ORLANDO, Fla. - Often during Celtics games forward James Posey yells from the bench, "We got Tickets," in tribute to forward Kevin Garnett after he makes a big play.
Yesterday, for the first time this season, Posey couldn't yell anything about "The Big Ticket," as Garnett missed the game with an abdominal strain. But the Magic still needed a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer by Hedo Turkoglu to defeat the battered Celtics, 96-93, at a sold-out Amway Center.
"We had tickets, but we didn't have 'Tickets,' " Posey said.
Said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy: "They didn't have Kevin Garnett and we hit a miracle shot at the end. It was enough to win."
Garnett was hurt in the fourth quarter of a win over Minnesota Friday night but returned for the end of the game. While he still had hopes of suiting up during the bus ride to the arena yesterday, he was told firmly by coach Doc Rivers that he would not play.
"I knew we were going to come out and play hard," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who had a team-high 24 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. "This group has a lot of resiliency regardless of who is on the court. There are no moral victories. But this was a game we could have seen ourselves winning regardless to who was on the court."
The Celtics are dealing with their worst string of injuries this season.
Forward Brian Scalabrine had 1 point and one rebound in 22 minutes in place of Garnett in the starting lineup after missing Friday night's game with the flu. Point guard Rajon Rondo (15 points, 6 steals) went to the locker room for a bit early in the third quarter to have his slightly sprained right ankle taped.
Posey had 16 points, four 3-pointers, and six rebounds in his return after missing three games with a sprained finger on his right hand. Reserve guard Tony Allen (2 points) played with a right eye scratch suffered against Minnesota and left the arena with a Band-Aid over the eye. Center Scot Pollard is out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.
"We are banged up right now," Rivers said. "When Rajon went down, I grabbed them and said, 'Hey, I got great news for you. No practice Monday because we don't have enough bodies, so you might as well lay it on the line.' They started laughing.
"I figured at that point we might as well break the ice. Everyone was feeling a little bit sorry for themselves."
The Celtics led, 46-43, at halftime after receiving 19 points and six rebounds from Pierce. Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard had 10 of his 18 points, 10 of his 16 rebounds, and 2 of his 5 blocks in the first half.
Orlando shot 60 percent from the field and nailed five 3-pointers in the third quarter to outscore Boston, 32-19, to take a 75-65 lead. Magic reserve forward Brian Cook scored 11 points and hit three treys in the quarter.
Boston opened the fourth with a 16-7 run finalized by two Posey free throws to trim its deficit to 82-81 with 5:49 remaining. The Magic responded with a 9-3 run capped by a 20-foot jumper by Turkoglu (a game-high 27 points) to take a 91-84 lead with 2:41 left.
Ray Allen's lay-in sliced Boston's deficit to 91-88 with 1:13 left but two free throws by Turkoglu gave Orlando a 93-88 advantage with 58.9 seconds remaining. Rondo's lay-in with 43.9 seconds left got the Celtics within 93-90, and after Rondo's athletic steal of a pass from Orlando guard Carlos Arroyo, Ray Allen nailed a 3-pointer in front of the Magic bench to tie the game at 93 with 14.1 seconds remaining.
"I kept telling them to hang in there, hang in there, cut the lead, and when it got closer and you're on the road the home team gets tight, not the road team," Rivers said. "I just kept telling them, 'One basket at a time.' "
Howard and Rashard Lewis (15 points) are viewed as the Magic's stars. But with 24 points at that point, the Magic turned to Turkoglu. He responded by nailing a deep 3-pointer over Pierce's outstretched hand.
"I didn't want to settle on a jumper," Turkoglu said. "I just tried to go to the hole and take a foul. But they had good defense and forced me to take a tough shot.
"It was a tough shot to take over Pierce and it was from long range. I'm glad it was right there today and I was able to make it."
Rivers, the Eastern Conference All-Star coach, joked that he was going to call the NBA to take back his All-Star vote for Turkoglu.
"We played well enough to win," Rivers said. "A guy makes a fadeaway from 4 feet behind the [3-point line] on the last play. I was really proud. I thought we took them out of what they were trying to run. Turk turned around and made a tough shot. I can live with that."