There's a reasonable chance the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics could find themselves matched up in the first round of the playoffs. Based on the teams' recent history, that's a series Orlando probably wants no part of.
Perhaps the Magic's two most humiliating losses of the season came four days apart to Boston, results they'll surely remember as they try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Orlando was off to an 11-4 start when it visited Boston on Jan. 23, but was held to a franchise-low in points - scoring only 20 after halftime - in an 87-56 defeat.
It had a chance for revenge three days later at home, but suffered perhaps an even more embarrassing loss. Up 27 shortly before the break, the Magic were outscored 54-25 after the intermission as the Celtics (36-26) won 91-83.
Orlando lost both games despite not having to deal with Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen, the latter of whom has missed five straight games and 11 of 16 with a sore right ankle. Boston went 11 of 21 from 3-point range Tuesday night without its sharpshooter, but New York hit 19 of 32 to spoil Paul Pierce's season-high 43 points in a 118-110 win.
The Celtics came into the night limiting opponents to a league-worst 29.7 percent from 3-point range. The 19 3s were nine more than Boston had allowed in a game this season.
"We didn't defend the 3 at all tonight,'' Pierce said. "We dug ourselves a huge hole that we couldn't climb out of.''
The Celtics could have wrapped up the Atlantic Division title by beating the Knicks, but can do it with one more victory and a New York loss. Winning the Atlantic would guarantee Boston a top-four seed, and that would mean a potential first-round matchup with Orlando.
Should that happen, the Magic will need to do a better job containing Pierce, who's averaged 21.5 points and 8.5 assists in the two victories. He accounted for more offense than Orlando (36-25) did in the wild second-half comeback in January, posting 19 points and seven assists after the break.
It's unlikely Allen will return Wednesday - he said prior to Tuesday's game he's having trouble moving sideways - and Boston got a scare from Rondo against the Knicks. The three-time All-Star landed hard on his back going for a rebound in the third quarter, but remained in the game after spending a few minutes down on the court.
Rondo finished with 13 assists as the Celtics fell to 19-4 when he has that many.
Rondo had his wrist and back taped in the locker room following the win, and coach Doc Rivers didn't provide an update on whether he'd play Wednesday.
Even if he can go, Boston may have trouble if it can't defend the 3-point line better. The Magic hit 11 of 18 on Monday in a 113-100 win over Philadelphia as Ryan Anderson finished with 26 points and 16 boards with Dwight Howard out.
"We're just playing ball," guard Jason Richardson said. "When he gets back it'll be great. We definitely want him back because we know how dominant he is on both ends of the floor. But right now we're just going with whoever is on the floor.''
Orlando improved to a remarkable 23-3 when it knocks down 40 percent of its 3s, but the Celtics have limited their open looks. The Magic are shooting 21.1 percent from beyond the arc in their last three games against Boston, hitting a total of 12 3s.
Anderson has averaged 8.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting in those contests.
- Boston Celtics
- Orlando Magic