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Three things that went right and wrong in Game 2

05.18.10 at 11:53 pm ET

The Celtics knew the Magic would come out fighting in Game 2 after they were dealt a blow on their own court in Game 1, and the Magic proved them right on Tuesday night. In spite of owning an eight-point lead after three quarters, Boston let the Magic back into the game in the fourth and nearly watched a win slip away. But a key bucket by Rajon Rondo and some big free throws by Paul Pierce gave the Celtics a 95-92 win (click here for the full recap) and a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

Three things that went right

Celtics found Pierce early — and often: Paul Pierce scored 22 in Game 1, and matched that by halftime in Game 2. After being guarded by a scrappy Quentin Richardson and defensive-savvy LeBron James in previous rounds, Pierce took advantage of his matchup against a more offensive-minded Vince Carter. He was nearly perfect in the first quarter, going 4-for-5 from the floor, 2-for-2 from 3-point range, and 2-for-2 at the line for 12 points in just eight minutes. He followed it up with another 10 points in the second quarter despite being knocked to the ground by Dwight Howard on a flagrant foul. Pierce finished the night with a team-high 28 points (8-for-16 from the field), thanks in part to his ability to draw fouls (9-for-11 at the stripe).

Rondo had his way: Rajon Rondo was oblivious to the big bodies being thrown at him in the paint. He attacked the hoop as if the lane were empty to burn the Magic at the basket. Rondo scored 25 points (10-for-16 from the field and 5-for-6 at the line), including a critical jumper to give the Celtics a 93-90 lead with 1:32 to go. In addition to his offensive contribution, Rondo ran the floor with eight assists, two steals, and just two turnovers. He outplayed Jameer Nelson, who finished the game with nine points (on 4-of-12 shooting) and just four assists.

Celtics go home with the edge: The Celtics return to Boston just two games away from eliminating the Magic and heading to the NBA Finals. While the Magic have shown they can fight back late, they have been unable to do so on their own court. If they can’t build an early lead against the Celtics in Games 3 and 4, they will be forced to overcome a late deficit in front of the Garden crowd.

Three things that went wrong

Magic owned the fourth quarter ‘€¦ again: The Magic overcame a late-game deficit during the regular season against Boston, and nearly pulled off the feat in Game 1. Their determination did not change in Game 2. The Celtics led by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, but the final 12 minutes became prime time again for the Magic. They depleted the Celtics edge and regained the lead, 90-89, with 3:35 left in the game. The Celtics were forced to start from scratch and rebuild an advantage with minutes to go. They caught a break when Vince Carter missed a pair of free throws that could have brought the Magic within one with 30 seconds left, but they cannot rely on that moving forward. Even though they pulled out the win, they were outscored 22-17 in the fourth quarter. This is the second game in which they have fumbled a late edge (they were outscored 30-18 in the fourth in Game 1) and must play 48 minutes of basketball moving forward to avoid another surge by the Magic.

Foul trouble remains a problem: The Celtics struggled with foul trouble early on, just as they have been for most of the postseason. Kendrick Perkins and Paul Pierce were whistled for two personals in the first quarter. By halftime, Perkins and Glen Davis had three fouls while Pierce, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace had two apiece. (This was not lopsided, though. The Magic were called for one more foul in the first half.)  Fast forward to the fourth quarter, where first it was Kendrick Perkins, then Paul Pierce who fouled out. Rasheed Wallace sidelined by five fouls of his own, Glen Davis was forced to be the big man in the middle. Even though Dwight Howard didn’t take advantage of size over Davis, the Celtics were vulnerable in the paint. The absence of Pierce also posed a potential detriment to the C’€™s, as they were without one of their most clutch shooters late in a close game.

Dwight did damage: Dwight Howard more than doubled his Game 1 performance with a game-high 30 points on Tuesday night. Howard shot an efficient 9-for-13 from the floor and 12-for-17 from the free throw line. Foul troubles prevented Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace from staying on the court as long as the Celtics would have liked to defend Howard. (On a positive note for the Celtics, they limited Howard to just eight rebounds.)

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