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Celtics win second straight, defeat Magic

The SportsXchange

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The rebuilding Boston Celtics just don't have the firepower on the roster anymore to win an offensive shootout.

They have to do it defensively, like they did Friday night in a 91-89 victory over the Orlando Magic. The Celtics (2-4) still haven't topped the 100-point mark this season, but they won their second consecutive game by holding off an opponent's late rally.

The Celtics used a balanced attack that included six players in double figures, along with a smothering second-half defense, to snap the Magic's three-game winning streak.

Veteran forward Brandon Bass had 16 points, including two clutch free throws with 10.5 seconds remaining. Guard Avery Bradley Johnson had 14 points, including a free throw with :03.5 remaining, along with a team-high eight rebounds.

The Celtics made 11 steals and limited the Magic to just 35 percent shooting and 40 points in the second half.

"We don't have that star player on offense anymore," Bradley said. "That one guy you can iso down the stretch and know he can score. We're not that kind of team. We have to do it with stops defensively. That's what we can be good at."

Bradley sparked the Celtics in the fourth with seven points and two steals. He completed back-to-back 3-point plays midway in the fourth, including one that started by stealing the ball from Magic rookie Victor Oladipo and gave the Celtics an 81-77 lead.

Magic guard Arron Afflalo led the Magic with 23 points, including nine in the final 1:38 that almost spoiled the Celtics' big night. Although the Celtics never trailed in the fourth, Afflalo made them sweat.

He completed a four-point play with 1:38 remaining to close the deficit to 86-84. He finished a 3-point play with 26 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 88-87. His final basket came with :04.6 remaining and cut the deficit to one. The Celtics smothered the ensuing inbounds pass after Bradley made one of two free throws.

"For the most part, we were pretty good defensively all night," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "It's a good win. We have to start making winning plays at winning time. And we did that tonight. You have to ride the momentum if you can positively."

The Magic held a 56-50 rebound edge, but they also led in turnovers, 20-11, failing to protect the ball against the Celtics pressure.

"I think our overall turnovers kept them in the game early and kept them in the game late," said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn. "I think overall, they (Celtics) have a pretty good defender in Avery Bradley, who can pressure the basketball and cause problems. There were a couple times he disrupted us."

Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who hit a pair of 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter, had seven turnovers. Oladipo had three turnovers.

The Magic got 14 points and 13 rebounds from center Nikola Vucevic, but he only scored two after the opening period. Nelson was unable to get him the ball like he did on Wednesday, when Vucevic scored 30 points. Nelson had 12 points.

"We had too many turnovers," Afflalo said. "Now whether that was their pressure, or our carelessness, maybe a little of both. We're learning and that's a process."

The Celtics turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 71-68 lead going into the fourth quarter. Forwards Jared Sullinger and Bass led the third-quarter charge with six points apiece.

The Magic led 49-46 at intermission, riding another strong start by Vucevic, who had 12 points in the first period. Vucevic, though, didn't score again until five minutes into the fourth quarter, when he tied the game at 75.

It was as close as the Magic would get down the stretch. The Magic played well defensively, also holding the Celtics to 35.8 percent from the field. It was the fourth consecutive game a Magic opponent shot less than 40 percent.

The Magic made a 12-0 run early and led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter. Boston guard Courtney Lee helped close the gap by scoring 11 points in the second period. He finished with 13.

The Celtics, who play in Miami Saturday night, have beaten the Magic nine consecutive games.

NOTES: Brad Stevens of the Celtics and Jacque Vaughn of the Magic are 37 and 38 years old, respectively, the two youngest coaches in the NBA this season. ... The Magic went into the game as the top rebounding team (48.4 rpg) in the NBA. "That's a good early sign for us," Vaughn said. "Our smalls are committed to helping the bigs rebound. And we have a group of bigs who enjoy mixing it up. At the core of that is effort." ... Celtics veteran G Gerald Wallace played as a reserve for the second consecutive game, an unfamiliar role for him after spending much of his career as a starter. ... Stevens, in his first season as a coach in the NBA, said he still spends considerable time following Butler University, where he coached the previous six seasons. And so does the rest of his family. "I invested a lot in those guys, and you don't want to lose track of them," he said. "I'll be interested to know if my family will be watching our game (in Miami) or the Butler game Saturday night." ... Magic rookie G Victor Oladipo has a big fan in Stevens, who coached against him in each of the previous two seasons when he played at Indiana University. "Last year, in one game, he grabbed a loose ball and laid it in while our guys (at Butler) were still diving for it, and I remember thinking, "Oh, my goodness, is he athletic and quick.' He's an energy player."
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