National Basketball Association
Magic hold off Celtics late to win Game 1
National Basketball Association

Magic hold off Celtics late to win Game 1

Published May. 5, 2009 5:47 a.m. ET

The Orlando Magic avoided an epic collapse when the clock ran out on the Boston Celtics' comeback bid.

There would be no overtime this time.

Just another hole the defending NBA champions will try to escape.

Dwight Howard returned from his one-game suspension to get 16 points and 22 rebounds Monday night and Orlando, which led by as many as 28 points in the second half, held off the late-charging Celtics 95-90 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"The last 16 minutes was a debacle," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We were sort of trying to run out the clock, and you can't do that in games like this. Especially in the playoffs, teams are going to keep fighting and keep coming back.

"(But) how about the fact that we were up 28? You play these games to win, and that's it. We won. Right now, the series is 1-0."

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston.

Orlando led 65-37 early in the third quarter, but Boston trailed by four points when Ray Allen's 3-pointer rimmed out with 43 seconds left. J.J. Redick made two free throws with 14 seconds left before Paul Pierce's high 3-pointer made it a three-point game with 6.6 seconds to play.

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But Redick made two more free throws to ice it.

"We got complacent as a team, stopped doing what we did to get the lead and against a good Celtics team you can't do that," Howard said. "You don't want to focus on them coming back. We still won the game and we saw what we have to do to win the series."

Pierce scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half and Rajon Rondo had 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Pierce said the Celtics never feel like they're out of a game, and there's a good reason why: They came back from 21 points down to beat New Jersey in the 2002 conference finals, and they rallied from a 24-deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of last season's NBA finals.


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