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Magic knock off Celts, advance to Eastern Finals versus Cavs

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The Sports Network
5/18/2009 12:55:29 AM
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Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Buoyed by hot three-point shooting and a strong push to start the fourth quarter, the Orlando Magic turned out the lights on the defending NBA champions in the playoffs by pulling off a feat never accomplished before against the Boston Celtics.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and set a playoff career-high with 12 assists, as the Magic beat the Celtics, 101-82, in the deciding Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Orlando, which dropped the fourth and fifth games of this series in disheartening fashion, rallied to force a decisive contest with an 83-75 triumph on Thursday. On Sunday, the Magic brought down the anvil, sending the Celtics to their first-ever series loss when taking a 3-2 edge in a best-of- seven set. Boston had been 32-0 in previous series when holding such a lead.

"When you look at a team that's 32-0 when leading a series 3-2 and come in and win by 19 points that's a big win," said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. "I can't say I've ever had one that I've been happier about."

The Magic, who converted 13-of-21 shots from beyond the arc, will play the top-seeded Cavaliers in the East finals, starting Wednesday in Cleveland. The Cavs, led by league MVP LeBron James, haven't lost yet in the playoffs following sweeps over Detroit and Atlanta. The Cavs, who have won all eight of those games by double-digits, have been off since finishing off the Hawks on May 11, but now face a team they lost to twice in three meetings during the regular season. Orlando has won eight of the last 11 meetings.

Dwight Howard contributed 12 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks for the Magic, who surged by netting the opening 11 points of the last quarter and gained their first trip to the East finals since 1996, when they were swept by the eventual champion Chicago Bulls.

"It's a whole new ball game, Cleveland's well-rested," said Howard. "We're coming off a tough series. I think the biggest thing for us is going into Cleveland with the same mentality we had tonight, which is starting the game and finishing the game with great intensity."

Rashard Lewis scored 19, Mickael Pietrus 17 and Rafer Alston 15 for the Magic.

Ray Allen topped the Celtics with 23 points, while Paul Pierce netted 16 in defeat.

This was also the second straight series the Celtics were pushed to seven games, as they got by Chicago in a gritty first-round series.

Boston had the Magic on the ropes after taking two close games. Glen Davis hit a buzzer-beating jumper to give the Celtics a 95-94 win in Game 4, and Boston rallied from a 14-point deficit in the final period to shock the Magic, 92-88, in Game 5.

When the Magic got up by double digits in the fourth this time, Van Gundy was worried about deja vu.

"Through a good part of the second half it looked very similar to Game 5, where we were with the lead and everything else," he said. "We looked like we had learned from it, and we continued to play. I thought our defense was very good, and we continued to play, made some shots. (Turkoglu) was outstanding down the stretch."

The Magic have come from behind to win both their postseason series thus far. They were down 2-1 in the first-round series to the Sixers before winning in six games.

The Celtics were able to get this far without the services of their emotional leader, as Kevin Garnett's knee injury kept him out the entire postseason. Also, forward Leon Powe was out the entire Orlando series after tearing the ACL in his left knee during the Chicago series.

"Clearly tonight we didn't play well," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I thought we had the right spirit. We missed layups, missed free throws, but I told them...this is one of my favorite groups of how they fought. There were a lot of reasons for them to give up with the Kevin and Leon thing, and they never did."

Ahead by five after three quarters, the Magic began the last period on an 11-0 run. Pietrus started it with a three-pointer, and Courtney Lee and Turkoglu converted a three-point play apiece during the flurry. Turkoglu finished it with a runner off the glass, and he sank the ensuing free throw after being fouled by Pierce with 9:59 remaining.

Howard picked up his fifth foul with 8:04 left, but the Magic stayed ahead by double digits the rest of the way. Allen's three-pointer had Boston within 90-78 with over four minutes left, but Turkoglu sank his fourth three-pointer of the night to stem the tide and begin a burying 11-0 spurt.

Orlando was ahead seven points at the half, although it seemed as if the Magic would be ahead by more, considering they shot 7-of-10 from beyond the arc over the first 24 minutes. The downfall was 11 turnovers, leading to 13 Boston points. Also, Allen had 13 points by the break, including nine in the second quarter.

The Magic used a 12-2 run in the first quarter to grab a 13-point advantage. Howard slammed, then blocked a shot from Pierce, leading to a Turkoglu three to cap the spurt for a 22-9 lead.

Pietrus sank a three-ball in the closing seconds of the first for a 27-17 margin, and the Magic surged to a 14-point cushion in the second. A pair of free throws from Lewis moved the Magic to a 37-23 lead, but Boston responded with a 10-2 jaunt, culminated by an Allen layup.

Allen then nailed a three-pointer with nearly 1 1/2 minutes left for a 42-38 difference, but Alston drained a long-distance shot, providing the seven-point spread at the intermission.

J.J. Redick and Turkoglu hit consecutive three-pointers to provide the visitors with a 60-50 lead with nearly 4 1/2 minutes left in the third before Boston closed the gap in the latter stages. Rajon Rondo made two free throws then beat the buzzer by sinking a jumper for a 66-61 margin moving to the fourth.

At the end of the game the Celtics reflected on not having last season's Defensive Player of the Year available to stop the Magic.

"You can't cry over spilled milk," said Pierce about Garnett. "Unfortunately we didn't have the big fellow for this run. Hopefully we can stay healthy for next year in the playoffs and see what happens. I honestly believe we're the best team in the NBA, still, when we have a healthy group of guys."

Game Notes

Turkoglu ended 4-of-5 from beyond the arc...Rondo ended with 10 points, six rebounds and 10 assists...Davis scored 13 for Boston, which shot 39.2 percent from the field...Orlando ended at 51.4 percent from the floor and won despite having just three offensive rebounds...This was the third Game 7 in Orlando's history. The Magic beat Indiana in 1995 but lost to Detroit in 2003...It was the 26th Game 7 in the Celtics' history. They are 20-6 all-time in such games...Pierce finished 4-of-13 shooting...Kendrick Perkins had 15 rebounds for the Celtics.

Pierce and Turkoglu (Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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