ORLANDO, Fla. – The remolded Magic are the NBA’s new streak-busters.
Brandon Bass scored 21 points, Hedo Turkoglu had 15 and the Orlando Magic ended the Boston Celtics’ winning streak at 14 games with an 86-78 victory Saturday for back-to-back wins against the NBA’s best.
A Magic team that had dropped eight of nine games and orchestrated two blockbuster trades suddenly looks awfully scary in the Eastern Conference after a pair of victories over Boston and San Antonio.
“You see what the possibilities are,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You see that you have a chance to be a really good team. We’re not there yet by any means, but you have a chance to be a very good team. And I think that right there, that belief and that confidence that if we will stay with it, we can be very good.
“That’s a great thing for our team to get that belief that, yeah, this can work. We can do this.”
Jameer Nelson (12 points) and J.J. Redick (10 points) each made a jumper in the final minutes to help Orlando rally from 12 points down in the second half to cap another big comeback.
The Magic also ended San Antonio’s winning streak at 10 games Thursday night.
Kevin Garnett had 22 points, and Paul Pierce added 18, but injuries finally caught up with the Celtics against the team they beat last season in the Eastern Conference finals. Boston hadn’t lost since Nov. 21 at Toronto.
“I just thought we went away from executing offensively and we just didn’t get any stops down the stretch,” Pierce said.
The Celtics had Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard in foul trouble for the first three quarters. He didn’t even score his first field goal until a minute into the fourth quarter, a hook shot over Glen Davis to trim Boston’s lead to four.
A few plays later, Howard was wrestling with Shaquille O’Neal for position when he drew a sixth foul on O’Neal by easily falling to the ground. And O’Neal, accused by Van Gundy of flopping in a game two years ago that fueled fodder between the two, wasn’t happy with the whistle.
“I just wonder why I’ve never gotten that call in 20 years,” O’Neal said. “Don’t pick and choose when you’re going to make the call. … That’s what happens when you’ve got control freaks.”
“I didn’t flop,” he said. “I just tripped.”
The Magic tied it at 77-77 on Bass’ short jumper with 1:56 remaining. Nelson followed with a 3-pointer, leaving his hand in the air and chest-bumping teammate Jason Richardson in a celebration near the bench. And after Garnett made one of two free throws, Redick rolled in a jumper from about 20 feet to put Orlando ahead 82-78.
Ray Allen and Nate Robinson each had airballs in the final seconds, and Nelson made four free throws to seal another huge victory for a Magic team that was falling apart only days earlier. Two trades so far have made all the difference.
The Magic brought Gilbert Arenas from Washington, acquired Richardson, Turkoglu and Earl Clark from Phoenix. They gave up Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat, plus a 2011 first-round draft pick and cash, in the deals.
Boston point guard Rajon Rondo again was out with a sprained ankle and had missed seven of the 14 wins during the streak. Backup Delonte West has missed the last 13. O’Neal sat out four, Jermaine O’Neal played for the first time in 14 games against Orlando and Kendrick Perkins – last season’s starting center – hasn’t even played this season.
Not that Orlando wasn’t enjoying the win any less.
“I had never played on Christmas,” Arenas said. “I got a nice Christmas present today.”