Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing extra news, notes and analysis from each game. Boston defeated the Orlando Magic, 87-56, on Monday night at TD Garden.
OK, you got me. It's a pretty good joke, actually. You see, all of the major sports sites -- ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, CBS, etc -- all decided to pull a fast one on all of us fans and switch around the box score from the Celtics and Magic game Monday.
They tried to pass off this final score: Celtics 87, Magic 56. Yeah, right, nice try guys.
Wait, what? The Celtics actually won, and by 31 points, no less? Yes, you read that correctly.
Hard to wrap your mind around? Don't worry, it is for everyone. Boston systematically dismantled Orlando in almost every way possible, all while holding the Magic to 25 percent shooting. They made 16 field goals in the entire game, and the 56 points the Magic scored was a franchise low and was tied for the least points scored against the Celtics all time.
Somehow, someway, they still won, and here's how they did it.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIP (AND MOST OTHER GAMES, LIKE THIS ONE)
Defense, defense, defense. It wins championships, you know. And in this case, it will also win you regular season basketball games. Boston's defense was smothering, forcing Orlando to go 16-for-65 from the field (that's 24.6 percent shooting, if you're keeping score at home) while turning the ball over a season-worst 23 times. Orlando scored 20 points in the second half, 10 in each quarter, in the less-than-stellar performance.
"Well I think that one's easy to explain," Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said when asked what happened. "I think they came out and just absolutely dominated us with their energy and their defensive intensity. Avery Bradley set a great tone. We had trouble even getting the ball into the scoring area. They were denying every pass."
Bradley, who started in place of the injured Rajon Rondo (sore right wrist), had a solid game even though it didn't show up on the stat sheet. Bradley finished with six points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals, and it was his defense -- as Van Gundy mentioned -- that was the game-changer.
"I just came out tonight and I wanted to get everybody else's energy up and I felt like I did playing defense like that," Bradley said. "Paul [Pierce] came up and told me when you play defense like that it makes us play defense even harder. That's all I try to do, I try to help in any way I can."
"His defense set the tone for the entire thing," Van Gundy added. "He tok us out; we had a hard time getting the ball down and getting into offense."
Bradley is no Rondo, but his defensive intensity will be critical for Boston this season.
SECOND UNIT STEPS UP FOR INJURY-RIDDEN CELTICS
Five players were out for the Celtics, including two starters, so bench production became all the more important. We already went over Bradley's contributions. Brandon Bass, playing against the Magic for the first time since Orlando traded him for Glen Davis (who had six points and 11 rebounds in his return to Boston), scored 19 points and had eight rebounds off the bench. Bass played starters minutes (he played 34:01) and was 8-for-14 from the field.
"I was just letting the game come to me, just staying with the same mindset: Go out and defend, rebounds and let the game come," Bass said after the win.
Sasha Pavlovic was also relatively effective in his 33 minutes. Pavlovic scored nine points, but missed a handful of open shots (he went 4-for-9 from the field and 1-for-5 from three-point range). Considering the circumstances, and the fact that not much is ever expected out of Pavlovic, it was an encouraging performance.
Marquis Daniels and E'Twaun Moore were also effective, finishing with eight and six points respectively. Daniels even had five assists and Moore had three dimes. JaJuan Johnson even looked good in his four and a half minutes, scoring four points.
Boston likely could not sustain success if it's forced to rely on its bench all season long, but again, it was encouraging to see the bench holding steady against a contending team in the Eastern Conference.
DWIGHT HOWARD NOTCHES DOUBLE-DOUBLE, BUT C'S KEEP HIM IN CHECK
Dwight Howard recorded a double-double, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but was by all accounts held in check by a stingy Celtics defense. Howard went 4-for-15 from the field and was 10-for-18 at the charity stripe. After a 14-point first half, Howard was limited to only four second-half points. Not exactly an MVP-type performance.
"We just allowed them to get into our heads," Howard said. "They won the mental battle. They've been doing it for a couple years sometimes. They would just get in our head, and we just have to learn to play through that. We'll get better."
"The game plan was to kind of defend him one-on-on and get out to the shooters," Paul Pierce said. "We felt like with the guys we had, especially Jermaine [O'Neal] and Kevin [Garnett] that we can go at him one-on-one and if we can defend the three point line tonight we'll have success. So we were able to do both. We were able to guard Dwight, not let him get out a huge, huge night and we were able to get out three point shooters and that was the reason we had so much success tonight defensively."
If the Celtics can limit Howard, who is averaging 20.2 points and 16.1 rebounds and is just a freak of nature in general, there's plenty of hope going forward. As Pierce said, there are no more excuses now that the C's have a quality victory.
"We know what type of team [we have] and knowing the guys we were out, you know we had a lot of fire power that wasn't really out there tonight and so there shouldn't be any more excuses. We know what we're capacle of and this is the tupe of game I hope can carry over the rest of the season."
BOTTOM LINE: This was far and away the Celtics best win of the season. Period. They recovered from a rocky start offensively and stifled the Magic offense all night long. Plenty of positives for Boston out of this game. Can they keep up this level of play? It remains to be seen, but if they can, great things may be in store.
NEXT UP: Boston will have the opportunity to run their winning streak to three games against, wouldn't you know it, these same Magic, on Thursday night in Orlando. It will definitely be a good test for the Celtics once again.