NBA Game Summary - Boston at Orlando
(Wednesday, March 25th)
Final Score: Orlando 84, Boston 82
Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Dwight Howard finished with 24 points and 21 rebounds and swatted away Paul Pierce's potential game-winning layup in the waning seconds, as the Orlando Magic pulled out a crucial 84-82 victory over the Boston Celtics.
Orlando (53-18) is now tied with Boston (54-19) for second place in the Eastern Conference after tying the season series, 2-2, as both clubs trail the Cleveland Cavaliers by five games.
"Obviously we want to get into the second place spot," the Magic's Rashard Lewis said. "It would be good for us, and it would be good to have home court. But regardless, you have to win on the road to win an NBA championship. You just can't win at home. The good teams go out on the road and win games."
Coupled with the Hawks' loss to the Spurs on Wednesday, the Magic also put the finishing touches on their second straight Southeast Division title.
"I know the politically correct answer in the NBA is we don't care about division titles and we're on to bigger things," Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Hopefully we are on to bigger things, but I do care [about division titles] because like I've said, somebody's going to win the division, rather it be us then anyone else. I don't understand why you would not care about somebody else beating you at anything."
Lewis finished with 21 points, while Hedo Turkoglu added 13 for Orlando, which has won four straight overall and six in a row at Amway Arena.
Pierce scored 19 of his game-high 26 in the second half but the Celtics fell for the first time in five games. Kendrick Perkins logged 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Ray Allen chipped in 16 points in defeat.
Kevin Garnett continued to work his way back to full strength after a knee injury kept him on the sidelines for nearly a month. In his fourth game back, the All-Star forward logged four points and eight rebounds in less than 17 minutes of action in the setback.
Trailing by as many as 16 points the Celtics never wavered. A 9-2 run late in the fourth bookended by a pair of Pierce jumpers pulled the defending champs within 83-82 with under 90 seconds to play.
Courtney Lee and Pierce traded missed field goals, and Hedo Turkoglu's three- point attempt went in-and-out on Orlando's next touch to give the Celtics the last shot.
Rivers called a timeout with 15.1 seconds left and gave the ball to Pierce, who drove the right side of the lane. Howard met him before the basket and tipped the layup attempt. There was contact on the block but no foul was called and the Celtics fouled Turkoglu with 3.8 ticks remaining.
"I drove to the hole," Pierce recalled. "The way the game was being called I wasn't fouled. I should have just taken the short jumper. Dwight made a great play on the ball. It just put us in a bind after that. We fouled and did not have any timeouts left."
Turkoglu, an 81-percent free throw shooter, made 1-of-2 at the line for a two- point lead. With a foul to give, Orlando hacked immediately, leaving 1.6 seconds on the clock, and Pierce's three while falling out of bounds fell way off the mark to send the Magic to 28-7 on their home floor this season.
Howard scored six straight at the tail end of the first quarter to cap a 9-0 Magic run that helped the hosts take a 25-21 lead into the second frame.
Orlando expanded the lead to 47-39 at the break with stellar defense and led by as many as 16 in the third after Howard's three-point play at the four- minute mark.
The defending champs pulled within 70-62 heading to the fourth, and the Magic struggled mightily from the floor in the final stanza despite Garnett sitting on the bench.
Boston has lost seven of eight at Amway Arena...Lee logged 11 points for Orlando, which shot a mediocre 37.0 percent from the field but managed to hit 10-of-25 from three-point land...Rajon Rondo ended with nine points and five assists for Boston, which made 4-of-16 from long range...Orlando lost a rare battle on the glass, 47-41, and Boston outscored its opposition in the paint, 38-28.
03/26 00:18:02 ET