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Friday, January 29, 2010

You can't just walk into Amway Arena expecting to win

The Celtics' three-game cage match started last night in Orlando and things looked great as Boston built a 16-point lead on the Magic.

Sadly this was just a prelude for an epic choke job in the fourth quarter that was capped off by Rashard Lewis' (game-high 23 points) layup with 1.3 seconds remaining.

Boston (29-14) had a great look at the buzzer but Rasheed Wallace (17 points) airballed a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Orlando (30-16) held on for the 96-94 win that the C's completely pissed away.

On the night that they were named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, Paul Pierce (12 points) and Rajon Rondo (11 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) didn't submit their best games by any means.

Spurred by Rasheed and 10 points from Eddie House, Boston's bench scored a season-high 41 points but it still wasn't enough to make up for subpar games from Kevin Garnett (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Kendrick Perkins (4 points, 3 rebounds).

Ray Allen was the only Celtic with what could be termed a nice stat line of 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting.

Dwight Howard had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for the Magic while Jameer Nelson scored 12 and J.J. Redick had 11 off the bench (including a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter).

It should not have come to that since Boston led 34-23 after the first quarter and 51-40 at the half. They still held the 11-point lead going into the fourth (62-51).

After it was over, Inside the NBA, which is by far the best NBA coverage, said that the Big Three had been 86-0 in games that they went into the fourth quarter with double-digit leads. So there is that.

The numbers indicated a close game since the C's made six more threes (12-6) but the Magic converted many more free throws (26-12). Orlando was also beastly on the boards (47-32), which is particularly surprising since Howard didn't go crazy and finally Boston was much more unselfish (22-8 assists).

I'd love to see the Celtics put it behind them and play great in Atlanta tonight but as I've said earlier in the season, nobody in the NBA has the Celtics' number or matches up with them as well as the Hawks. In the ATL on the second night of a back-to-back against Eastern Conference contenders makes the challenge that much tougher.

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