A rare smattering of boos rained down from the TD Garden crowd.
And the Boston Celtics deserved every jeer that came their way.
A spirited yet late Boston run made the final score 96-89, but the game was hardly that close. At one point in the third quarter, the Celtics led the Orlando Magic 57-46. A few minutes later, two Tony Allen free throws broke a 24-3 Orlando run, and the 11-point Celtics lead had become a 70-62 deficit. What had been a solid first half disintegrated into an Orlando Magic blowout, with a long stretch of Boston turnovers, clanged shots, and missed defensive assignments encouraging a chorus of boobirds.
For the first time all season, the Celtics’ rotation was entirely healthy. But a spate of good health hardly matters when a team is thoroughly outplayed. Even with a full roster of players finally at Doc Rivers’ disposal, one of the C’s biggest problems persisted:
An inability to maintain elite play over an entire game.
The first half, by any measure, was the Celtics’. Aggressive play sent Dwight Howard to the bench with three personal fouls. Good execution left Boston with open cutters, and solid ball movement allowed the C’s to hit those cutters for open shots.
But the second half, and specifically the third quarter, was a clinic in bad basketball. It was embarrassing. Atrocious. Shocking. Impossible for a Celtics fan to watch without wanting to vomit.
The Magic took it to Boston, winning the third quarter 36-11. 36-11! They smacked the C’s with the backs of their hands. Knocked them down for the count. Pummeled them. Wiped their asses with them. Buried them.
Before Orlando buried them, though, the Celtics dug their own grave.
- Paul Pierce was okay in his return, but seemed to lack mobility at times and couldn’t find the range from deep. He finished with 13 points on 5-12 shooting, including 1-6 from three-point land.
- Marquis Daniels played only 12 minutes in his return from injury, but looked good with 8 points on 4-7 shooting.
- Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 17 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds, and his hustle play diving into the first row with 9 seconds remaining in a 7-point game was far more than admirable. His energy led the late run.
- Kevin Garnett had 13 points and 9 rebounds, but was held scoreless in the first half.
- Glen Davis had his shot blocked at least three times. He finished with 9 points and 7 rebounds.
- Kendrick Perkins, hailed as the Howard stopper, had only 2 points and 3 rebounds.
- Dwight Howard, limited in the first half due to foul trouble, finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He also wore a very ugly pair of shoes with Superman colors.
- Vince Carter led Orlando with 20 points, on 7-13 shooting.
- Rashard Lewis was mostly quiet, but his late floater ended any hopes of a Boston rally.