Magic storm back to shock Celtics
The play designed for Vince Carter was being shredded. J.J. Redick stood near midcourt, swarmed by defenders, unable to make the pass with the clock about to run out on an improbable come back.
Instead, Rashard Lewis caught the ball and surprised everybody.
Lewis made the go-ahead layup with 1.3 seconds remaining, and the Orlando Magic overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 96-94 on Thursday night.
"Turned the corner with my right hand, took it to the basket and was expecting the defense to collapse," he said. "I was surprised when I turned to the basket there was nobody there."
Not one to pass up a 3-point shot, Lewis took the ball after a broken play and sprinted down the baseline past Kevin Garnett for the uncontested layup. Rasheed Wallace missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Magic their second victory in three games against the Celtics this season.
Lewis led the Magic with 23 points, and Dwight Howard overcome early foul trouble to finish with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Ray Allen had 20 points, and Wallace added 17 for the Celtics, who took a big lead on potent 3-point shooting but wilted from outside in the final period.
"We deserved it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought we completely lost our focus. An 11-point lead at halftime, I told them it was a joke. We should've been up by 25 points."
Boston players were just as upset.
"I can't explain that one," Garnett said. "Tough loss. We had them right where we wanted them and let it slip away."
The Magic came back with a lineup that featured centers Howard and Marcin Gortat. The rare pairing paid off for Orlando.
They stifled Boston defensively and hooked up on a nifty alley-oop that Howard finished with a powerful dunk. Gortat even gave Orlando its first lead with a 17-foot jumper off the glass, making it 84-83 with 4:52 remaining.
"Defensively, I think we are killing them," Gortat said about playing with Howard. "There's no way they can stop us defensively with two big men like that."
The once punishing defensive game became a furious, frantic push to the buzzer with each team matching shot for shot.
Paul Pierce's 3-pointer from the wing put Boston back in front 92-91. Wallace then blocked a shot by Carter and later stole it from Orlando's shooting guard before Rajon Rondo hit a running layup to give Boston a 94-91 lead.
But Redick answered with a 3-pointer rolling off a screen to tie it, and he contested a 3-pointer by Allen to give Orlando the chance for the win in regulation.
On the final Magic possession, Redick tried to get the ball to Carter but was surrounded by defenders. Eventually Lewis got the ball in the corner and went past Garnett for the winner.
"Rashard saved me," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We couldn't get Vince the ball, it was a poorly designed play and Rashard bailed my butt out."
The bullying basketball Boston does best against the Magic completely disappeared.
Fouling and frustrating Orlando early, the Celtics smothers Howard defensively. The aggressive play paralyzed the Magic at the start.
Only a few minutes into the game, Pierce was called for a foul on Howard after a a hard hack to prevent him from an easy dunk. Matt Barnes took offense, said something to Pierce and the two went nose-to-nose at full pitch. Each was whistled for a technical foul.
The Celtics got Howard in foul trouble and built a 13-point lead in the second quarter with Orlando's big man on the bench. The Magic got within six before Brian Scalabrine made a 3-pointer, Allen hit two from beyond the arc before the half and then hit two straight shots - including another 3-pointer - to start the third quarter and stretch Boston's lead to 56-40.
"We should've been in control but I never felt like we were because of the way we were playing," Rivers said. "I think with 6 minutes left in the third quarter I told the bench, 'We're in trouble."'
Even after coming back from the win - especially after a bad Christmas Day loss to Boston - Van Gundy was reluctant to say that this could be a turning point.
"I know it's supposed to be a huge game, measuring stick, statement game, all the cliches. It's Game 46 in a regular season," Van Gundy said. "But it is good for us in terms of our development to be in these kind of games.
"We're starting to show more resilience and fight."
NOTES: The Magic wore their vintage black pinstripe uniforms. ... Rondo, who was voted a reserve to his first All-Star game Thursday, said the biggest goal he made in the offseason was to make the first-team defense.