Final, Celtics 120-88: There was so much garbage time in this one, Brandon Bass’ 14 points and Paul Pierce’s eight assists could go unnoticed. With all the starters taking an extended rest in a blowout fourth quarter, Bass and Pierce’s contributions should not be underappreciated for making this game so one-sided.
Courtney Lee scored 20 to lead the way while teaming up with Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams to put the finishing touches on a game that was even more of a whupping as the final score suggests. Tobias Harris scored 22 points and Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic, who never seemed to be running much of anything on offense or defense.
Bass, meanwhile, shot 6-for-7 from the field and Lee was 7-for-10, as well as 3-for-3 from deep. The Celtics shot just a shade under 60 percent as a team, and at one point led by 37 points. They clinched the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference, meaning they are assured of avoiding the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs — or any time until the conference finals, if they make it that far.
Fourth quarter, 2:37, 115-80: Two-thirds of this group might be relative newcomers to the Celtics, but the Lee-Crawford-Williams combination must be a lot of fun to be a part of. Crawford gave his pass to Lee a little extra flair before Lee tossed it home for a dunk, and the Celtics are off and running.
Fourth quarter, 7:19, Celtics 101-70: He has not shown it much this year, but Lee has been a good 3-point shooter for most of his career. He was pretty much a career 40-percent shooter from deep, but this season he has shot just 36 percent from downtown — a decent percentage, but well below where he has typically been.
Lee has started to show signs of regaining his stroke, or at least of getting aggressive with that shot again. He is 2-for-2 here after going 2-for-6 Friday in Miami. In the last three games, Lee has taken 10 threes, after taking just six in his previous six games.
End of third quarter, Celtics 85-64: This has been a rough trip for Green. One night after having to leave the game with a bruised elbow, Green suffered a charley horse while trying to maneuver around a screen on defense.
Green stayed in the game, and the Celtics held onto their 20-plus point lead. The Celtics are on fire, particularly their starters, who each have reached double figures in scoring. Crawford makes it an even six players in double figures with 10 points himself.
Third quarter, 6:36, Celtics 67-48: The Magic sure aren’t good, but they do have some promising pieces, especially in their frontcourt.
Vucevic is well on his way to another double-double with 12 points and nine boards, while Harris has shaken off a rough shooting night to put up 11 points, plus two blocked shots on the defensive end. Meanwhile, rookie Kyle O’Quinn did an admirable job defending Garnett on one possession, forcing the future Hall of Famer to hit a tough, contested 18-footer.
But, yeah, the Magic are bad. That certainly is not going to change soon.
Halftime, Celtics 57-37: Jordan Crawford is playing just the way Rivers wants him to. He is attacking the basket, shaking off contact and converting some seemingly impossible layups, but he has also let the referees know how much contact he is taking when he does drive.
Crawford shouted “And one!” at the officials after a double-pump layup, and it was not the first time he has yelled that in this game. Bennett Salvatore had had enough, and he hit Crawford with a technical foul.
Crawford’s activity aside, Bass has been incredibly active for the Celtics. He dunked home a miss at the buzzer to give him 10 points, tying Green and Pierce for the team lead. If Bradley had not missed a layup and Green not missed a dunk on successive plays, the Celtics’ lead could be even wider.
In a combination of good defense and an awful offensive team, the Magic are shooting less than 33 percent from the field and are just 2-for-8 from beyond the arc. At the same time, they have taken only four foul shots. Oh yeah, and they are getting outrebounded 30-23. So it’s no wonder the Celtics’ lead is 20 points and likely to grow in the second half.
Second quarter, 6:35, Celtics 39-21: The alley-oop finally worked for the Celtics. With Pierce leading the break, Green sneaked up the right wing and soared in for a one-handed slam off the lob from Pierce. That gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game.
To be brutally honest, a victory should be a given here for the Celtics, with or without Pierce and Garnett. The only question is how ugly this thing gets, and right now it looks like it could get pretty ugly.
Second quarter, 8:30, Celtics 33-2: Vucevic learned the hard way that Garnett is never his opponent’s friend. Vucevic tried to give Garnett a friendly hand slap after fouling him, but Garnett slapped away Vucevic’s hand in a not-so-friendly way.
The lesson for the young big man should be clear: Garnett is not high-fiving a guy in an opposing jersey. Deal with it.
End of first quarter, Celtics 23-17: Not many Celtics can claim to have truly played well the last month, but Bass can. The forward continued his strong play by going 4-for-4 from the field in the first quarter, reminding his old team what they are missing.
Remember, Bass came to Boston two summers ago in a trade for Glen Davis, so deep down he probably wants to stick it to the Magic, however slightly.
First quarter, 2:33, Celtics 19-13: Since Nik Vucevic scored on a putback to finally get Orlando on the board a little less than four minutes in, the Magic have fared much better against the Celtics. Bradley may want to stop trying to throw lobs, as two attempted alley-oops to Pierce and Chris Wilcox have easily been snuffed out by the Magic.
First quarter, 10:08, Celtics 7-0: The Celtics are back at full strength, more or less, and they look like it.
Green has had trouble finding shots with Pierce and Garnett in the lineup, but he got off to a solid start by scoring Boston’s first five points. Garnett then added a turnaround 15-footer to extend the Celtics’ lead, prompting a quick timeout from Orlando’s bench.
The Magic do not have much margin for error, so coach Jacque Vaughn is smart not to take any chances.
6:16 p.m.: Pierce and Garnett might be around for this one, but Jason Terry will not be. The 35-year-old guard will miss his first game of the season, making Green and Brandon Bass the only players not to miss a game this season for Boston.
6:02 p.m.: The starting lineup should look a little more familiar in Orlando, where both Pierce and Garnett are expected to be announced in a darkened arena before the game. Doc Rivers also seemed to think Jeff Green, who got nicked up in Friday’s loss to the Heat, would be ready to play shortly after the game in Miami.
The Celtics’ magic number to clinch the seventh seed, assuring that they cannot meet the powerhouse Heat until the Eastern Conference Finals, now stands at one. If the Celtics beat the Magic or the Bucks lose to the Bobcats (which is unlikely but entirely possible), the Celtics avoid the dreaded eighth spot.
The projected starting lineups, assuming all sorts of things with regard to available personnel, appear below.
3 p.m. ET: Jeff Green is not expected to miss any time with the left elbow bruise he suffered late in Friday’s loss to the Heat, so the Celtics should be at full strength — or what amounts to full strength for them, anyway — when they visit the Magic on Saturday.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are slated to return for the second leg of this road back-to-back, one of two the Celtics (40-39) have to close the season. The Magic (20-59) won their last game Wednesday to snap a five-game losing streak, but that was just their second win since March 12. Since that victory over the Lakers, the Magic are 2-13.
The Magic do have a couple of promising players worth watching. Nikola Vucevic is a double-double machine at center, while Tobias Harris came over in the J.J. Redick trade to give Orlando an intriguing centerpiece. Mo Harkless has played well at times lately, as well.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m. ET.