By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange
BOSTON -- The short-handed Celtics won their third straight game Friday night, cruising to a 97-84 victory over the woeful Magic.
Five days after he and his team learned Rajon Rondo would be lost for the season, rookie Jared Sullinger underwent back surgery and also will be lost for the year.
But after beating Miami in double overtime Sunday, the Celtics have disposed of two weak opponents and the three-game winning streak, coming on the heels of losing six in a row, has Boston back to .500 at 23-23.
The Magic lost their eighth in a row, their 19th in the last 21 games; and the seventh straight to the Celtics. Orlando is 0-13 against the Atlantic Division.
Boston's Paul Pierce scored 14 points and had 11 rebounds and seven assists in 29 minutes, while Jeff Green came off the bench to score 17 points. Kevin Garnett had 14 points and 10 rebounds and the Celtics had six players reach double figures for the second straight game.
The Boston bench, up 89-54 in the previous two games, outscored its Orlando counterpart 43-25. Orlando made up ground in that area at garbage time, when the Magic cut a 23-point deficit down to the final score.
J.J Redick had 15 points, Nikola Vucevic 14 points and 14 rebounds and rookie Andrew Nicholson 14 points and nine boards for the Magic.
Orlando's Jameer Nelson left the game in the first half with a left forearm contusion and did not return.
While the loss of Rondo was sudden and unexpected, the Celtics knew Sullinger had a back that could eventually need surgery; and the back is the reason he lasted until the 21st pick in the draft.
"We knew this could happen," coach Doc Rivers said before the game. "We knew it a month before the draft that this could happen and at some point probably would happen. We were hoping it'd be a summer thing rather than the middle of the season, but it happened now. He was playing great. I think the good news is, we know he can play and we know he'll be a very good player. In the long run, this will make him healthier."
The Celtics trailed by six in the first quarter, but used a 20-5 run bridging the quarters to go up by nine and they then led by 11 at halftime -- with their bench outscoring their Magic counterparts 20-2 in the half.
The Magic closed their deficit to three with 5:04 left in the third quarter, but the Celtics used an 11-2 burst to regain control. The Celtics led by 13 after the third quarter.
Boston then ran off six straight points to start the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was noncommittal regarding possible roster moves going forward without Rondo and Sullinger: "I don't know any of that yet. I'm not sure. We have three weeks before the trade deadline ends, and we're trying to maintain flexibility. By that time, by the trade deadline date, we will have a full [15-man] roster, one way or another." Asked why Sullinger had surgery so soon, Ainge said, "He's just not going to be effective, managing the pain was not a good option for us the rest of this year. And the uncertainty. His age, youth; I think all those things are factors. It's tough because I feel like we are still a good team [even without Rondo]. [Losing Sullinger] was the tough blow. We'll just have to find a different way to win." ... Rondo was at the game on crutches. ... The Celtics rookie center Fab Melo, made his debut with 2:38 left to go in the game. Melo averaged 11.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game in 19 games in the Development League. ... The Magic continue their five-game road trip at Philadelphia Saturday night, while the Celtics host the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday. ... Garnett played in his 1,301st game, 13th all-time in the NBA. He needs three games to pass Elvin Hayes for 12th and eight to go by Buck Williams and into 11th. ... A broken foot suffered in New York Wednesday night kept Orlando's Glen Davis from making another return to Boston, where he began his NBA career. "Big Baby" is slated to miss eight-12 weeks after having surgery on Thursday. Broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn tweeted: "I think he put on a little weight. ... It's like we used to say, he's always one hamburger away from obscurity."