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For much of the last week, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy insisted the Boston Celtics are playing better defense than anyone in the NBA.
His team won't disagree.
Paul Pierce had 27 points and 10 rebounds, Glen Davis added a season-high 16 points and Boston disrupted everything Orlando wanted offensively, beating the Magic 90-80 in a matchup of two of the league's elite this season.
Kevin Garnett scored 16 points to help the Celtics (36-9) extend their winning streak to seven games. Ray Allen added 12.
Dwight Howard, who on Thursday became the first player in league history to receive 3 million votes in a season for the All-Star game, was held to a relatively ordinary 11 points and 11 rebounds. He fouled out with 2:30 left.
The Magic (33-9) entered the night with the league's best record, but saw their run of consecutive victories end at seven.
Hedo Turkoglu scored 22 points, Rashard Lewis finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Jameer Nelson scored 17 points for Orlando, whose previous low scoring total this season was 82.
During their winning streak, the Magic averaged 111 points, shot 49 percent and hit an average of 13 1/2 3-pointers. But Thursday, Orlando finished 22.3 points below its season average, shot only 38 percent and was a mere 4-for-15 from beyond the arc through three quarters.
Still, when the Magic hit few shots — and Nelson scored five straight points — they were within 82-75 with 3:10 remaining.
But Davis hit an 18-footer from the left wing on Boston's next possession, Howard fouled out seconds later, and the Celtics held on from there.
Boston improved to 33-1 when scoring at least 90 points this season. When the Celtics score 89 or less, they're 3-8.
Both teams tried to dispel the notion that this would be a bigger-than-usual game.
It didn't seem to work.
Tiger Woods sat a few feet from the court, tapping his foot and swaying his shoulders to the booming arena music. People pleaded for tickets three hours before tip-off, standing outside in unseasonably chilly air, and inside, there was a distinct something-other-than-ordinary feel.
Heck, it was even on the Jumbotron screen: Fans at halftime saw this message — "It's A Big Game! Get Loud!"
Maybe Van Gundy tried the same tactic in the Orlando locker room at intermission, because in the first half, his team struggled in ways he hadn't seen this season.
Boston led 44-36 at the half, as Orlando shot just 32 percent on the way to a season-low for points in the opening two periods.
The NBA's leaders in 3-pointers made and in accuracy coming in, the Magic started just 1-for-11 from beyond the arc — meaning they were, through the first 5 1/2 quarters of their season series with Boston, just 6-for-37 from long range.
Turkoglu hit a pair of 3-pointers from the left wing late in the half, helping to ensure the Celtics wouldn't pull away too soon.
But the second half didn't start much better for the Magic.
And when Pierce got loose for a dunk with 7:22 left in the third, the Celtics had a 12-point cushion that immediately had Van Gundy calling time-out and clearly took some of the buzz from the building.
Lewis scored seven points in the first eight minutes of the third quarter the only seven points for the Magic at that point in the period. The Celtics weren't exactly a high-octane offensive machine, but made shots on four straight possessions to stretch the lead to 56-40 with 5:54 left in the third, eventually settling for a 65-54 edge entering the final 12 minutes.
This program aired on January 23, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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