Boston came in with the mentality that this was a must-win game to lock up the seventh seed and a date with New York in next week's Playoffs. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce sat out last night's game against Miami to rest for the Playoffs, perhaps anticipating that this one might be an easy win. That is usually not a guarantee against the Magic.
Tonight... Orlando was sluggish and Boston was focused. The Celtics stepped on the Magic's throat and did not let up.
Boston scored the first nine points of the game, and held off Orlando's lone rally to get back into it. Then the Celtics unleashed hell with an offensive onslaught in the second and third quarters. They forced turnovers, they suffocated the Magic's shooters and completely dominated the game. A 20-point halftime lead would have been enough for Orlando, but it ballooned out to 30-plus in a 120-88 Boston win at Amway Center on Saturday.
The Celtics were extremely dialed in on this one and had their defense rolling at a playoff level. They held the Magic to less than 40 percent shooting for most of the game and had the Magic at 42.2 percent for the game. Orlando could not find any rhythm offensively and could not get to the basket. When they did, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass were there to change shots at the rim and make life difficult for the Magic on the inside.
Orlando got things going too little too late. They were already down big when they tried to make a run. And when they did, Boston made the plays to stem the tide quickly. If the Magic made a big play, Avery Bradley or Courtney Lee came back with a big 3-pointer.
It was easy to get discouraged with the way the Celtics were playing. Boston suffocated the Magic's offense, putting a ton of pressure on Beno Udrih and rotating perfectly to cut off the Magic's pick and roll game. On offense, Boston simply hit shots at an alarming rate from all over the court. The Celtics made 59.3 percent of their shots and got to the rim with ease.
This kept the Magic from getting easy buckets and forced them to go up against that vaunted half-court defense. Unless the Magic were going to match and make shots, it was going to be difficult to produce much against that defense.
Tobias Harris scored 22 points hitting seven of his final nine shots after missing his first seven. Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic. Orlando got its scoring numbers up.
However, the Celtics had seven players in double figures including Courtney Lee's 20 points off the bench. Much of that came in that onslaught of a fourth quarter as Orlando got increasingly sloppy with the basketball and made things worse.
This was a thumping and the kind of game that young teams go through. With just one more home game left, hopefully it will not stay in their mouths too long.