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Celtics Win in Garnett’s Return

Kevin Garnett returned to the Celtics in a big way Monday night as he led the team in rebounding with eight while adding 19 points and a big steal late in the game. Celtics defeated the Magic 109-106.(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

With the clock ticking down on the Orlando Magic, Kevin Garnett reaches around Jameer Nelson and sends the ball up court to a wide open Ray Allen who is then fouled and sent to the free throw line to secure the 109-106 victory. As if there couldn’t have been a better way to end his first game back from a lower leg injury, Garnett made it look like he never missed any time at all.

In what was a close game all night, it took the Boston Celtics some tough defense down the stretch to get their revenge on the Magic. Boston held a 10-point lead at one point in the first half, but a strong offensive shooting night kept Orlando in the game. The win brought the Celtics to a record of 31-9 on the year and 19-3 at home. The Magic fell to a respectable 26-15 record and are now 11-10 on the road.

The last time the two teams met was on Christmas day when Boston fell 86-78 in Orlando. That loss came after the Magic pulled off a couple of trades to get Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and bring back Hedo Turkoglu. Since the trades, the Magic have played very well, and that has been shown with the team’s impressive 7-2 record in January before Monday night’s loss.

First Half

The Celtics led 55-54 at the half. The biggest story for Boston in the first half had to be the return of KG, who had five points (2-for-5 shooting) and seven rebounds to go along with one block. The Celtics shot an impressive 59.5% from the field in the first half while holding the Magic to 41.7%. Boston would’ve had a much larger lead than one point if it hadn’t been for Ryan Anderson. Anderson had 14 points in the first half on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also had a pair of rebounds and a pair of blocks. Anderson finished with 16 points and eight boards on the night.

Also very impressive in the first half was Dwight Howard, who had 18 points (5-of-11) and six rebounds. Howard has continued to make a living at the free throw line as he went to the line 12 times, converting eight of those 12 shots. As a team, the Magic were able to get to the line 24 times, while the Celtics only got there 13 times. Howard finished the game with a game-high 33 points and 13 rebounds. He was held without a blocked shot for the first time in 44 games.

For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo had six points and eight assists. Shaquille O’Neal had seven points (3-for-3 shooting) in only nine minutes but also picked up three fouls. Rondo finished the game with 10 points, 13 assists, four rebounds and three steals. O’Neal had 12 points and two rebounds at the end of the night.

Orlando also shot the 3-ball better and more often then Boston did, and that was one of the main reasons they were still in the game, that and Anderson couldn’t miss. The Magic went 6-for-13 from downtown while the Celtics only went 1-for-5.

Second Half

Both teams kept pace with each other throughout the third quarter, as the Magic barely outscored the Celtics 27-26. In the fourth quarter, Boston was led by Allen, who had 13 of the Celtics’ 28 points in the quarter. Big rebounding plays from Garnett and Glen Davis in the fourth quarter kept Boston in the game while Paul Pierce hit a clutch step-away shot while being fouled, and made the and-one to give Boston a little breathing room late in the game. It was the only shot Pierce took in the quarter. He finished the game with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.

The Celtics were able to out-score the Magic 28-25 in the fourth quarter to even the season series 1-1.

Star of the Game: Ray Allen

Allen did a great job keeping the Celtics in the game, as he was able to score 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. It seemed like he never missed a shot; he went 8-for-11 from the field (3-for-4 from the 3-point line) and 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Allen also added five rebounds, two assists and a steal. For the month of January, Allen is shooting an incredible 70.0% from beyond the arc and 62.5% from the field while averaging 20.9 points per game. Not bad for the 35-year-old.

Needs to Improve

Not too much. The two things that weren’t spectacular in this game were the 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding/2nd chance points. Aside from Allen shooting lights out from the 3-point line, the Celtics would’ve gone 0-for-6, but with Allen they were still only 3-for-10. Everyone knows the Celtics can shoot 3’s, so it just so happen that they didn’t fall on Monday night.

As for offensive rebounding, the Celtics only had six offensive boards to the Magic’s 13. Shaq didn’t have one in the 26 minutes he played. Glen Davis led the team with two off the bench. It’s also kind of difficult to get offensive boards when you shoot 60.0% for the game.

Up Next

The Celtics will have the day off before taking on the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night at home. Of course, it’s hard to forget the last time the Celtics played the Pistons. Garnett was injured and all of Celtics Nation held their breath, hoping his (and the Celtics’) season wasn’t over. Well he’s back, and hopefully Boston can take care of Detroit like it should have the last time. The Pistons have played well as of late; they have won their past three games, but their record is still 15-26 on the year.

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