Despite being at full power for the first time all season, Boston let an 11-point lead disappear in a matter of moments as the Orlando Magic rallied for a 96-89 win at TD Garden on Sunday.
The Magic, who with the win gained sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference, used a 25-2 run to end the third quarter and then opened the fourth with a 3-pointer by Mickael Pietrus to take a game-high 17-point advantage.
Pietrus hit another 3-pointer to make it 89-74 midway through the fourth and Boston never got closer than 10 points down the stretch.
All this came after a first half in which the Celtics forced 10 turnovers and limited Orlando to a 15-of-38 showing from the floor. Boston led 51-40 at the break.
Dwight Howard had 16 points and 13 rebounds for his 12th straight double-double to lead the Magic. Vince Carter led all scorers with 20 points.
Rajon Rondo paced Boston, which dropped three of four to Orlando this season, with 17 points and nine assists.
Magic 96, Celtics 89
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
Feb. 7, 2010
Live Blog | Box Score | Recap
Headliner: Due to foul trouble, Howard was a non-factor in the first half. And when he picked up his fourth foul early in the third, it seemed as if he may never really show up in this one.
But Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy kept Howard in the game and the All-Star responded. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the second half alone. The bulk of his scoring came in the early moments of the third quarter, before Orlando's 25-2 run, but Howard's block of Kendrick Perkins started a fast break that resulted in a game-tying Rashard Lewis 3-pointer.
Unsung Hero: Vince Carter gets little love from the Garden crowd, but he certainly knew how to silence it.
Carter was 3-of-4 from the arc — part of an 11-of-22 effort for the Magic — and hit one to snap a 60-60 tie and give Orlando the lead for good.
Scrub: It was another forgettable performance against the Magic for Kendrick Perkins. Whether because of foul trouble or simply being forced to contend with Howard, Perkins has struggled in the series.
He had two points, three rebounds and four fouls in nearly 22 minutes Sunday and averaged 4.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in four matchups with Orlando this season.
Turning Point: Van Gundy's guts provided this one. Rather than remove Howard after Superman picked up foul No. 4 with 5:58 to go in the third, Van Gundy put his faith in the big man. Howard played the entire second half and his play immediately after the fourth foul was huge.
Just after the call, Carter had a three-point play to cut the Magic's deficit to 60-57. Howard's big block led to the Lewis 3-pointer and before the quarter ended, Orlando was up 16.
Up Next: It'll be a long time before we see the Celtics back at home. They visit New Orleans on Wednesday before a five-day break for the All-Star festivities, after which comes a four-game road trip out West.
The Knicks come to the Garden for the next home game on Feb. 23.