After struggling through a lackluster first quarter, the Celtics woke up from oversleeping on this Super Bowl Sunday and wound up running away from their Eastern Conference rivals the Orlando Magic, 91-80, bouncing back from Friday night's tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Led by Rajon Rondo's season-high, 26 points, the Celts overcame a horrific looking, first half injury to Marquis Daniels as well as a monstrous first half performance by Orlando center Dwight Howard to improve their record to 38-12, 23-4 at home.
The Celts shot just 28 percent in that first quarter while committing eight turnovers en route to scoring just 17 points. But the Magic led by just five after one, with no one but Howard doing any damage on the offensive end. In the second quarter, the home team woke up, outscoring the Magic 29-21 to take a 46-43 halftime lead they wouldn't relinquish.
In addition to Rondo's 26, Paul Pierce added 18 and Kevin Garnett 16 for the C's, while Ray Allen hit a pair of three-pointers, closing the gap to catch Reggie Miller for the all-time mark to three.
Howard finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic. He looked like Hakeem Olajuwon in the first half, featuring a bevy of low-post moves and hitting the locker room with 22 on 9-of-16 shooting. But the Celts, particularly Kendrick Perkins (13 rebounds, two blocks) tightened up on him in the second half, holding him to 1-of-6 and six points after the break.
The Celts hit seven of their first eight shots in the third quarter to extend that halftime edge, and wound up hitting for 48 percent from the floor overall. As for Daniels, he crumpled to the floor after injuring his neck on Gilbert Arenas's chest while driving to the basket in the second quarter. He lay motionless for several minutes before being securely placed on a stretcher and sent by ambulance to New England Baptist Hospital for further evaluation. CSN's Gary Tanguay reported on Twitter via colleague Carolyn Manno that Daniels had feeling in all his extremities.
The Celts have a quick turnaround, hitting the road to face the Charlotte Bobcats Monday night.