Celtics Live Blog: Paul Pierce Scores 29 Points to Bail Out C’s in 102-98 Victory Over Magic

Celtics Live Blog: Paul Pierce Scores 29 Points to Bail Out C's in 102-98 Victory Over MagicGame over, Celtics win 102-98: Paul Pierce came up big, as he has many times before.

As well as Avery Bradley has played, he still has moments where it is clear he is not yet a point guard. His turnover that led to a Glen Davis dunk, pulling Orlando within two points, was evidence of that.

Pierce delivered a jumper with 7.6 seconds to go, though, then converted two free throws to bail out the Celtics and ensure victory at the TD Garden as the Celtics stayed within a half-game of Atlanta for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, while also keeping Orlando as the sixth seed for the time being. The Celtics clinch the Atlantic Division with the win.

Fourth quarter, :46.6, Celtics 98-94: Garnett had to go a long way to get down on the floor for a loose ball, but the 6-foot-11 center hit the parquet to gobble up a crucial 50-50 ball. Garnett got the timeout called to preserve the possession and put the Celtics in good position to win this, if they execute correctly.

Fourth quarter, 1:41, Celtics 97-92: If the Celtics end up getting the W, this may go down as one of Bass' most clutch performances as a Celtic. The power forward nabbed a Pierce miss and put it back in off the glass to give the Celtics a five-point edge with less than two minutes to go. That big play came after the 10-point third quarter we mentioned earlier.

Bass, Bradley and Pierce all had at least 21 points heading into the closing minutes of the game.

Fourth quarteer, 3:03, Celtics 92-90: The first rule of defense is to stop the ball. The Celtics failed miserably at that, letting Nelson score six fourth-quarter points to bring the Magic within a basket.

The Magic sprinted to a 12-1 run on the Celtics, who either seemed tired or not entirely there. It is entirely possible physical and mental fatigue is setting in for the Celtics a night after playing a long game in New York.

Fourth quarter, 5:25, Celtics 91-84: The Magic reeled off six straight points to get back within striking distance. Rivers has said that seeding is secondary to staying healthy for the playoffs, but if the Celtics intend to keep pace with the Hawks in the battle for home-court advantage, this would be a must-win. The Hawks handily defeated the Pistons, which means the Celtics need a win to stay within a half-game of Atlanta.

Fourth quarter, 7:05, Celtics 91-78: The Celtics were all but daring the Magic to make a run. Instead, Moore led the way as the Celtics charged out to their largest lead of the game.

The rookie guard from Purdue scored six points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to extend Boston's lead to 13 and give the fans something to cheer about. Whoever plays this Magic team in the playoffs may be in for a treat if Howard is not ready to go.

End of third quarter, Celtics 79-70: The Celtics ended the third quarter with a flurry. Pierce led the way, as he had most of the game, and Bass was relentless attacking the hoop. Pierce had nine points, four rebounds and three assists in the third quarter alone to bring him to a career-high 14, while Bass scored 10 points in the quarter, six of them at the foul line. Bass also dealt out two assists, which might not seem like much until you realize he averages 0.9 assists per game and he has never averaged a full assist in his career. Bass had tied a season high with three assists, with 12 more minutes to go in this one.

Third quarter, 2:46, Magic 70-69: Jason Richardson drilled a 3-pointer to give Orlando its first lead since the first quarter, and it came at an inopportune time for the Celtics, because Garnett had to leave the game for one of his strictly scheduled rests.

With Ryan Anderson leading the way, the Magic dominated the glass in the first nine minutes of the third quarter, as they had all game. The Magic held a 30-18 rebounding advantage overall and an 8-3 advantage in the third. Anderson, more than just a spot-up stretch four, pulled down five offensive rebounds with more than a quarter left to play.

Third quarter, 9:26, Celtics 62-53: The Celtics kept bringing it in the early minutes of the second half, doing their best to avoid a close game before they get away for a road game on Friday.

Bradley swished one of those corner threes he has become so adept at. The Celtics would love to see Orlando in the playoffs, but Boston would hurt the chances of that happening by winning this one.

Halftime, Celtics 55-51: Seven members of the 1961-62 championship team — Jim Loscutoff, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Frank Ramsey, Satch Sanders and Bill Russell — were introduced at center court. As you might imagine, Russell got the biggest ovation of them all.

Nothing against the second half, but whatever else happens in this game, that was probably the coolest thing that will happen here.

Halftime, Celtics 55-51: We told you not to let the Magic get warmed up. The Celtics shot a strong 50 percent in the second quarter, but their lead still shrunk considerably because the Magic went 4-for-7 from 3-point range.

When the Celtics weren't watching the Magic drill threes in the second quarter, they were fouling them. After committing only two fouls in the first quarter, the Celtics were whistled for six in the second frame.

The Good: Pierce racked up 11 assists to go with his 13 points, while Bradley dropped a game-high 17 points while playing 19 of a possible 24 minutes. … Glen Davis had a happy homecoming, hitting eight of his 11 shots for 16 points to lead the Magic at the half. … Jameer Nelson has been on a tear since about the midpoint of the season. After a horrendous first two months, Nelson has turned it on of late. He had 13 points and five assists with no turnovers while carving up the Celtics at times on the pick and roll.

The Bad: Sasha Pavlovic played 15 minutes and made no real impact on the stat sheet other than blocking a shot.

The So-so: J.J. Redick is known for his shooting, so his 1-for-4 shooting mark was underwhelming, but he made up for it with five assists and only one turnover.

Second quarter, 4:04, Celtics 41-38: There it is. It took almost 20 minutes of game time, but the best shooting team in the NBA finally got its first 3-pointer. Orlando missed its first five shots from beyond the arc until Nelson drained a trey from the top of the key to cut Boston's advantage to three points.

The Magic can get hot quick, so the Celtics would be wise to snuff out any momentum for the Magic's shooters as quickly as possible.

Second quarter, 5:05, Celtics 41-33: Out of nowhere, Marquis Daniels gave Boston some key minutes in the second quarter. Minutes have been few for the veteran swingman this season, but Daniels gave the Celtics four points and two rebounds in seven minutes.

Second quarter, 9:38, Celtics 37-26: This is not good news for the Magic. The Celtics sent out some of their least-used reserves to begin the second quarter, and Daniels, Moore and Dooling were able to team with Garnett and Stiemsma to keep pace with the Magic's group of Orton, Duhon, Clark, Wafer and Quentin Richardson for the first 2:22. As Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said before the game, this could be more or less the team Orlando takes into the playoffs.

End of first quarter, Celtics 33-22: No Rondo, no problem as far as Bradley and Pierce were concerned. Those two helped pick up the point guard slack, with Pierce handing out eight assists and Bradley scoring 11 points in the first 12 minutes.

The Magic have been running their pick and roll to death with Howard out, often two or three times per possession. The play was mostly successful for them early against Bass and Stiemsma, but the Celtics tightened up their rotations as the first quarter went along.

Davis and Bass were off to strong starts, with Davis owning a game-high 12 points and Bass 3-for-3 from the field with seven points.

First quarter, 2:49, Celtics 23-20: Greg Stiemsma looked like he could not believe it. Von Wafer barrelled down the lane and laid out Stiemsma, leading to a tweet of the referee's whistle.

Foul. On Wafer.

Stiemsma had to look around a few times to make sure he wasn't dreaming. For the first time in probably ever, Stiemsma got a borderline call in his favor.

First quarter, 5:52, Celtics 17-12: Davis felt right at home in the early going, probably because this once was his home. Davis hit his first three shots, but fortunately for the Celtics, nobody else in an Orlando uniform seemed capable of buying a bucket.

Magic players not named Davis were 3-for-8 from the field.

Bradley, who looked tentative in his earlier appearances in place of Rondo this season, looked confident in the opening minutes. He scored six points on 3-for-4 shooting, with Pierce and Garnett taking over the duties as distributors.

8:08 p.m.: Kevin Garnett received the Red Auerbach Award from Rivers and team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in a brief pregame ceremony. Garnett, who is schooled in the history of the franchise, clearly enjoyed receiving the award, which goes to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of the longtime Celtics coach and president.

7:55 p.m.: Doc Rivers and Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing smiled and shook hands emphatically at midcourt during warm-ups. Rivers and Ewing were teammates on the Knicks from 1992-94 and clearly still have a lot of affection for each other.

7:33 p.m.: Rajon Rondo will finally get that rest, but it does not come under the circumstances the Celtics would have wanted. Rondo landed on his back in Tuesday's game in New York and suffered a bruise, Rivers said. Rondo is also a question mark for Friday's game in Atlanta.

Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus will be out again, Rivers said, with Allen missing a few more. Rivers acknowledged he possibly should have rested Pietrus on their recent back-to-back-to-back stretch, after Pietrus returned from a long layoff due to a concussion.

Sasha Pavlovic and Avery Bradley will start in the backcourt for the Celtics.

Like Boston, which may be missing its most important player in Rondo, Orlando is missing its key cog in Dwight Howard. Howard has been out since April 7 with a herniated disc in his lower back and is out indefinitely. Former Celtic Glen Davis, who was questionable for this game with a hyperextended left knee, will play, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.

The probable starting lineups appear below.

Magic
Glen Davis
Ryan Anderson
Jason Richardson
J.J. Redick
Jameer Nelson

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Sasha Pavlovic
Avery Bradley 

8 a.m.: For the Magic, there is no good time to play the Celtics, who have owned the head-to-head series this season. Limping into the matchup with major injuries across the front line only makes matters worse for the Orlando.

The Celtics (36-26) will try to bounce back against the Magic (36-25), who will be without All-Star center Dwight Howard and possibly former Celtic Glen Davis as well. The Celtics have their own maladies to consider, with Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus missing Tuesday's game in New York, although both could return Wednesday.

This game could have crucial playoff implications. If these teams finish four and five in the Eastern Conference standings, the team with the better record would hold home-court advantage. The Magic are vying for position with the Atlanta Hawks, and Boston trails both by a game in the loss column.

Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m.

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