Avery Bradley did his best Rajon Rondo imitation, and the Celtics put forth their best defensive effort of the year to pick up their first big win, 87-56, over the Orlando Magic at TD Garden tonight. Orlando's offensive output was historically low -- the Magic shot 24.6 percent from the field in the game, the second-lowest field percentage allowed by the Celtics in franchise history. Orlando's 16 field goals are the fewest in the shot-clock era.
The Celtics started a lineup of Bradley, Sasha Pavlovic, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jermaine O'Neal, and for the first quarter they looked the part of a depleted team. The Celtics made 8 of 22 shots in the first quarter and were saved by Pierce's 8 points. Garnett missed the only shot he took from the field.
But Bradley steadily led the team in the second, harassing Orlando's Jameer Nelson on defense and failing to turn the ball over once on offense as the Celtics found their groove. In the market for a second scorer, the Celtics found one in Brandon Bass, who had 11 points in the second quarter to supplement the scoring of Pierce. It finally clicked for the home team with a 12-4 run run to end the quarter as their offense began to match their defensive intensity. By halftime Orlando was shooting 29 percent from the field. The Celtics had six first-half blocks.
If the second quarter was surprising, the third was satisfying. The Celtics kept up the defense and cranked up the offense to outscore the Magic 23-10 in the third. By the end of the period Orlando had more turnovers (17) than field goals (13). It was -- by far -- the team's most complete effort of the year.
Pierce finished the game with 19 points, while Bass also had 19.
It's an important win for the Celtics because as they've seen in this lockout-shortened season, an injury means a player might miss 5 or 6 games instead of 3 or 4. In other words, they don't have time to wait for their injured players to get back. The C's should get Rondo and perhaps Keyon Dooling back Thursday night, when the Celtics and Magic meet again in Orlando in a nontraditional home-and-home.
Final: Celtics 87-56: Best effort of the year, hands down.
4:29 4th quarter, Celtics 77-51: JaJuan Johnson making his first appearance. Would like to see more of him.
6:28 4th quarter, Celtics 75-51: Both teams emptying their benches. OK maybe just the Magic, since the Celtics started theirs. Dwight looks done for the night.
8:07 4th quarter, Celtics 73-48: Jermaine O'Neal fouls out. Dance party music on. Fans looking ahead to Feb. 5.
END 3d quarter, Celtics 69-46: Orlando scores10 points in the third quarter, Celtics score 23. Tremendous defense by the Celtics here, by far their best effort of the season. Avery Bradley has been everywhere.
3:05 3d quarter, Celtics 60-41: The Magic have made 12 shots and have 16 turnovers. Brandon Bass and KG guarding Howard now with the Celtics' centers in foul trouble.
5:04 3d quarter, Celtics 56-41: Greg Stiemsma has four fouls in six minutes.
7:34 3d quarter, Celtics 54-39: Jermaine O'Neal gets into it with Dwight Howard and tries to go after Howard. Paul Pierce steps in and breaks it up. O'Neal didn't look like he was messing around. Double-technicals called. Not a good situation with O'Neal there.
8:44 3d quarter, Celtics 50-39: Turkoglu finally gets Orlando on the board in the second half. Ryan Anderson is 0 for 6.
Pierce is going to need to lead the Celtics, and he's doing so with nine shots. He's also been to the line six times. The other scoring is coming from Brandon Bass, who has matched Pierce's 13. That seems about right, as Kevin Garnett has shown this season that big scoring nights probably won't be his thing.
Avery Bradley is playing very, very well in 17 minutes. He's been everywhere.
0:32 2d quarter, Celtics 43-33: A 9-0 run by the Celtics is capped by a 3-pointer from Pierce, who has 13 points.
2:44 2d quarter, Celtics 34-33: Brandon Bass is up to 10 points on 4 for 7 shooting. The man can score.
4:32 2d quarter, Celtics 32-29: This is a glorified men's league game. The Magic are just 3 for 13 in the quarter. On the other end, Marquis Daniels cannot for the life of him finish around the rim.
6:42 2d quarter, Celtics 30-29: The Glen Davis-Brandon Bass watch: 6 points and 4 rebounds for Bass, 6 and 4 for Davis.
9:55 2d quarter, Celtics 26-23: E'Twaun Moore doing good work in five minutes of play, forcing a Magic turnover. Rookie just needs to get some good minutes in.
END 1st quarter, Celtics 22-20: Good showing by the Celtics, who are led by Paul Pierce with 8 points. Dwight Howard has 12.
The NBA wouldn't be the NBA without Pierce owning Quentin Richardson. Pierce beat Q to the cup with a nifty move that left his former nemesis stuck in the mud in the paint.
2:21 1st quarter, Magic 16-15: The Celtics are somehow in this game despite having only 10 players and despite shooting 32 percent.
4:53 1st quarter, Tied at 10: Jermaine O'Neal takes a charge, something he's done well this season.
6:44 1st quarter, Magic 8-6: Here's the Glen Davis tribute video. Good ovation for Baby after an initial mixed reaction. I'd say that's just about right.
8:33 1st quarter, Tied at 6: Kind of fun to watch a lineup without Rondo and Ray Allen try to score points. Maybe Pierce can go for 60.
Pregame: Let's try something new: Celtics as plucky underdogs.