Celtics Withstand Late Charge, Take Game One In Orlando, 92-88

For more on today's game, check out our Boston blog at CelticsBlog, and our Magic blog at Orlando Pinstriped Post. 

Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce and the Celtics still have some gas left in the tank, as the 2008 NBA Finals MVP netted 22 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out five assists to lead Boston to a 92-88 wire-to-wire victory over the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston finished off its second-round upset of the top-seeded Cavaliers on Thursday and continued its solid play by forcing 18 turnovers and holding the Magic to 41.6 percent shooting to hand Orlando its first loss this postseason.

"The biggest thing was turnovers," Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We aren't giving ourselves a chance to win with 18 turnovers...We have to be able to convert better in the paint. I thought we got the ball into the paint, but we weren't very efficient. Nothing is going to be easy in this series."

The Magic trailed by as many as 20 before cutting the deficit to five in the final minute. Rashard Lewis missed a three-pointer with the Magic trailing 88-83, but J.J. Redick controlled a long rebound, and Dwight Howard cleaned up a Jameer Nelson miss for a three-point game with 26.1 seconds on the clock.

Pierce was fouled with 12.9 to go and hit both free throws to end a 5 1/2- minute scoreless drought for Boston.Vince Carter was hacked 3.5 ticks later going to the hoop and hit the first before missing the second from the stripe.

Nelson came from the top of the key to put in an acrobatic tip shot, though Ray Allen pushed it back to two possessions with a 2-for-2 effort at the line with 6.1 ticks to go. Lewis' missed three -- his sixth of the game -- gave the Celtics their fourth straight win and allowed Boston to steal home-court advantage.

The best-of-seven series continues on Tuesday, also at Amway arena.

Allen ended with 25 points, while Kevin Garnett grabbed 11 rebounds to go with eight points for the Celtics, who received eight points and eight assists from Rajon Rondo.

Rasheed Wallace was solid off the bench with 13 points and helped contain Howard on the defensive end.

Howard, who missed a total of five shots in a second-round sweep of the Hawks, finished with 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting to go with 12 rebounds while committing seven turnovers.

Carter and Nelson chipped in 23 and 20 points, respectively, for Orlando, which had won 14 straight games dating back to the regular season, including sweeps over Charlotte and Atlanta in the playoffs.

The latter was especially impressive, as the Magic recorded the largest victory margin in a four-game sweep in NBA playoff history, winning the series against the Hawks by a total of 101 points.

With a veteran Boston club coming off an unlikely series win over Cleveland, the Magic figured to roll into the NBA Finals for a second consecutive season. But nearly a week layoff appeared to affect the club in the first half, as they missed all nine attempts from long range and went nearly 10 minutes without hitting a field goal.

"I really felt like the two days off was just enough. We felt really good going into this game. Our rhythm was there," Pierce said. "We have to expect Orlando to be ready in Game 2. Hopefully we come in with the same type of rhythm."

Boston built on its 22-14 lead after the first quarter with seven straight points to open the second, as Wallace's three-pointer finished off the surge.

A Carter layup ended Orlando's drought with 7:35 remaining before halftime, and buckets from Nelson and Carter in the final minute helped cut the deficit to 41-32.

"I think defensively in the first half we were terrific," Boston head coach Doc Rivers said. "It was a defensive game. We like those. They're good for us."

Nelson scored eight points in the opening 2:02 of the third quarter, and the Magic were suddenly down just 43-40 following his three-ball.

A timeout allowed Boston to regroup and swing the momentum back in its favor, as the Celtics scored 19 of the next 23 points. Pierce had 10 on the flurry and capped it with a jumper for a 62-44 advantage with 5:43 remaining in the frame.

The margin was 74-58 heading to the fourth and stayed in double digits until a Nelson bucket resulted in an 88-79 game with 3:39 to play.

Kendrick Perkins missed two free throws after Lewis was off the mark on a three, and Carter connected on two from the foul line with 2:10 remaining.

After a Rondo miss, Redick put in a floater before missing a big three-pointer with just over a minute to play.

The Magic won three of four games vs. the Celtics in the regular season this year and have taken both playoff matchups between the two franchises, last year's Eastern Conference semifinals set and a first round win back in the 1994-95 season...Matt Barnes, who missed practice on Sunday because of back spasms, played 15 1/2 minutes and had just two points for Orlando, which finished 5-of-22 from behind the arc...Lewis went 2-for-10 overall and had six points and seven rebounds...Boston scored 20 fastbreak points, compared to six for the Magic...Boston committed 16 turnovers.

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