Rivers Routs Former Team


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.

Boston 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.

Even 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 third.

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 downturn.

The Celtics 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 the Celtics 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.

Behind 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.

With 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.

That 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 ankle.

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.

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