ORLANDO, Fla. — There’s nothing like slapping around an inferior opponent for four quarters to boost the confidence of a team that needed a strong dose. The Celtics pounded the Magic, 120-88, Saturday at Amway Center to snap a two-game losing streak and clinch the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings, likely setting up a first-round playoff series with Atlantic Division rival New York.
All five Boston starters scored in double figures and the team led from start to finish and by as much as 37 points. The 120 points Boston scored was a season-high, topping its previous high of 118. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce returned from one-game absences and each played well. Garnett had 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes. He added nine rebounds. Pierce scored 12 points and added eight assists and six rebounds.
The Celtics shot 48 of 81 (59 percent) from the floor. Courtney Lee scored 20 off the bench and Jordan Crawford added 16. Brandon Bass scored 14 and Avery Bradley added 14.
The Magic didn’t produce much in the way of resistance. Tobias Harris scored 22 and Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Outside of those two, any nice-looking stats that Orlando had in their box score were earned during garbage time.
The Celtics return to Boston tomorrow and have two regular season games left: Tuesday against Indiana and Wednesday at Toronto.
Fourth quarter, 7:19, Boston 101-70: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are on the bench and it’s highly doubtful that either will play anymore in this one. The Celtics have been on a 16-6 run to open this quarter, where they’ve hit five of eight shots and three of four from 3-point range. They now have seven players in double figures. This is the kind of bounce-back, all-around win the Celtics needed after two straight losses.
End of the third quarter, Boston 85-64: Barring a huge comeback, we’re just about done here — even with a quarter to go. The Celtics are on fire, hitting 56.5 percent of their shots (35 of 62) and they have six players who have scored in double figures, including three who have 14 points (Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley). Orlando is shooting 38.2 percent (26 of 68) and is led by Tobias Harris’ 22 points. Nikola Vucevic has a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. A reminder: A Celtics win will clinch the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed in the playoffs with a win.
Third quarter, 4:23, Boston 77-52: More of the same. The Celtics have have hit 8 of 12 shots this quarter, including two of three from 3-point range. All five Boston starters have scored in double figures. The Celtics have 18 assists on 33 made baskets.
Third quarter, 8:34, Boston 65-43: The Celtics are picking up where they left off. They have four players in double figures and have led by as much as 26 points. Kevin Garnett has looked very good, with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 15 minutes.
Halftime: Boston 57-37: Brandon Bass earned a put-back dunk to end the half, a nice punctuation mark to cap a strong first half for the Celtics. Granted, the Magic are “terrible,” as Jason Terry so eloquently put it. Boston used a 15-0 run to take a 18-point lead. Orlando answered that run with a 5-0 spurt, and then the Celtics re-established control. Three Celtics have 10 points (Bass, Jeff Green and Paul Pierce). Kevin Garnett and Jordan Crawford have each scored 8. The Celtics are shooting 53.3 percent (24 of 45 from the floor) and Orlando is shooting 32.7 percent (16 of 49). Maurice Harkless has a team-high 8 points for the Magic.
Second quarter, 6:42, Boston 39-21: The Celtics are on a 15-0 run, largely behind up-tempo play mixed with a lot of ball movement. We obviously haven’t seen a lot of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jeff Green on the court at the same time, but the trio is looking effective tonight.
Second quarter, 8:28, Boston 33-21: Kevin Garnett has looked strong, with 6 points on 3-of-4 shooting with 4 rebounds. He’s running the floor well, except on that last play when he got out in front a fast-break and turned the ball over. Chris Wilcox, who is now the second big man off Boston’s bench behind Shavlik Randolph, has six early rebounds. Maurice Harkless has 8 points for Orlando.
End of the first quarter, Boston 23-17: After jumping out to a 9-0 lead, the Celtics let up and allowed Orlando to get back into the game, in part because the Celtics were sloppy. Avery Bradley has four turnovers, and the Celtics have six all told. Nikola Vucevic has 6 points and 5 rebounds and could be on his way to a huge night for the Magic. Brandon Bass has hit all four of his shots and has a team-high 8 points.
First quarter: 4:30, Boston 16-8: Orlando started to find a little rhythm when the Celtics took Kevin Garnett out of the game. Brandon Bass’ jumper is looking solid, once again. The Celtics are really trying to run and Avery Bradley is pushing the tempo. Nikola Vucevic is a load down low and the Celtics will have trouble stopping him again. He’s starting to pile up the rebounds and has four already.
First quarter, 9:00, Boston 9-0: Jeff Green scored the Celtics’ first five points, a good sign after plenty of criticism about whether he could perform with Kevin Garnett on the floor at the same time. It’s early, but already Orlando looks to be in a lot of trouble.