Boston took another small step toward disaster with a bizarre 113-92 loss that featured five technical fouls, two concussions, and Rasheed Wallace as the Celtics’ leading scorer.
Here’s how it happened:
The first quarter was one Dr. James Naismith would be proud of; the ball was moving, the players’ energy was palpable, and if you closed your eyes, you could hear the squeaking of shoes–the sound of basketball played the right way.
Ray Allen opened up the game’s scoring with a three-pointer, which would soon be followed by three more threes–one from Paul Pierce and one each from Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis. Lewis who has battled the flu, finally produced, scoring 14 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in just 24 minutes.
The Orlando Magic felt right at home in Amway Arena–sinking nine first half threes and shooting 13–25 on threes for the game. Meanwhile, Clarke Kent (Dwight Howard) had two thunder dunks in the first quarter, then immediately emerged from the phone booth as Superman.
In the second quarter, Orlando continued to play with high intensity and execute well, while Boston looked tired, old, and sluggish. Boston continuously walked the ball up the court into stagnant offensive sets, but, on the other end, Orlando was pushing the pace, moving with and without the ball and attacking gaps in the Celtics defense. Howard, who had 5 blocks in the first half, made sure any gaps in the Magic defense were quickly clogged by his incredibly long arms.
Halfway through the second quarter a three-point barrage–led by two J.J. Redick threes–extended the Magic lead to double-digits. Despite playing poorly on both ends, Boston somehow found a way to keep the game close until halftime, when the score was 57-49, Magic.
But it was the last two minutes of the half, not the three-point barrage, that had the biggest impact on the outcome of the game.
With 2:15 left in the half, Kendrick Perkins and Marcin Gortat were called for offsetting technical fouls. Perkins was trying to help Paul Pierce off the floor after a hard foul, when his hand slipped off Pierce’s and his elbow inadvertently bumped into Gortat. Gortat, thinking Perkins had just elbowed him, quickly poked the ball out of hands before the referees stunned everyone–fans, players, announcers– by calling double-technicals.
Then, with just 36.1 seconds left in the first half, Perkins received his second technical foul, earning him an early trip to the locker room. Perkins’ second technical foul came after he was called for a bogus reach-in foul on Dwight Howard. Perkins looked incredulously at the referee before turning his back and venting his frustrations to no one in particular.
Unfortunately, the ref kept a close eye on Perkins and when he jumped up animatedly, he was whistled for his second technical. With the two technical fouls, Perkins now has seven for the post-season, which will earn him a one-game suspension if the technicals are upheld. Each technical or flagrant foul is reviewed by the league office, and it seems likely that one–if not both– of Perkins’ technical fouls will be rescinded.
In spite of Perkins’ ejection, Boston played Orlando to a stand-still in the third quarter behind the strong play of reserves Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. Wallace finished the game with 21 points, while Davis finished it with a concussion and a missing tooth. Davis and Wallace manned the defensive interior, while guard Rajon Rondo handled the offense, scoring 10 third-quarter points.
At the end of the third-quarter, however, as little-used backup Nate Robinson blocked Howard’s shot, Davis took an elbow to the face from Howard and suffered a concussion. Davis was down on the ground for a few seconds, then tried to rise to his feet. Davis’ legs wobbled like a dizzy drunk and he caromed off balance before being held up first by referee Joe Crawford and then–when that became too much for Crawford– by Wallace.
Without either Davis or Perkins–the two primary Dwight Howard defenders–Boston quietly fell apart in the fourth quarter. A desperation small-ball lineup of Rondo, Robinson, Wallace, Pierce, and Ray Allen did nothing to change Boston’s fortune as the game turned sour with about 9 minutes left in the fourth.
Reserve forward Marquis Daniels also received a concussion when he drove into a double-team, and bumped his head into the oncoming chest of Gortat.
Rajon Rondo finished with 19 points and 6 assists, but was not probing the defense in his typical, breathtaking fashion. Paul Pierce finished with 18 points, 16 of them coming in the first half.
Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 24 points, followed by Howard, who finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. J.J. Redick had another productive game with 14 points off the bench, and two key three-pointers in the second quarter surge.
Orlando out-rebounded Boston 43 to 26, including 10 offensive rebounds.
Boston now leads Orlando just 3-2, with Game 6 coming up Friday on ESPN at 8:30 ET.