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Celtics 92, Magic 88

Celtics dig deep to bury Magic

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By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / May 13, 2009
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers talked about his team grinding out results. The last two games have been more like crunching them out.

The Celtics again came through in crunch time last night, the combination of their late-game heroics and the Orlando Magic's panicky reaction resulting in a 92-88 victory in Game 5 of this Eastern Conference semifinal.

The Celtics, who had taken a 95-94 win at the buzzer in Game 4, will take a 3-2 lead in the series going into Game 6 in Orlando tomorrow.

"Things weren't going our way, pretty much the whole night," Celtic guard Ray Allen said. "Everyone just dug down deep. We had been doing the same things but I think we wore them down over the course of the game, where we were bumping them from the lanes, and from getting those easy threes.

"We have great resiliency. We fight tooth and nail, we know the fourth quarter is the time to win games. Being down 15, 20 points, we don't want to be in that position, but we figure we take those good habits out there, share the ball and get back on defense and help each other.

"That's the type of basketball we have to have. When the game is tight we execute and make a shot."

Allen converted the shot that gave the Celtics their first lead, 86-85, since early in the first quarter as they overcame a 10-point deficit in the final minutes.

Rivers went to the starters for the final 4:55, almost a reluctant choice since a Stephon Marbury-led second unit was keeping the team in contention.

But the move paid off as the Celtics took command with harassing defense, timely shooting, and a fortunate call on what appeared to be an airball by guard Rajon Rondo.

A drive by Hedo Turkoglu gave Orlando an 85-75 lead with 5:40 remaining. But that would be the final Magic field goal of the game.

The Celtic rally started as Orlando's Rashard Lewis launched an airball and missed a 20-footer, Glen Davis sinking two jumpers to pull the Celtics within 85-79 with 3:57 remaining. Allen stripped Lewis out of a timeout and Paul Pierce hit a layup off a Rondo feed with 3:26 remaining.

Lewis missed again, Rondo failed on a drive, but Kendrick Perkins's second-chance layup cut the deficit to 2 points with 2:36 to go. Perkins then stopped a Turkoglu drive, but Davis missed a jumper. Dwight Howard was off on a dunk attempt off a Rafer Alston lefthander, and Allen hit a 3-pointer in transition for the 86-85 lead with 80 seconds remaining.

Allen's three would be the final field goal of the game, the crucial shot of the final minute turning out to be a Rondo miss.

On Orlando's next possession, Allen deflected a pass to Alston, who missed a 3-pointer, the Celtics taking possession with 1:01 remaining. Rondo launched a 3-pointer just before the shot-clock buzzer that may or may not have hit the rim.

Perkins rebounded it, and his appeal that the ball hit the rim was upheld. The Celtics retained possession instead of being charged with a 24-second violation. Eddie House was fouled with 8.5 seconds on the clock, his free throws making it 88-85.

"I didn't think that it did [hit the rim] at the time, I thought it was way short," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It doesn't do us any good [if the officials erred]. Look, you're playing Boston, they're the defending champions, that's the way it is."

Davis extended that Celtic possession by tipping Allen's miss to Pierce, who was fouled, setting up another inbounds play with 9.5 seconds remaining.

The Celtics then played the give-a-foul game to perfection, though they did not clinch the result until Davis rebounded Howard's intentionally-missed free throw with 4.6 seconds left.

But the Celtics might not have reached that point without Marbury's most significant contribution since joining the team in early March.

He scored 12 points in the final quarter, converting four jumpers, including a 3-pointer, then a 3-point play, cutting the deficit to 83-75 with 5:55 remaining, and drawing Howard's fourth foul.

"They won it for us," Rivers said. "That unit with Steph, Eddie, [Brian Scalabrine], and I don't know who else was out on the floor. I mean, that game could've gone from 9 to 15. Instead, they just hung in there and made shots for us.

"The tough call for me was going back with the starters. I just thought that they knew the stuff better down the stretch. I thought it was going to be a game of execution down the stretch for us.

"It was a gamble, I've got to tell you, because Steph was playing so well and Eddie was, too. And I really thought because our starters kind of know each other better, our defense was better down the stretch. It came down to multiple stops, multiple scoring, and, finally, offensively, we started moving the ball."

Allen, who had not converted a 3-pointer since Game 2 of the series, was again limited by the Magic, as he finished 3 for 11 from the field. But at the crucial moment, Allen produced.

"He's a shot-maker," Rivers said. "He can be 0 for 20 and he's a shot-maker. Great players have the ability to forget. All of us average guys and average players can't forget that stuff. But great shooters, great players, they keep thinking the next shot will go in, and that's Ray."

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