The Boston Celtics are realizing that earning a postseason berth may depend on their ability to finish games.
The Celtics try to rebound from their third loss in four contests when they visit the Orlando Magic. Boston has struggled in Orlando, with just six wins in its last 26 trips there.
The Celtics blew a 25-point lead en route to a 107-104 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday, a comeback matching the largest in the NBA this season. Chicago rallied from a 25-point deficit to beat Charlotte on Nov. 2.
“That’s what we’re trying to understand—how to put teams away,” said Paul Pierce, who led the Celtics with 34 points. “It’s a learning experience for us.”
The Celtics need to learn fast. They are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, 4 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Magic occupy 11th place, 3 1/2 games behind Boston and eight back of the 76ers.
Wally Szczerbiak scored 30 points on Thursday, his highest total since being traded to Boston in late January, but the Celtics allowed the Heat to shoot 55 percent from the field.
“We lost our aggressiveness,” said Delonte West, who scored 15 points. “We came out and thought they were going to roll over and die.”
The Celtics have struggled to an 8-24 record away from home this season. Orlando is the third stop on a four-game road trip.
Meanwhile, the Magic have won three of their last four games following a 2-18 stretch. Orlando beat the Utah Jazz 114-108 in overtime Wednesday for its third straight win at home, where it’s recorded 17 of its 23 victories this season.
The Magic are shooting 57 percent from the floor in the last three home wins, and also drained 30 of 36 free throws Wednesday.
Jameer Nelson led five starters in double figures with 25 points including a clutch jumper with 27 seconds left in overtime, and added nine assists.
“It feels like I’m starting to get my rhythm now,” said Nelson, who missed 20 games with a sprained foot. “If we had lost, the nine assists and all the points I scored would have gone out the window, but because we won, I had an exciting game.”
Orlando won despite 21 turnovers, just two below its season high.