Howard, Magic top Celtics to force Game 7 in Boston

The Sports Network
5/15/2009 1:36:04 AM
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Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Dwight Howard finished with 23 points, 22 rebounds and three blocks, as the Orlando Magic staved off elimination with an 83-75 win over Boston in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The victory forced a decisive Game 7, which will take place Sunday in Boston. Orlando had dropped Games 4 and 5 to go down in the series as the Celtics took an advantageous position they still hold.

"I didn't worry about not getting touches," said Howard. "I know playing against a good defensive team like Boston, the only way I was going to get touches was to crash the boards and being dominant."

Boston has never lost a best-of-seven playoff series when it goes up 3-2, going 32-0 over its storied history. But the Celtics faltered down the stretch Thursday, scoring just 13 points in the final quarter as Orlando lived to play another game.

Rashard Lewis added 20 points and six rebounds for the Magic, while Rafer Alston scored 11, including a big basket inside the two-minute mark. Hedo Turkoglu had only seven points and made just one three-pointer, but it came moments after Alston's basket to help seal the game.

Rajon Rondo finished with 19 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and four steals for Boston, while Kendrick Perkins added 15 points and 10 boards. Paul Pierce scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but missed two key free throws late in the game that would have given the Celtics the lead.

While Orlando made just 6-of-26 three-point attempts and shot 36.6 percent, Boston sank only 3-of-18 from behind the arc and made 8-of-13 free throws.

"We certainly didn't do it with our potent offense," Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "But we did take care of the ball pretty well and made some big shots down the stretch."

Midway through the fourth quarter and with Boston down five points, Pierce connected on three consecutive jumpers for a 73-72 Celtics lead. The teams traded points over the next few minutes, and Howard made 1-of-2 from the free throw line for a 76-75 Magic edge with 2:47 to play.

Pierce then got to the line with just over two minutes left, but missed both shots to keep Orlando in the lead. He had missed only four free throws in the entire series prior to Game 6 (42-for-46).

"Our offense definitely struggled but we still played good enough defense to win the game," said Pierce. "We gave them 30-plus free throws and we weren't aggressive on the other end in taking the ball to the basket more."

Alston took advantage at the other end, as he deposited a floater in the lane with 1:52 on the clock. Rondo missed a three that was partially blocked, and Lewis collected the rebound to give Orlando possession and a chance to expand its lead to two possessions. Turkoglu delivered by draining a three from the top of the arc, putting the Magic ahead 81-75 with 1:23 remaining.

It was a dagger for Boston, which didn't score the rest of the way. Lewis got a steal on the Celtics' next possession, and hit two free throws in the final minutes to seal the Orlando win completely.

"Give them credit, they played terrific...played hard, harder than us in a lot of stretches," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. "They got all the loose balls (and) long rebounds. I guess that explains the 31-13 foul advantage. That's the only thing I can come up with."

Boston held a 25-22 edge after the first quarter, and six consecutive points, capped by a pair of Pierce layups, expanded the Celtics' lead to 31-22.

However, the Magic countered with seven points to stay close, and the game took on an ebb-and-flow quality. Ray Allen hit a jumper with 3 1/2 minutes left for a 42-33 Celtics lead, but the Magic scored seven of the final nine points of the half to go into the break down just 46-45.

Boston then opened the third with nine consecutive points, of which Perkins had four, to take a 55-45 advantage.

But the Magic chipped away at the lead, and back-to-back baskets from Howard got his team within 59-56 with about 2 1/2 minutes to play. Courtney Lee then sank a jumper to close the period to cut the Celtics' lead to 62-61, and neither team led by more than a possession in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.

Lewis' layup with 6 1/2 minutes to go capped a six-point Orlando burst for a 72-67 edge.

Game Notes: Allen finished just 2-of-11 from the field, making none of his seven three- point attempts, to end with five points...Lee had six points for the Magic, while Mickael Pietrus added 11 off the bench...Orlando made 17-of-31 free throws...Boston held a 48-42 rebounding edge...10 of Howard's 22 rebounds were on the offensive glass...Perkins and Stephon Marbury were assessed technical fouls for the Celtics, while Howard and Turkoglu also were whistled for technicals.

Dwight Howard  (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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