ORLANDO, Fla. -- When Doc Rivers has dinner with Orlando coach Johnny Davis and Magic players Pat Garrity and Grant Hill sometime next summer, there should be some interesting conversation. Although the Celtics and Magic meet two more times this season, Rivers already has plenty of fodder for some good-natured ribbing.
Following Boston's best performance of the season in a 117-101 rout of Orlando last night, Rivers tried out some of his new material. He joked that the Magic played as poorly as many in Orlando would expect with Rivers on the sidelines at the TD Waterhouse Centre.
Comedy aside, the kind of moribund play the Magic exhibited last night led to Rivers's firing a little over a year ago. The contest was never close, which represented a pleasant change for the inconsistent Celtics as they snapped a four-game losing streak and handed Orlando only its second home loss this season.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to come here and win," said Rivers. "Not because I dislike Orlando's team. More because I've been here. I know Johnny. I know Pat. I know Grant. And I'm going to have dinner with them this summer at some point and I don't want them talking about how they killed us. I can say something now. But for me, it couldn't be about me. It had to be about the players, and the players answered."
The Celtics made sure they got attention by setting season highs in points, field goals (45), and offensive rebounds (16), though they lost the overall battle on the boards (56-46). Other than rebounding, Boston dominated Orlando by setting a quick pace on offense and getting back on defense. The Celtics racked up 30 fast-break points (23 in the first half). Many of the 70 points Boston scored in the paint came as a result of dunks and layups on the run. On the other end, the Celtics held the Magic to 39 percent from the floor.
Trailing, 69-45, at halftime, the Magic left the court to jeers from the same crowd of 12,124 that graciously cheered Rivers during introductions. An early 14-2 run set the tone for the visitors' performance. They finished the first quarter ahead, 37-20, shooting 64 percent. Paul Pierce scored with ease inside, converting layup after layup. Raef LaFrentz also continued to make significant offensive contributions, just as he did early against Miami Sunday night.
With a 15-4 run early in the second, Boston stretched its advantage to a game-high 27 (60-33) with a layup by LaFrentz. But in many ways, the quarter belonged to Marcus Banks, who scored 9 of his season-high 20 points as he continues to make the most of his opportunities. With rookie Delonte West (fractured right hand) once again injured, Banks returned to the backup point guard spot after recording a DNP-CD against Miami.
"I'm just glad to get that opportunity," said Banks. "I just have to sit there and be patient. I've got to wait my turn and make sure when I get in there I do all the right things."
With the exception of some struggles from the field and defensive lapses that allowed Orlando to close within 12 (94-82) early in the fourth, the Celtics made all the right moves. They also seized the opportunity that developed as it became clear they caught the Magic on an off night.
Although Orlando placed six players in double figures, no starter had more than 14 points, though Kelvin Cato recorded season highs with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Coming off the bench, Hedo Turkoglu led the Magic with 18 points.
To hear Steve Francis tell it, Boston owed its victory largely to the officials and luck.
"At the beginning, it was bad," said Francis, who picked up his second personal on an offensive foul with 7 minutes 54 seconds left in the first. "There were a lot of questionable calls. It got everything ignited for them.
"For us, we didn't defend too good in the first quarter. Sometimes we were contesting, but a lot of times it was just them, pure athletic ability. They've got guys who normally don't shoot hitting a lot of jumpers."
Nothing Francis said, however, could diminish the significance of the win for the Celtics. By showing the ability to hold a large lead, work through a period of poor play, and remain composed when Orlando made a couple of small runs, the Celtics gave hope that a winning streak might not be far off.
"We just played with a better sense of urgency," said Pierce (24 points). "We felt good about the way we played [against Miami]. We just didn't want to come off this road trip without at least a win. It worked out for Doc and the team."