The Boston Celtics’ injuries didn’t affect what coach Doc Rivers always wants – solid defense.
Paul Pierce and former Magic forward Brandon Bass each scored 19 points to carry the injury-riddled Celtics to an 87-56 win over Orlando on Monday night.
The Magic set franchise lows for points and field goals (16).
”Defensively that was as good as you can get,” Rivers said after his team matched a club record for fewest points allowed in the shot-clock era, also done last season against Milwaukee.
Boston was minus starters Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and three bench players, drastically reducing its roster.
Bass and Pierce carried the offense and Boston got some strong play from a cast of down-the-bench reserves. The Celtics snapped a streak of six straight losses against teams with winning records.
Pierce is looking for it to shake Boston out of its early season woes.
”Hopefully it’ll funnel over to the guys that were out,” said Pierce, who followed a 34-point effort in a win at Washington on Sunday. ”There’s no more excuses.”
Avery Bradley and Sasha Pavlovic started in the backcourt for Boston and attempted to pressure Orlando’s guards early, helping the Celtics pick up the pressure defensively.
”(It) started with Avery,” Rivers said. ”The ball pressure – and then it led to everyone. They’re a great shooting team. … Everything had to be precise and it was.”
Dwight Howard led the Magic with 18 points and 14 rebounds. He needs eight points to surpass Nick Anderson as the Magic’s career scoring leader.
Howard was 0 for 6 from the floor and just 4 for 10 from the free throw line in the second half.
”They came out and absolutely dominated us with their energy and defensive intensity,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Kevin Garnett added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Boston.
The Celtics led by 10 at the half, turned up the pressure defensively and scored 16 of the first 21 points in the second half to pull ahead 62-41. Pierce had seven points in the run and set up Marquis Daniels for a layup that gave Boston its 21-point edge with 2:31 remaining in the quarter.
The Celtics held Orlando to one field goal in the opening 9:52 of the third and just two for the quarter – both 3-pointers. The Magic hit 2 of 11 shots and had nine turnovers.
”It was a tough game. They pressured us a lot,” Howard said. ”We rushed shots. It just wasn’t a good night overall for us.”
Howard, who missed 5 of 8 free throws in the third and went 0 for 5 from the field, flung the ball in frustration at the end of the quarter, nailing the backboard from his own end of the floor as the horn sounded with Boston holding a 69-46 lead.
Boston didn’t let up in the fourth until Pierce and Garnett came out with just over five minutes to play. The Magic had a season-high 25 turnovers, 20 in the second half, and a season-low points.
Jermaine O’Neal and Howard were involved in a brief shoving match in the lane and both were given technicals midway into the third quarter. O’Neal got the initial foul on the play with a hard shove.
The Celtics led 36-36 at halftime, with Pierce and Bass each scoring 13 points.
The Celtics acquired Bass in a sign-and-trade deal with Orlando that sent Glen ”Big Baby” Davis to the Magic.
Boston forwards Mickael Pietrus (shoulder) and Chris Wilcox (left calf) and guard Keyon Dooling (right knee) were also out – though not missed on this night.
Boston scored nine straight points late in the second quarter, pulling to a 43-33 lead on Pierce’s 3 from the left wing with 45 seconds left.
”There’s no way KG should be beating me up and down the floor,” Howard said, before joking about the age difference. ”There was a couple plays where he beat me up and down the floor. There’s no way. He’s 40 and I’m 25. I just can’t allow that to happen. I have to step up and be the leader for this team.”
Notes: Orlando’s previous season-low was 78 points. The franchise-low was 57, set Dec. 4, 1996 against Cleveland. … The Celtics welcomed back Davis during a break in the opening quarter with highlights and ”Thank You Big Baby” on the jumbotron. He got a standing ovation from the crowd, walked onto the court and pumped his fist. … Van Gundy said before the game that he’s amused how people are talking about Boston’s slow start this season. ”People see the record and panic,” he said. ”People talk about `The Celtics are too old and can’t play.’ I’m not buying it. What are they going to say when they start winning, they got younger?” … Forward Jeff Green, who had surgery Jan. 9 to repair an aeortic aneurysm, visited Boston’s locker room before the game and in the morning. ”It was awesome,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. ”I’m amazed. Two weeks and he’s walking around. We were sarcastic this morning, saying `He’s walking around and you guys can’t play.”’