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Howard, Magic survive vs. Celtics to clinch playoff spot

Apr 16, 2007 - 3:09 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic were shaky down the stretch. But a favorable whistle has them exactly where they want to be.

Despite faltering from the free-throw line in the waning moments, Dwight Howard collected 10 points and 14 rebounds as the Magic clinched their first postseason berth in four seasons with an 88-86 victory over the lowly Celtics.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 20 points and made two huge defensive stops for Orlando (38-42), which entered the postseason thanks to Sunday's victory coupled with Indiana's (35-45) loss to New Jersey.

"We just want to go out and play (in the playoffs)," Howard said. "We all know how to play basketball. We just want to go out and show people we can play and have fun. It's a new experience.

"We know the playoffs are going to be different than anything else. Yes, there's a little bit of pressure off me. I'm just glad we're here. We've been working extremely hard."

Magic guard Jameer Nelson, who scored 16 points, said his squad continues to prove people wrong.

"I'm one of those guys who people doubted (when drafted in 2004)," Nelson said. "Dwight was one of those guys people doubted as a No. 1 pick. But we continue to prove people wrong.

"People said Grant (Hill) wasn't going to be able to play. This person's not good enough. That person's not good enough. The coach isn't good enough. But we've all proven people wrong throughout our careers."

Leading, 85-68, with 6:44 left in the fourth quarter, the Magic let the Celtics right back into the game. Boston went on a 12-0 run to make it 85-80 with 4:10 remaining and eventually cut the deficit to 87-86 on Al Jefferson's bank shot with 58 seconds left.

"I was really proud of them (with the comeback)," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They've been that way all year. This is just a great group of guys to coach, it really is. I ride them and get on them, and at the same time, I love them all. They've been absolutely a fantastic group to coach."

On the next two possessions, Howard made just 1-of-4 free throws, giving the Celtics a chance to tie or take the lead on the game's final sequence. After a timeout, Delonte West drove the left baseline and misfired on a floater as time expired.

However, replays showed the Boston guard was smacked in the back of the head by Turkoglu on the drive, sending West sprawling to the floor. No foul was called, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers left the court jawing at the referees.

Howard was just 3-of-8 from the field and 4-of-12 from the line, and Turkoglu was 6-of-15, including 2-of-7 from the arc for the Magic, who shot 44 percent (28-of-63) from the field.

"We had the big lead and just started thinking about the playoffs," Howard said. "It's a game we needed and we were looking ahead. Yeah, the clock was moving too slow. We had that big lead, and it seemed like 10 minutes until it got to five minutes left."

Jefferson scored 28 points for the Celtics, who shot just 2-of-11 on 3-pointers and were outrebounded, 40-31.

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