“They are the Eastern Conference Champions until somebody beats them,” Doc Rivers said at halftime on ESPN.
And– for one more day at least–after a 96-92 OT win–the Magic are still the Eastern Conference Champions.
Jameer Nelson spearheaded the effort with 23 points, and– more importantly– 9 assists. Nelson controlled the pace of the came, continuously finding Howard for lobs and bounce passes off the pick-and-roll and Redick for threes.
Nelson’s back-to-back threes in overtime secured the victory for Orlando.
Paul Pierce had a vintage game–attacking the rim from all angles– but it was not enough for Boston. Pierce shot ten first half free throws– scoring 19 points. Pierce finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds for the game.
Rondo went into the locker room with 1:16 left in the first half with what turned out to be muscle spasms. Rondo played noticeably worse in the second half and finished with just 9 points on 3-10 shooting and 8 assists.
J.J. Redick provided a spark off the bench again with 10 straight points Magic points midway through the fourth quarter– and at one point was the only Magic player to score over an 11 minute span.
Vince Carter scored just 3 points on 1-9 shooting. Dwight Howard scored 32 points and ripped down 16 rebounds.
After Kevin Garnett and Howard got into a minor scuffle early in the third quarter, Celtics crowd and the team’s energy noticeably increased. Howard elbowed Garnett, who responded by pushing Howard, which quickly earned Garnett a technical foul.
Ray Allen, who made 5-7 threes, hit one big three with 1:41 left in regulation, two more in overtime.
Besides Ray Allen though, Boston was 0-11 from behind the arc. Pierce missed back-to-back threes with about a minute left in overtime which effectively ended the Celtic’s chances.
We’re going to win this game with our effort, our defense, our intensity,” Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, before the game for ESPN, while miked up in the locker room.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions did just that to hold off elimination.