Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Magic 100 - Celtics 95: C's Rally Falls Short

Photo: Getty Images

Orlando - The Celtics looked to bounced back from a Sunday night lost to the Heat, but were unsuccessful. The Magic returned the favor, after they fell to the C's less than a week ago at the TD Garden. Boston made their young opponents work for it though, after coming back from being down 27 to within three late in the fourth, Tobias Harris stopped the bleeding. The Magic snapped their four game losing streak while handing the Celtics their second consecutive defeat, in a 100-95 victory at the Amway Center.

Harris led the way with 19 points for Orlando who are now 11-20 on the season. Kyle O'Quinn finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic also had a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds in the win.

"We just got away from what we were doing throughout the whole game, and they capitalized off that," Harris said. "But we got it together toward the end of the game and came out with the victory."

Tyler Zeller, who continues to shine with the starting five, ended up with a game high 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Avery Bradley shot the ball well, going 4-of-6 from behind the arc, finished with 20 points. Kelly Olynyk, who was a recent candidate for Eastern Conference player of the week honors, chipped in with 14 points and eight rebounds. Jameer Nelson in his first start since being acquired from the Dallas Mavericks for Rajon Rondo, nearly pulled off a complete rally for the Celtics scoring 9 points and handed out 11 assists in the loss.

Boston fell into a hole early on after trailing 26-9 in the first 12 minutes of the game. It didn't get much better in the second quarter for the C's when they only scored 21 more points and the deficit was 53-30 by intermission. The third quarter saw better shooting from the Celtics as they doubled their first half points, but were still down 25 going into the final period.

The Magic got away from moving the ball and settled for jump shots in the fourth quarter which allowed Boston to capitalize and surge a possible comeback. Five Orlando turnovers followed by hot shooting for the Celtics saw a 27-point Magic lead disappear after an Olynyk 3-ball with 2:34 left to play. With the score 90-87, the Celtics allowed Orlando to get to the free-throw line too many times in the final two minutes and it sealed their fate, and what would have been the best comeback of the year for Brad Stevens.

"Obviously in the fourth quarter they got on their heels a little bit, but it's a lot easier to be a team coming back than the team with the lead," Stevens said.

Despite the Celtics outscoring the Magic 35-15 in the last 12 minutes, Boston only made 38.8 percent of their field goals on the night, while connecting on 7-of-23 from downtown. It was the first quarter that did the C's in, going 2-of-22 and only scoring nine points and then 30 for the half; both season lows. The over-crowding roster might have a lot to do with the inconsistency of Stevens' rotation the last two games, but as of now Danny Ainge might stand pat or look to make another move before end of 2014.

In the meantime, Boston will look to bounce back from this two-game skid when they meet the 12-15 Brooklyn Nets the day after Christmas at the TD Garden. Tip-off is at 1:00 PM

Game Notes:

It was Jameer Nelson's first game as a visitor against his former team. The veteran point guard played 10-years in Orlando (2004-2014), received a standing-ovation during player intros, and also got a video tribute as he waved to the home crowd. 12-players entered the game last night for Brad Stevens, with Gerald Wallace being the only DNP. Jared Sullinger went scoreless in just nine minutes of action. In his last five games; the third-year forward is only averaging 8.8 points per game compared to his season average of 13.1

Joel Pavón

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