The Celtics have successfully held off the Magic in Game 1, weathering a five-minute scoring drought in crunch time and clinging to a slim fourth-quarter lead.
Ray Allen finishes with 25 points, Paul Pierce adds 22 and the Celtics hand the Orlando Magic their first loss of this postseason. They'll be looking in the coming days and weeks to hand them three more.
Fourth quarter, 14.3 seconds, Celtics 88-85: The Magic do indeed keep the ball, and they eventually capitalize. But now they're out of time.
After a miss from J.J. Redick and another from Jameer Nelson, the Magic have wasted about 20 seconds by the time Dwight Howard throws down an offensive rebound for a dunk. Now the Magic are forced to foul, and they're down three with little chance of coming back in this game.
Fourth quarter, 49.6 seconds, Celtics 88-83: Big review coming up on an out-of-bounds call that goes Orlando's way. Rajon Rondo goes for the steal, but he swats the ball off of teammate Kevin Garnett's foot and out of bounds.
Looks like it will stay Magic's ball. There's a slight chance that the ball hit Jameer Nelson in the foot on the way out, but if not, the Magic get yet another chance to chip away at this Boston lead in the final minute.
Fourth quarter, 1:00, Celtics 88-83: Costly dribbling mistake from Ray Allen, turning a Boston fast-break into an apparent jump ball between Rondo and Redick. The Magic get another chance to cut it to a one-possession game.
Fourth quarter, 1:41, Celtics 88-83: What a huge moment for Dwight Howard to get his fifth block.
Superman slams an attempted short jumper from Rajon Rondo. The Magic get going in transition, they get a bucket out of J.J. Redick, and they cut the Boston lead from 13 to five in a heartbeat.
The Magic have momentum, but can they come all the way back? Time's ticking.
Fourth quarter, 2:51, Celtics 88-79: After a long hiatus due to foul trouble, Kendrick Perkins is back. But he's not hitting free throws.
The Celtics blow a golden opportunity to push this one back into double digits. The Magic are still alive.
Fourth quarter, 3:39, Celtics 88-79: Another difficult shot knocked down by Jameer Nelson. The Magic refuse to die quietly.
Only Ray Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis have scored in this fourth quarter for the Celtics. The heavy hitters — Rondo, KG, Pierce — have been silent. The C's could really use a big shot from a big star to put this thing away. A nine-point lead isn't always safe against Orlando's shooters.
Fourth quarter, 6:28, Celtics 85-71: Seems like every time Glen Davis gets minutes in the fourth quarter, he makes the most of them.
Back-to-back buckets from Big Baby, followed by a pretty-looking jumper from Ray Allen, and the Celtics push their lead back to 14. Baby's energy is just a sight to behold.
Fourth quarter, 8:06, Celtics 79-69: Not over yet. Jason Williams hits a 3, Rajon Rondo turns the ball over, then Mickael Pietrus hits another 3 for Orlando. The lead's back to 10 in the blink of an eye.
That's why you can never be too confident against this Orlando team. Even when they look deader than dead, their shooters can come back to life.
Fourth quarter, 10:20, Celtics 77-60: Another deadly 3-ball from Rasheed Wallace. This game's pretty close to over.
End of third quarter, Celtics 74-58: Orlando's only saving grace in this game is the aggressive play of its guards. Nothing else is going right for the Magic.
Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter have been carrying the load all by themselves. They're moving the ball, they're driving when they get a chance, they're creating open shots when they can. But they're not going to be able to win this thing themselves.
It's a 33-point third quarter for the Celtics, who are 12 minutes away from a blowout win and a 1-0 series lead against the Magic on the road.
Third quarter, 3:09, Celtics 65-47: With five fouls, Kendrick Perkins will be a spectator for a while. But in his place, Rasheed Wallace is holding his own against Dwight Howard.
The Celtics have led by as much as 20 points in this third quarter, and they're doing it by refusing to give Howard a single easy point. The big man's shooting 67.8 percent in this postseason, but the Celtics have held him to 1-of-6.
Rasheed is refusing to be pushed around. When Howard throws an elbow, he throws another one right back. The Celtics are hanging tough, and they're winning big.
Third quarter, 6:11, Celtics 60-44: Just when you think the Celtics are in trouble, their captain bails them out.
Paul Pierce has been huge for the Celtics on this 17-4 run, piling up eight points in the third quarter. Three of them came on a very smart play where he drew contact from Jameer Nelson in transition, and instinctively he knew to throw up a shot. Next thing you know, the refs are calling it a three-shot foul, and Pierce hits all three at the line.
Basketball IQ can win games. Pierce is living proof.
Celtics by 16. It's their biggest lead of the game, and Orlando's biggest deficit of the whole postseason.
Third quarter, 9:57, Celtics 43-40: Uh oh. Here comes Jameer Nelson.
The guy that carried the Magic to eight straight wins in the first two rounds of this postseason is now poised to carry them again. Nelson has made three straight jumpers, two of them from 3-point range, to give his team an 8-2 burst at the start of the second half.
This is now a one-possession basketball game. Seems like just a minute ago the Celtics led by 15.
Halftime, Celtics 41-32: When you're holding the red-hot Orlando Magic to just 32 points in the first half, you're obviously doing something right.
In the Celtics' case, it's holding the Magic to 0-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. Look at it this way: If the Magic make just three of those shots, for a paltry 33 percent, this is a tie game.
But they don't, so it's not. Credit the Celtics' defense.
Also credit Ray Allen, who's got 12 points this afternoon to lead the way for the Celtics in the first half.
Second quarter, 3:48, Celtics 35-24: The Magic come roaring back with an 8-2 run, but Kevin Garnett buries a mid-range jumper to silence the Orlando crowd.
The Celtics know the Magic are going to make a run in this game — they're too good a team not to. The key is to absorb that run, not let it rattle you, keep playing hard, and stay ahead at all costs.
Right now the Celtics have a double-digit lead, but it doesn't seem safe. The Magic have momentum still, and a sellout crowd on their side to boot.
Second quarter, 7:11, Celtics 29-16: With 5:33 left in the first quarter, Vince Carter got a dunk. With 7:35 left in the second, he got another. In the 10 minutes in between, the Magic failed to make a single field goal.
Hard to win when your offense is this totally and completely dead. The Magic need to remain calm and focus on what works — getting it inside to Howard, getting Nelson to find spots for dribble penetration, and hitting open 3-point shots when they come.
Orlando's not dead yet. They've just got to start playing their game.
Second quarter, 9:36, Celtics 29-14: That 3-ball from Rasheed Wallace is a dagger through Stan Van Gundy's heart. His team is down 15 now, and he's in desperate need of a timeout.
The Magic are discovering that these Celtics are really hard to beat when they bring their A game. It's all about ball movement and unselfish play on one end, coupled with energy and airtight defense on the other.
That's exactly what Van Gundy's seeing. And it's not easy to game-plan against.
End of first quarter, Celtics 22-14: This might sound hard to believe, but this first quarter was the first time the Magic have trailed by double digits at any point in a game this postseason.
They've enjoyed coasting to victory in every playoff game so far. But it can't keep up when as a team, they shoot just 7-of-19, or 36.8 percent. (And a couple minutes ago, that figure was even worse.)
We're about to find out how this Orlando team, led by coach Stan Van Gundy, handles adversity. That's a topic that we haven't explored yet this spring.
First quarter, 2:56, Celtics 17-10: Tony Allen once again looks like a big-time sparkplug for the Celtics off the bench. With Paul Pierce in early foul trouble, the C's need T.A.
You'd think that after Pierce finished chasing LeBron James around for six games, he'd be done with picking up two fouls early and taking himself out of the game. Not so, apparently. Pierce has hacked Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis once each, and he's been relegated to the bench.
The Celtics will need T.A. on both ends of the floor. He's got to make energy plays on defense and he's got to get to the basket on the offensive end. Tall order for the Celtics' sixth man.
First quarter, 6:32, Celtics 11-5: Part of what we're seeing right now is sloppy basketball on Orlando's part, but part of it is just good shooters missing good shots.
The Magic as a team are shooting collectively just 2-of-11 midway through this first quarter, and this is a team that's made its shots better than anyone so far in this postseason. The Celtics are playing well defensively and making the Magic work, but you still have to expect Orlando's shooting to improve. This is just an early rut.
Meanwhile, everything's clicking for Boston. The Big Three have it working on both ends of the floor, Rajon Rondo is running the offense with poise, and Kendrick Perkins is staying tough against Dwight Howard down low. Can't ask for anything more.
First quarter, 9:22, Celtics 9-5: Paul Pierce insisted at yesterday's practice that being free of LeBron James wasn't a big deal, and he would still have to work just as hard in round three. With all due respect to the Celtics' captain, he's crazy.
Pierce looks refreshed and carefree in Game 1 against the Magic, playing his game comfortably, and he's dominating early. The truth is that The Truth can't miss. He's got seven points. The Celtics have the early lead.
3:30 p.m.: The injury bug keeps gnawing away at both teams, but both starting lineups are ready to go as Game 1 tips off from Amway Arena.
For the Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, who sat out part of yesterday's practice back in Boston with knee soreness, is back and ready to start. And for Orlando, Matt Barnes is ready to go despite back spasms that have bogged him down this weekend.
That's the nature of the beast. This time of year, everyone's banged up, but everyone's got to play through it. The Celtics and Magic will start playing through it in a moment. Game 1 is next.
8 a.m.: There are four rounds in the NBA playoffs, and that means four opportunities for the Celtics to shock the world. And they won't be satisfied unless they capitalize on all four.
When the Celtics first entered the playoffs, many skeptics saw them choking in round one against the Miami Heat. When they made it past Miami, virtually everyone expected a quick exit at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in round two.
But the Celtics have silenced all the doubters so far, and they're not ready to stop anytime soon. Next up is the Orlando Magic, and a Game 1 meeting at Amway Arena.
Dwight Howard and the Magic have opened their postseason with back-to-back sweeps — eight wins, zero losses, two opponents left in the dust. But they've got to lose sometime, and it's up to the Celtics to slow them down.