Celtics exact sweet revenge on Magic.
BOSTON - The Celtics recorded one of their sweetest victories last night over Orlando, and it had nothing to do with the pint of Vermont maple syrup placed in each player's locker prior to the game by the team's community relations department as a Christmas gift.
It was more about revenge. The Magic had handed the Celtics their first loss, 104-102, in Orlando in November when Boston was 8-0.
"It was in the back of our minds," Ray Allen admitted.
Orlando had beaten the Celtics seven of the last nine times the two teams played and led the NBA in road victories. Only Santa gets a bigger kick out of stopping by other peoples' homes.
The Celtics prevailed, however, 103-91, and rest assured that coach Doc Rivers' trip home to his family in Orlando today for Christmas will be sweeter as well.
"I would have heard it if we didn't win," Rivers said.
The Celtics improved to a league-best 22-3. They haven't been 19 or more games over .500 since they finished the 1991-92 season 51-31. The Celtics are 14-1 at the Garden, tying San Antonio for the NBA's best home record.
Paul Pierce missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game at Orlando. Last night, he scored a game-high 24 points. Rajon Rondo had a career-high 23. Ray Allen poured in 22, and Kevin Garnett contributed 21.
It was the first time that four Celtics scored 20 or more points since Pierce (27), Dana Barros (26), Ron Mercer (23) and Antoine Walker (23) did on May 5, 1999, in a 133-129 home loss to Charlotte. This time it was more impressive because the four 20-point scorers came within a point of equaling the point total of the entire Orlando team. The foursome combined to shoot 59.3 percent (32 of 54), including 50 percent from threeland (8 of 16). Rondo came in 0 for 3 from beyond the arc this season and just 6 for 32 in his career, but he was 2 for 2 last night.
"I don't want him looking for them, I'll tell you that," Rivers said, "but when they come, and he's open, he has to take them. I'm more proud of the midrange (shots) that he's making."
If Rondo keeps hitting 3-pointers along with everyone else, the Celtics are going to be nearly impossible to beat.
"Teams are sagging off of me and doubling off of me," said Rondo, who made 8 of 10 shots overall, "so I just try to take the shots as much as possible. Hopefully it goes in, but no matter what happens, shoot the ball."
Pierce and Rondo each handed out a game-high six assists. Garnett grabbed 12 rebounds to share the team lead with Kendrick Perkins, who had a career high.
Dwight Howard had 23 points and 14 rebounds, but made only 5 of 16 foul shots, as Orlando lost for the seventh time in last nine games. Hedo Turkoglu scored 19, and Rashard Lewis finished with 15.
Howard leads the NBA with 122 dunks, accounting for nearly half of his 245 field goals, but the Celtics held him without one until the final minute of the third quarter. He added four more in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics held on to win.
"Dunks for him get him energized and give his team energy," Rivers said. "I would rather for him to shoot free throws, even if he makes them all."
The Celtics made only one of their first 10 3-point attempts before hitting seven of their last nine. Five came in a row as they expanded their lead from 57-49 to 72-52 with 3:23 left in the third. First, Rondo hit only his second trey of the season. Then Garnett then passed out of a double team to Pierce for a wide-open triple. After Howard hit a foul shot, Pierce drained another 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire. Allen then hit two more with a Carlos Arroyo bank shot in between.
"It came from in to out," Rivers said. "Two games in a row that's happened. Then we went on that stretch where we were looking for 3s, and we allowed them back in the game. We've got to remember how we get them. We got them from the ball going to the post or the ball being driven, and then it goes back out."
Orlando twice closed to within single digits in the fourth quarter, 85-76, and, 94-85, but Allen answered with a trey each time.
"Instead of playing through it," Howard said, "I think we kind of hung our heads after he hit a couple of those 3s toward the end of the game."
Rondo's first 3-pointer of the season came at the halftime horn and gave the Celtics a 49-42 lead.
NAME: BOSTON CELTICS
CUTLINE: (1) Boston's Kevin Garnett passes off in front of Orlando's Rashard Lewis in the first quarter of the Celtics' 103-91 win. (2) Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu shoots over Boston's Ray Allen in the second quarter of the Celtics' 103-91 win.
PHOTOG: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Dec 24, 2007|
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