ORLANDO, Fla. - Doc Rivers could have stayed seated throughout the fourth quarter and enjoyed the view as the Celtics completed one of their easiest victories of the season.
led almost from start to finish last night as it routed Orlando,
117-101, in Rivers's return to the city where he started his NBA
coaching career. But by force of habit from all the close games the Celtics have had this season, Rivers continued to pace the sidelines and shout instructions until the end.
though Boston shot 47 percent, held Orlando to 40 percent, put together
one of its most complete games of the season, and snapped a four-game
losing streak, Rivers knows a lot of work remains. But he had to pleased
by a well-rounded performance in which seven Celtics
reach double figures, including a season-high 20 points from Marcus
Banks and a game-high 24 from Paul Pierce. Hedo Turkoglu led Orlando
with 18 points.
Although they saw their game-high 27-point lead dwindle to a 94-78 advantage entering the final period, all the Celtics
had to do was play reasonably proficient basketball for 12 more minutes
to record the win. They got off to a shaky start in the fourth, but the
Magic were equally shaky and could not carry over momentum from the
Orlando used a 6-0
run in the third to close within 15 (87-72) after Steve Francis went to
the line with three minutes remaining. But the Celtics
stayed relatively composed and didn't let the Magic draw any closer in
the quarter. Boston maintained a healthy lead despite allowing Orlando
to shoot better than 50 percent, while struggling through an offensive
tried to leave nothing to chance, outscoring Orlando, 69-45, in the
first half. The Magic left the court to jeers from the same crowd that
generously cheered Rivers in his first return to the arena since taking
job. Given the way Boston played through two quarters, it would have
been understandable if the fans wished Rivers were still pacing the
sideline on their side.
Rivers has been busy coaxing and cajoling better performances from the Celtics. Boston's early effort last night was impressive at both ends. The Celtics
shot 59 percent during the first half, and everyone who got on the
court scored. Boston dominated in the paint, where it outscored Orlando,
40-24. The Celtics
also kept up a quick pace, taking a 23-10 advantage in fast-break
points. Defensively, Boston held Orlando to 35 percent from the floor.
A 9-0 run by the Celtics
early in the first quarter set the tone. They finished the first
quarter ahead, 37-20, shooting 64 percent. Pierce scored with ease
inside, converting layup after layup. Raef LaFrentz made a significant
offensive contribution, as he did early against Miami Sunday night.
a 15-4 run early in the second, Boston stretched its advantage to 27
points (60-33) with a layup by LaFrentz. But in many ways, the quarter
belonged to Banks. With rookie Delonte West (fractured right hand) again
injured, Banks is again the backup point guard spot. Banks scored 9
points in the second quarter. To start the second-quarter run, he hit Al
Jefferson for a dunk, then converted a driving layup.
After a pair of free throws by Tony Allen, Banks nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing.
the exception of Francis and Turkoglu off the bench, Orlando struggled.
Conspicuously absent were contributions from Grant Hill, who went 2 for
6 from the floor in the first half and finished with 11 points.
is not a good sign for the Magic, who have seen increasingly impressive
point totals from the forward, who is playing on a reconstructed right
Suffice it to say, in
the first half, the Magic did not look like a team with one of the
better records in the Eastern Conference. Then again, the Celtics did not seem like a team struggling to find consistency.