for this game

Magic hang on late to defeat NBA's last unbeaten team

Nov 19, 2007 - 4:38 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- In a battle for early-season supremacy in the Eastern Conference, the Orlando Magic's dynamic duo got the best of the Boston Celtics' terrific trio.

Dwight Howard had 24 points and Rashard Lewis added 22 to lead the Magic to a thrilling 104-102 victory over the Celtics, the league's last remaining unbeaten team.

Lewis joined the Magic as the result of a sign-and-trade deal with the Seattle SuperSonics in the offseason, after signing the fourth-richest contract in NBA history - a six-year deal worth $118 million - and has served as a nice complement to Howard's dominating inside game, averaging just under 22 points per game.

Likewise, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were acquired by the Celtics in different trades over the summer to team with veteran star Paul Pierce and have fit right in, averaging just over 20 points per game.

Pierce finished with 28 points while Allen and Garnett added 19 and 14, respectively. Point guard Rajon Rondo contributed 18 points.

In fact, had Rondo not hit all six of his field goal attempts in the second period en route to 14 points, the Celtics would have trailed by much more than 58-41 at the half. "The first half I think they (Magic) realized it was a key game for them and really competed," said Boston Coach Doc Rivers, whose team shot 53 percent (40-of-75) from the field. "Clearly, we didn't play well. Obviously, Garnett didn't have a good game, and Ray (Allen) had his moments."

In a game reflective of the teams' combined 17-3 record, Boston showed the resolve expected of an team unbeaten through eight games trailing, 65-45, at the 9:56 mark of the third quarter after five straight points from Lewis.

"Obviously, we have to come out and play better in the first half," Garnett said. "Doc challenged us at halftime to come back. We knew they were a really, really good team. We knew we had our work cut out for us."

The Celtics stormed back behind Pierce, who scored 12 of his 15 third-quarter points during a 26-12 run to trim the Magic's lead to 77-71.

As a team, Boston shot 14-of-18 from the field in the third period.

"We definitely knew at halftime that they would make a run," said Magic guard Keith Bogans, who scored seven of his 10 points in the first period. "They weren't going to lie down and let us walk over the top of them. So we had to withstand their run and make one of our own. Mentally, we had to keep pushing, keep fighting."

The Celtics continued to chip away in the final period until they took an 88-87 lead on a 3-pointer from James Posey. The Magic responded with a 6-0 run to take back a 93-88 advantage with 4:50 - a lead they did not relinquish.

Living up to their nickname, the "Big Three" of Garnett, Allen and Pierce accounted for the final 14 points of the game, even trimming the Magic advantage to 103-102 with seven seconds left on Allen's 3-pointer.

Lewis was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and hit 1-of-2 free throws. After calling a timeout to set up their final play, the Celtics turned to Pierce, who had a good look but missed a 3-pointer with one second remaining to seal the win for the Magic.

"I thought I had a good look at a three," Pierce said. "I saw about one or two seconds left, and I could have driven and tied the game, but I went with my instincts."

"So much for the two best defensive teams in the league," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They couldn't stop us in the first half, and we couldn't stop them in the second."

Rajon Rondo poured in 19 points for the Celtics, who lost despite shooting 53 percent (40-of-75) from the field.

Van Gundy admitted he was surprised by Pierce's long shot.

"I was trying to get Dwight's attention to come and help because I was sure they were just going to put their head down and drive to the basket," Van Gundy said. After misfiring for most of the game, all four of the Celtics' three-pointers came in the final 6:35 of the game. Allen accounted for a pair from long range in the last 3:44.

But Boston misfired on a trio of three-pointers in the closing 21 seconds.

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