There was no reason to think that the Celtics had any chance of coming back in a game when they were down by 27 points and playing without three starters. But the Celtics slowly began to chip away at Orlando’s lead in the second half and late in the third quarter, E’Twaun Moore caught fire knocking down three 3-pointers as the Celtics rallied all the way back for a 91-83 win in Orlando.
Paul Pierce led the way with 24 points, 10 assists and six rebounds and Kevin Garnett added 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics got a huge lift from Moore and Mickael Pietrus, who combined for 28 points and seven 3-pointers, making up for the absence of Ray Allen.
They were also missing Rajon Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal, which meant that Garnett had to play Dwight Howard and the veteran held the All-NBA center in check. Orlando did not score a field goal until more than halfway through the fourth quarter and picked up two fourth quarter technicals, which helped seal their fate.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— Moore, the rookie from Purdue, simply played out of his mind, making all four of his 3-point shots and finishing with 16 points. The Celtics have loved his aggressiveness and on Thursday night that translated into much-needed points.
— Slowly but surely, Garnett’s game has been coming back together. He’s scored in double figures in seven straight games and his defense has been tremendous. Garnett played Howard as well as you could ask and was one of the few players who brought anything to the table offensively in the first half.
— Mickael Pietrus started for Allen and at least approximated Allen’s 3-point shooting, knocking down three of them and finishing with 12 points.
— Chris Wilcox didn’t do much in the box score but his activity and energy on defense was a huge lift in the fourth quarter.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— It was almost a gift for the Celtics when Howard got two quick fouls and jumped out to an 8-2 lead. But when Howard left, the Celtics didn’t attack the basket and instead were content to fire up off-target jumpers. The Magic outscored them 30-8 the rest of the first quarter and put them in a deep hole.
— Greg Stiemsma picked up four fouls in only seven minutes in the first half and he and Wilcox contributed no points and one rebound in 15 minutes. Since his breakout game against Washington on New Year’s Day, Stiemsma has made just two shots and scored only six points.