Celtics Hammer Magic

Celtics Hammer Magic

January 11, 2005

Two nights earlier, Doc Rivers had benched his starters in the fourth quarter for not playing defense. Last night, Rivers again sat his starters for much of the fourth quarter - because the other team wasn't playing defense.

The Celtics blew out the Magic over the first three quarters - it was a 27-point lead after three - and then weathered a Jameer Nelson uprising in the fourth (17 of his career-high 19 in the period) to take an easy 119-101 victory over the Magic last night. The Celtics, who never trailed, placed eight players in double figures, controlled the glass, shot well, and generally enjoyed themselves against a team with arguably the worst defense in the league.   Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 18 points while Tony Allen celebrated his 23d birthday (it's today) with 16 points. Gary Payton, Raef LaFrentz, and Ricky Davis all had 15. Al Jefferson had another double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds), leading everyone in rebounds despite playing only 16 minutes.

It was close for a short stretch in the second quarter before a 14-0 Boston burst basically ended things. The Celtics led by double figures for the final 34:03 in taking their sixth home win in the last seven games. The 119 points were the most scored this year in a non-overtime game by the Celtics. Their previous non-overtime high? They had 117 against Orlando Nov. 29.

Anyone who traveled to the game from Rhode Island hoping to see ex-Ram Cuttino Mobley had to be disappointed. Mobley was penciled into the Orlando starting lineup but remained in the locker room while he (and teammate Michael Bradley) were being dealt to Sacramento for Doug Christie.

The departure of Mobley did not sit well with teammate Steve Francis, the Magic's leading scorer and Mobley's former teammate in Houston as well. Francis wore Mobley's armband in protest -- as did rarely used DeShawn Stevenson -- and was benched for most of the first quarter after picking up a technical less than four minutes into the game. He didn't make his first basket until there was 4:45 left in the first half, but still led the team in scoring (10 points) at the break.

Christie, annually recognized as one of the league's top defenders, can't help but elevate the Magic's porous defense. Yes, there is a team that plays it even worse than Boston. These two came in ranked 28th (Boston) and 30th (Orlando) in points allowed, and you quickly saw why. The Celtics had 51 points on the board before the game was even 18 minutes old.

With Payton leading the way, the Celtics had a 16-point lead (22-6) before the game was six minutes old. Orlando fought back -- the Magic had six blocks in the first period -- to pull within 32-28 early in the second on a layup by Nelson. In that run, there were a few vintage Grant Hill moments, including a rejection of a Pierce layup atempt and an alley-oop jam on a pretty feed from Nelson.

But at 32-28, the Celtics' response was suffocating. Boston scored the next 14 points, with an ultra-active Allen leading the way. In that stretch, Jefferson (6 points, 3 rebounds in 5 minutes) went to the locker room to get a new jersey (there was blood on the old one). But he really wasn't needed. The Celtics were in total control.

Boston shot the lead to 19 on two occasions and then to 21 (65-44 with 1:50 to play) on a 3-point play by Allen (7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists in 9 minutes.) Alas, the boys in green would go scoreless for the remainder of the half, allowing the Magic to pull within 15 points at the break. Orlando closed with a 6-0 run on two hoops by Francis and a third by Kelvin Cato to make it a 65-50 game at the break.

The Celtics' halftime mantra was to keep the pressure on -- and that they did. Orlando managed to get within 67-54 early in the third, but soon Orlando coach Johnny Davis was asking for time after back-to-back treys by Pierce and Jiri Welsch blew the lead out to 21, again, at 77-56 with 8:19 remaining. The Celtics twice had the lead to 24 midway through the period and then pushed it further into Untouchable Territory with a closing 6-0 run, all courtesy of the hyperactive Allen.

After three, it was 93-66, and all that remained was for a Walter McCarty sighting in the fourth to placate the 13,731 in attendance.

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