stayed in the game and the final 3 minutes provided reassurance that the Magic are indeed an elite team.
With Gilbert Arenas stinking up the joint on 2-9 shooting, Van Gundy turned the point guard duties back over to Nelson. Jameer showed his propensity for the dramatic hitting a huge 3 fading left at the 2:32 mark to bring the Magic within 2. Following a failed Celtic possession, Bass hit a floater that tied the game at 77 with 1:56 left to play. The Orlando defense suffocated Boston with Howard patrolling the paint and swatting shots out of the stratosphere. Paul Pierce nearly caught whiplash as one of his driving layups was thrown into the stands. With 1:18 remaining Nate Robinson was engulfed by a Howard screen allowing Nelson to hit a another three. This gave Orlando a lead of 80-77 that they would not relinquish. Orlando limited Boston to 32 points in the 2nd half. Abracadabra – just like that the Magic ended the Boston 14 game winning streak putting the proverbial coal in the Celtic’s stocking.
The game seemed more fitting for Halloween than Christmas. Both teams were sloppy shooting under 40% and combining for 27 turnovers. Add the spotty officiating to the equation and this game was like a “B” movie trailer before the feature presentation of Heat vs. Lakers. Good teams can win ugly and the Celtics have done that plenty during their 14 game run. Seeing the Magic hang in there and pull this one out has to be encouraging for the psyche of the team, especially off the heels of the Spurs win on Thursday. Turkgolu (16pts 4rebs, 4ast) had his best offensive output since rejoining the Magic and might have regained his confidence. Bass (21pts 9rebs) and Nelson were the heroes today but the Magic have yet to click on all cylinders. If the team can get everybody playing with consistency they can be grinches well past Christmas.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com