End of game, Celtics win 91-83: Shame on anybody who turned off this one. Down by as many as 27 points, the Celtics charged back and earned their second consecutive victory over the Magic and third consecutive victory overall.
Paul Pierce was all over the place, as usual, scoring 22 points and dishing a team-high 10 assists. Kevin Garnett defended Dwight Howard like a mad man, pulling down 10 rebounds and registering three steals. And rookie E'Twaun Moore was the unlikely character in the comeback, nailing all four of his 3-point attempts and scring 16 points off the bench.
Fourth quarter, :54, Celtics 86-80: Bass' reputation is that he can't defend, but he did a heck of an impression of a good defensive player.
Turkoglu did a lot of dribbling beyond the 3-point arc, but couldn't get past Bass and was force into a difficult fadeaway jumper. Bass got a finger on the shot and Garnett grabbed the rebound.
Fourth quarter, 2:41, Celtics 86-80: Pietrus will do everything he can to stay in the game after being thrown to the ground by Howard. Pietrus looks to have hurt his tailbone, but the Celtics need all the halfway able bodies they can find.
Fourth quarter, 3:26, Celtics 84-78: Suddenly, Pierce has 22 points and the Magic just picked up two quick technicals. Anderson and Howard were upset about not drawing fouls, leading to two freebies for Pierce — Pierce went 1-for-2.
Moore nailed his first two-pointer, rolling in a floater.
Fourth quarter, 5:56, Celtics 79-78: Foul shots have been the Magic's bugaboo, and Howard hasn't been the problem. Turkoglu missed two free throws, making Orlando 1-for-6 in the fourth from the charity stripe. The Magic were able to keep the ball alive on the offense boards (they now have 16 offensive rebounds) and Howard made a fundamental move in the post to cut the Celtics' lead to one.
Fourth quarter, 7:43, Celtics 79-76: E'Twaun Moore seems to have decided not to miss 3-pointers. Like Samuel Adams, that's always a good decision.
Moore's fourth 3 — his fourth make in four attempts — gave the Celtics their first lead since the 6:56 mark in the first quarter. Pierce scored seven straight points over the comeback 15-1 stretch with Garnett knotting the score with a long, contested jumper.
Two missed free throws by Davis helped the Celtics' comeback. The only scoring for Orlando in the quarter is a free throw by Howard.
Fourth quarter, 9:53, Magic 76-72: Silly me. Twenty-nine NBA teams might have looked at a 27-point deficit and a three-games-in-four-nights stretch and said, "You know what? Let's call this thing a game and rest up." This Celtics squad doesn't think that way, though.
Behind Moore's 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc and Pierce's latest example of excellence, the Celtics closed the gap to four points and worried the Magic into a time out. Wilcox has given the C's huge minutes defensively on Howard, because the C's are otherwise short-handed with O'Neal injured and Bass fighting foul trouble.
Pierce scored five straight points to pull Boston within four.
End of third quarter, Magic 75-64: The game appeared all but over, with Moore and Wilcox getting big minutes in the second half, when those two unlikely heroes worked the Celtics back into the ball game.
Wilcox hustled for an offensive rebound leading to a layup and Moore drilled his second 3-point attempt of the game as part of a run that briefly pulled the Celtics within nine points. Wilcox also had a strong dunk off a pick-and-roll with Pierce, who knocked down the isolation 3 that closed the gap to 73-64.
Failure to box out Howard allowed the Magic to push their advantage back into double digits entering the final frame.
The Celtics can't afford many more injuries, but Bradley was forced to go to the bench with what looked like a lower-body injury. The already thin backcourt may hav to run with Moore, Pietrus and possibly Daniels or Pavlovic the rest of the way.
Third quarter, 5:12, Magic 68-47: The Celtics' return to this game lasted less than four minutes. Charging behind a 3 by Turkoglu, a driving layup by Richardson and a right-handed hook by Howard, the Magic put their lead back at 21 and it may be time for the Celtics to start worrying about resting for the next three days, which feature two games.
Third quarter, 8:39, Magic 60-45: It's still far from pretty, but at least the Celtics' deficit got a bit more manageable.
Pietrus drained another 3 as part of an 8-2 Celtics run, and Pierce's layup on the break closed the gap to 15 points.
Halftime, Magic 58-37: A late 3-pointer by E'Twaun Moore cut the Magic's lead to 21 points, for what that's worth.
There's really nothing good to be said for the Celtics in that first half. They were a non-factor on the glass, getting outrebounded 28-15. Mind you, that's with rebounding machine Howard on the bench for much of the half. The Celtics settled down after committing seven first-quarter turnovers and finished the half with 10 fumbles, but they forced a grand total of three — yup, tres – turnovers by the Magic.
And there's no sign the Celtics conserved energy for the second half. Pierce led everybody with 20 minutes and 47 seconds of playing time, while Howard registered 6:43 of burn.
Let's try to whittle it down for the good, the bad and the so-so.
The Good: Ryan Anderson scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, although he was one of the few Orlando players the Celtics were able to keep off the boards. The Magics second-leading rebounder had two rebounds in 12 minutes. … Glen Davis has a rather forgettable game Monday, but his second effort against his old team got off to a much better start. Big Baby went 3-for-6 for seven points, with five rebounds and three steals, in 17:17.
The Bad: Brandon Bass missed four of his five shots in the first half and went to the bench with three fouls after just 11:22 with three points and one rebound. … Avery Bradley may want to refrain from talking postgame trash about a former All-Star point guard from now on. Jameer Nelson, who Bradley said was afraid to bring up the ball against him Monday, hasn't been great with just nine points and three assists, but Bradley has been plain horrible. Bradley missed all three of his shots and committed four turnovers without handing out an assist. Nelson did not turn the ball over.
The So-so: We'll throw a bone to Kevin Garnett, who scored eight points on 4-of-8 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and registered three assists in 16:16. Mickael Pietrus also scored eight points on 4-for-6 shooting in 15:50, but he was quiet after the first six minutes.
Second quarter, 3:11, Magic 52-25: The Celtics and Magic just alternate ugly blowouts, apparently.
With a 3 by Nelson, the Magic took their largest lead of the game at 27 points. Dooling, who took a hard fall in the lane, tried to play a few more minutes but eventually jogged straight off the court and into the tunnel.
Second quarter, 5:54, Magic 43-23: At this rate, the Celtics will be lucky if they only equal the Magic's 31-point margin of defeat from Monday.
Howard returned to the court and made his presence known with a quick dunk, while Chris Wilcox, fresh off a left calf injury, has already made his second appearance. Wilcox manned the frontcourt with Stiemsma.
Second quarter, 8:10, Magic 37-22: Garnett hit three of his first four shots, but he's not likely to be enough on his own to get the Celtics back into the game. A free throw by J.J. Redick after a technical foul on Rivers increased the Magic's lead to 15 points.
Howard checked back in and the Magic wil se how they can do with him on the floor.
Second quarter, 9:07, Magic 34-20: Bass picked up his third personal foul and had to be replaced by Greg Stiemsma. We all know that Celtics fans love Stiemsma, but when he's making his second appearance within the first 16 minutes of the game, that's not good news for the C's, ladies and gents.
End of first quarter, Magic 32-16: If this is what life without Howard looks like for the Magic, they'd sign up for this tomorrow.
Things won't always be this easy without the best big man in the game, of course, but the Magic made the Celtics look helpless after Howard went to the bench with his second foul less than four minutes into the first quarter. The Magic responded with a 30-8 run with Superman on the bench.
The Celtics got a look at the real Ryan Anderson, not the one who went scoreless on Monday. Anderson scored 12 first-quarter points.
Keyon Dooling's first shot after a seven-game absence due to a sore right knee was a made 3, but it wasn't enough to offset seven Celtics turnovers.
First quarter, 4:39, Magic 15-10: The Magic's offense was not going to stay M.I.A. against the Celtics forever.
Anderson put in two straight layups to jump start a 13-2 Orlando run that included five points from Davis, three from Richardson and one from Nelson.
The Magic showed a much greater dedication to setting screens than they did Monday, which has kept Bradley from harassing Nelson. The Magic have had much more success running their offense as a result.
First quarter, 8:21, Celtics 5-2: After missing his first two shots and committing two fouls, Howard was sent to the bench.
Pietrus hit his first two 3-point attempts as the Celtics came out firing away more aggressively from downtown than Orlando. The Celtics had four 3-point attempts (making two) in the first four minutes, while the Magic had only two (both misses).
First quarter, 10:57, Celtics 2-0: Howard missed his first field goal attempt, and Brandon Bass knocked down an elbow jumper.
Looks like another 31-point whupping is in the works…
8 p.m.: As if having a front-row seat to the action and a much deeper bank account than most of us, courtside seat holders on Thursday receive a special pair of Adidas to commemorate Howard becoming the Magic franchise's career scoring leader, according CNBC's Darren Rovell.
Check out a photo of the kicks.
7:30 p.m.: The Magic made a wise move to not extend breakout forward Ryan Anderson a contract extension prior to Wednesday's deadline.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward has been a sleeper as a "stretch four" (i.e. a power forward who can "stretch" the defense with his outside shooting) for the past three years, but this is the first season in which he's received enough playing time for his skills to pay off. Anderson is the Magic's second-leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, shoots 42 percent from 3-point territory while attempting 7.5 triples per game, and is a solid rebounder and defender.
But because his offensive game is limited to spot-up jump shots, Anderson's game is pretty reliant on the presence of Dwight Howard in the post to attract the defense's attention. The Celtics gave the world a good look at that reality when they shut down Howard on Monday, leading to a scoreless night for Anderson, who missed all eight of his shots, including four from downtown. Offering Anderson an extension therefore might not have been the best plan, seeing as Howard might not be in Orlando beyond this season.
The Magic also retain the right to match any offer Anderson receives this offseason, so Wednesday's inaction doesn't mean his days in Orlando are numbered.
Don't bank on Anderson having a similar rough shooting night Thursday. He bounced back from Monday's horrendous showing by nailing five of seven 3's in a win over the Pacers on Tuesday.
Here are the starting lineups:
6:45 p.m.: The good news is that three of the five players who were missing Monday were back at practice Wednesday. The bad news is that Rajon Rondo wasn't one of them. The other bad news is that the three who did practice are expected to be game-time decisions for Thursday's game against the Magic, and the other other bad news is that Ray Allen remains home with his wife, who is expecting, while nursing his jammed left ankle.
The other, other, other bad news is that Jermaine O'Neal is unlikely to play because of lingering knee issues.
Sorry for breaking the unwritten rule that one piece of good news is accompanied by only one piece of bad news. Honestly, that's a tough rule to follow when it comes to injury news involving the team with the fourth-oldest roster in the NBA.
Rondo is out with a sprain to his right (shooting) wrist, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told reporters, although Pietrus (who missed Monday's game with a strained right shoulder) is expected to start in the backcourt with Avery Bradley.
"He can't play," Rivers said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "If he could play, he'd play. He just literally can't play."
Rondo reportedly begged to play Monday but was denied.
In other, other, other, other bad news, the Magic are motivated to avenge their historic loss Monday, when they put up two 10-point quarters in the second half and scored 56 points total.
"It's not another game," former Celtics forward Glen Davis was quoted as saying. "We want to beat them. We want to beat them so bad because we didn't show them who we really are. They played a good game."
8:30 a.m.: Missing five players due to injuries didn't hurt the Celtics on Monday, when they trounced the Magic by 31 points on the TD Garden parquet.
Playing the third game of a four-game, five-night stretch, the Magic might be expected to be a little sluggish. Then again, Dwight Howard and company will probably have extra motivation due to Monday's embarrassing display.
Ray Allen will not suit up Thursday, but coach Doc Rivers hopes to have at least some of the other injured players back in the lineup.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m.