Orlando (33-38) won 94-89 at New York on Monday, three days after beating New Jersey 90-82. All three teams are in the mix for the final two playoff spots in the East.
Those victories have the Magic in seventh place in the conference—a half-game ahead of the eighth spot—and looking to win three in a row for the first time since winning five straight from Dec. 30-Jan. 10.
The Magic are 11-24 since that streak, but have won four of their last six, including two of three on the road. They are 12-24 away from home, giving them the most road losses of any Eastern team among the top eight.
“It’s a big win, not just because we’re just a game apart in the loss column, (but) getting another road win,” said Orlando coach Brian Hill, who’s trying to guide the Magic to the postseason for the first time since 2002-03. “They’re all going to be big down the stretch here. Certainly though, with a team that we’re battling in the standings, there is added significance.”
Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu each finished with 18 points while Howard, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, was held to 10 points but had 14 boards, five assists and four blocks.
Howard posted his fourth straight double-double and bounced back after not blocking a shot against New Jersey.
“Dwight’s blocks were huge, but that’s what All-Stars do,” Hill said. “He stepped up when the game was on the line.”
Orlando will look for a fourth straight win over Boston before returning home Friday to face Indiana—another team in the playoff mix—to begin a four-game homestand.
Grant Hill had 21 points, and Howard added 18 with 12 rebounds in Orlando’s 87-79 win over the Celtics on Jan. 7 in the teams’ most recent meeting.
Hill, second on the team at 13.9 points per game, is averaging 19.5 in two games against the Celtics this season. However, he’s totaled just 18 points over his last two games after scoring 24 in a loss to Toronto last Wednesday.
Boston (21-49) beat Toronto 95-87 on Monday to snap a three-game losing streak.
Paul Pierce scored 23 points and Al Jefferson had 22 and nine rebounds as the Celtics became the last team in the NBA to win 10 home games. Boston is a league-worst 10-25 at home, but played well against the playoff-bound Raptors, holding an opponent below 90 points for the 11th time this season.
“These guys are making the plays necessary and playing tough defense,” said Pierce, averaging 27.1 points in his last six games. “I think we have to give credit to our defense. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but we got the turnovers and got the easy baskets. That’s all you need in games like this.”