Another neat trick
Celtics fend off Magic, seize control of series
ORLANDO, Fla. — To an extent, just the thought of four straight wins made Celtics coach Doc Rivers nervous. During the regular season, the Celtics got drunk off just one or two shots of success, short winning streaks followed by catastrophic losses.
In the last week, they rendered the Cavaliers powerless, and after a Game 1 win over the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals opener, Rivers knew it would be easy for his team to feel too good about itself.
Rivers saw how focused his team was in yesterday’s shootaround, how closely they paid attention during film, but the coach crossed his fingers before Game 2 last night.
“I told my coaches we would know who we were at halftime,’’ Rivers said. “I didn’t know if we were going to win the game or not, but I knew we were going to be in it because you could see that we had great focus.’’
Not wanting to settle for just the one road win, the Celtics ended their pregame battle cries by telling each other, “Let’s be greedy.’’ Needing to salvage a split though, the Magic were thinking, “Let’s be desperate.’’
After leading by 11 early on, the Celtics found themselves trying to fight off the Magic in the fourth quarter. The Celtics found themselves trailing, 90-89, when Vince Carter drained a 20-footer. Kevin Garnett hit a 13-foot fadeaway that put the Celtics back on top, Glen Davis stepped in front of J.J. Redick to take a charge, and Rajon Rondo drilled a 16-footer in front of the Magic bench as greed held on for a 95-92 win.
It was the Celtics’ fifth straight postseason win, allowing them to seize a two-games-to-none lead over the defending Eastern Conference champions. But the key was simply looking at it as one win.
“Maybe as a young team you get pretty joyous with the way we beat Cleveland or when we come here and win two games,’’ said Paul Pierce. “But we have bigger goals, and that’s to win a championship. Even though it’s a nice streak going, we don’t settle on what we’ve done right now. It’s such a big picture to what we’re trying to do.’’
Rondo finished with 25 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds, fueling the Celtics in the second half. Pierce broke out for 28 points, scoring 12 in the first quarter, including Boston’s first 9 points. He put the Celtics up, 23-12, when he knocked down a 25-footer with 4:43 left in the quarter.
But the Magic made pushes, sparked by Redick’s 16 points off the bench.
After being pushed and shoved out of his comfort zone in the opener, Dwight Howard got free for dunks, hook shots, and alley-oops, putting up 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting. The Magic, however, shot just 39.4 percent.
Vince Carter struggled, scoring 16 points, but needing 15 shots to get there. At the free throw line with 31.9 seconds left after a Pierce foul, Carter missed both attempts, leaving the Magic in a 95-92 hole.
The Magic, who shot poorly from the 3-point line (7 of 18), watched as Jameer Nelson airballed a long heave to end the night.
“It was a great game intensity wise,’’ Rivers said. “It was a game of runs, very physical. They got the better of us in that, I thought. I thought they brought the fight to us in a lot of ways. I thought we withstood the hits. And that’s something you have to keep doing.’’
The Celtics now have three days to rest before Game 3 at TD Garden Saturday, knowing the series could end in Boston.
“We know what our ultimate goal is,’’ Pierce said. “We don’t get complacent. The focus, the drive, you can see it in meetings and shootaround. Every win that comes, the more and more confident I think we grow.’’
Still, Rivers is antsy, hoping his team doesn’t become intoxicated.
“Unfortunately we have a month off before the next game,’’ Rivers said. “For four days, they’re going to hear how great they are, and we’ve got to get our guys to stay focused and humble. Everywhere they go, they’re going to hear how great they are. We haven’t done anything yet. You need four wins. We have two. That’s it. We just have to keep playing basketball.’’