Jameer Nelson missed a desperation three-pointer as time expired and Boston held on to win 95-92, taking a convincing 2-0 lead as the series heads back to Boston for two games.
From the tip, it was obvious that game 2 was going to be a much tougher contest than game 1. Early on, both Boston and Orlando were playing tenacious, physical basketball, the crowd was electric, and the referees swallowed their whistles long enough to let the competitive juices spill over.
After Dwight Howard earned a flagrant foul late in the second quarter, however, the referees predictably overcompensated by calling the game extremely tight. For the Celtics, Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins ultimately fouled out, while Howard and Vince Carter were limited with foul trouble for the Magic. In total, 54 personal fouls were called in the game.
Despite all the foul problems, the game was played with a blistering intensity that was very fun to watch. Pierce led the way for Boston with 22 first half points (28 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists for the game), while Rajon Rondo torched the Magic defense for 25 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Howard led Orlando with 30 points and 8 rebounds, but Stan Van Gundy and the Magic helped the Celtics cause by relying on Howard too much offensively.
The game plan for the Celtics has been obvious from the start– single cover Howard, while staying home on the perimeter shooters. The message: make Howard a scorer, but don’t let the Magic shoot any open threes. Coach Doc Rivers’ clearly believes Howard is not a developed enough offensive player to beat the Celtics by himself, and so far, the results have proved him correct. After forcing Orlando into 5-22 3P FG in game 1, Boston held them to 7-18 3P FG in game two. Howard rebounded from his awful game 1 with an impressive 9-13 FG, but shooters Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter combined to shoot just 7-24 from the floor.
J.J. Redick once again provided an unexpected lift off the bench, adding 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, while providing a good defensive effort on Ray Allen. Allen had his worst game of the playoffs, finishing with just 4 points on 1-6 FG, 0-5 3p.
Despite leading for most of the game, Boston gave Orlando life in the fourth quarter by turning the ball over six times. Kendrick Perkins fouled out with eight minutes left and the Celtics up six points. Over the next four minutes, Carter and Howard made a mini-run that culminated in a Carter jump shot that gave Orlando the lead, 90-89. On the next possession, however, Kevin Garnett made his patented turn around, fade away over the outstretched arms of Howard with the shot clock winding down and Orlando never led again.
Now, Orlando has the unfortunate task of trying to come back from a 2-0 disadvantage with the next two games being played at the TD Garden in Boston. Game 3 is on Saturday night at 8:30 ET on ESPN. The Celtics have struggled at home for most of the season, but they look to put a nail in the coffin with a win Saturday night. On the other hand, the Magic look to keep the championship hopes alive with a win that would guarantee at least one more home game for the Magic.