Remove the lasers. Remove the dancers, the artificial noisemakers, and the endless fan giveaways. Remove all the elements of the Magic show, and you begin to see the reasons why the Celtics came away with a 92-88 victory over the Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
This game was won in the trenches. The shuffling of feet and forearms in the back. Hard fouls. Good, solid defense propelled the Celtics to this win, Boston holding Orlando to 41-percent shooting in Game 1.
The Magic hadn’t played since Monday and hadn’t lost a game so far this postseason. The Celtics changed all that in a hurry. They frustrated and fouled Dwight Howard all game. Howard was 1 of 5 at halftime. The Magic were 0 for 9 on three-pointers in the first half. The Magic could hit a few threes, but Howard never recovered, finishing the game with 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
On offense the Celtics were led by Ray Allen, whose game-high 25 points included perfect 7-of-7 free-throw shooting. Paul Pierce was cooly efficient with 22 points on just eight field goal attempts. Vince Carter led the Magic with 23.
Game 2 is Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. It’s going to take more show and less Show from the Magic to win that one.
Final, Celtics 92-88 A scary moment as Vince Carter’s missed free throw leads to an easy putback, but Ray Allen converts two freebies on the other end to put the game out of reach.
12.9, Celtics 90-85 Paul Pierce gets fouled and converts two free throws to make it a two-possession game.
14.3 4th quarter, Celtics 88-85 The Magic scored but took a lot of time off the clock. The Celtics need to execute out of this timeout.
1:41 4th quarter, Celtics 88-83 Rajon Rondo’s been outstanding in these playoffs, but two bad drives by Rondo have cost the Celtics possessions and put the Magic within striking distance. Rondo drove too far into the lane on one, then had his shot swatted by a waiting Dwight Howard on the next.
The Magic are fully capable of winning this game now if the Celtics can’t execute on the offensive end.
3:39 4th quarter, Celtics 88-79 The Magic have found an offensive groove. With a team that can shoot from the outside as well as Orlando does, the Celtics can’t feel their lead is safe. The Celtics need to make one, final push back against the Magic here.
6:28 4th quarter, Celtics 85-71: The Magic twice cut the lead to 10 points, but once again the Celtics have found answers, the latest coming from Ray Allen, who drove the baseline, bumped into a couple of Orlando big men, and had the body control to swish a 14-foot jumper.
8:57 4th quarter, Celtics 77-63: Rasheed Wallace is making his presence known on both ends. He’s gotten into Dwight Howard’s head as part of a center-by-committee that has frustrated Howard into 1-of-6 shooting. Wallace has 11 points, including two threes.
One problem: The Celtics are already out of fouls with almost nine minutes remaining.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 74-58: Paul Pierce had 13 points in the third quarter as the Celtics withstood an Orlando run and then went on one of their own to take a double-digit lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Thirty eight percent shooting for Orlando. Boston’s defense has been beyond impressive.
4:30 3d quarter, Celtics 64-45: With Kendrick Perkins on the bench with five fouls, Rasheed Wallace and Dwight Howard just picked up double-technicals scrapping in the paint.
6:11 3d quarter, Celtics 60-44: The Celtics tack on another 5-0 run after Pierce’s heroics, a three-pointer by Ray Allen giving the C’s their largest lead of the game. Amazing ability by the Celtics to withstand that Magic run. It’s exactly what they did in the Cleveland series, and exactly what they did not do during the regular season.
Remember Feb, 7? On that date, the Magic used a 19-0 run in the third quarter to overcome a huge deficit and beat the Celtics 96-89.
7:20 3d quarter, Celtics 55-44: Paul Pierce gets three free-throws after being fouled. Pierce makes all three. Pierce has seven points this quarter and is helping the Celtics ride out this Orlando run.
9:57 3d quarter, Celtics 43-40: So much for that.
After the Magic failed to hit a three-pointer for the entire first half, Jameer Nelson hit one 25 seconds into the second. Nelson added another three-pointer as well as a jumper to give him 12 points in the game, 8 of them in the first two minutes of the third quarter.
Halftime, Celtics 41-32: The big story is obviously the Celtics’ defense: Orlando shot 34 percent from the field on their way to 32 halftime points. Magic fans can take solace in the fact that the Magic were 0 of 9 from three-point range and are still very much in this game.
On offense, Ray Allen is leading the Celtics with 12 points. For Celtics fans, the concern is that sloppy offense (9 turnovers) cost them a chance to open up the game even more.
2:37 2d quarter, Celtics 35-28: Marcin Gortat has given the Magic some energy off the bench. The backup big man has been more super than the Other Guy, with 6 points and 3 rebounds. Stan Van Gundy has tried just about everything to inject some spunk into his offense, and the insertion of Gortat seems to have done it.
6:18 2d quarter, Celtics 31-18: Neglected to mention a crucial stat earlier: The Celtics are winning the battle of the boards, 20-11.
9:36 2d quarter, Celtics 29-14: Rasheed Wallace quiets the crowd with a three-pointer as the shot clock winds down, giving the Celtics their largest lead of the game so far. It’s a 7-0 run for the Celtics to start the second quarter.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 22-14: Old-school defense and good old Ray Allen did it for the Celtics in the first quarter. Allen leads all scorers with 8 points. On defense, the Celtics are holding the Magic to 4-of-20 shooting. Magic fans don’t really know what to make of it.
Are the playoffs supposed to be this hard?
3:59 1st quarter, Celtics 15-9: Paul Pierce picks up his second foul — this one offensive — going to the hole on the fast break. Like he did a few times in the Cleveland series, Pierce sits for Tony Allen.
5:46 1st quarter, Celtics 13-7: There are good signs and bad signs for the Celtics so far. Good: No one is in foul trouble. Good: The Celtics are holding the Magic to 3-of-14 shooting. Bad: Despite that defense, look at the score. The Magic haven’t made anything and they’re a couple of jumpers away from taking the lead back.
7:27 1st quarter, Celtics 9-5: The Magic have started out just 2 of 9 from the field.
10:50 1st quarter, Celtics 5-0: Paul Pierce knocks down a three and Kendrick Perkins hits a jumper to put the Celtics up early. After what seemed like endless pregame antics and chanting, the arena is much quieter with the game underway.
Pregame: Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace had fun getting loose in the hallway of Amway Arena, the two players practicing alley-oops over a 7-foot pole between the walls.
Magic players, on the other hand, are having their pregame fun in front of the entire crowd, with Dwight Howard and Vince Carter dancing on the Jumbotron, to the delighted applause of the home folks.