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The Celtics lost grip of the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference Wednesday night as the Orlando Magic held on late to beat the C’s, 84-82. The Celtics were down by as much as 16 points, but made a late-game comeback that eventually fell short when Paul Pierce (26 points) missed a shot in the final seconds.
Doc Rivers continued to limit Kevin Garnett’s minutes, as the big man only played 17 in the whole game. One might think that if the Celtics had a few more minutes of Garnett’s great defense they may have won this game. However, Doc believes that Garnett’s good health for the playoffs is more crucial than one win in the regular season.
Ray Allen finished with 16 points and Kendrick Perkins had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort.
The C’s defense was sloppy all night. Dwight Howard was unstoppable with 24 points and 21 rebounds, and he also had four blocked shots. Teammate Rashard Lewis finished with 21 points, while Courtney Lee and Hedo Turkoglu added 11 and 13 points respectively.
With the win, the Magic moved into second place behind the Cavs in the Eastern Conference, but they are just percentage points ahead of the Celtics in the race.
I am not concerned with the loss. The truth is that the defense was sloppy as it has been without Kevin Garnett anchoring it, but I agree with Doc Rivers in that Garnett’s health for the playoffs is much more important than winning Wednesday night. I think continuing to rest KG and ease him back is the smart move.
The Celtics have already guarenteed no lower than the third seed in the playoffs and just need to stay healthy to get to that point. The C’s head to Atlanta next on Friday night for a match-up with the Hawks.