Celtics

Celtics beat Orlando in Garnett's return, 109-106

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Celtics beat Orlando in Garnett's return, 109-106

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON With their defensive anchor back on the floor, the Boston Celtics closed out the Orlando Magic with - you guessed it - great defense.

And it was Kevin Garnett leading the late-game defensive surge, as the C's held on for a 109-106 win over the Magic Monday night.

Garnett finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds, but it was his steal and subsequent pass upcourt to Ray Allen who was immediately fouled, that sealed the Celtics victory.

Coach Doc Rivers said he didn't know what to expect from Garnett, who returned to action after missing the previous nine games with a muscle strain in his lower right leg.

"I knew he'd play with energy," Rivers said. "You could see that."

After the play, Garnett gave a stare into the jubilant crowd, the kind of look that the Garden faithful ate up entirely.

He was back.

He was active.

He was Kevin Garnett.

"It felt good," Garnett said of being back on the floor for the first time since suffering the injury at Detroit on Dec. 29. "I've been doing a lot of things to get back here and get strong, and I'm glad I was able to come out here and help my team out."

Garnett's late-game heroics were truly needed. Monday's matchup not being all that different than the Christmas Day game, as the teams staged a back-and-fourth battle that wasn't ultimately decided until the game's final moments.

Ray Allen and Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu exchanged one big shot for another in the game's final minutes.

And the officials, who were calling things relatively close most of the game, began to uh, look the other way at times down the stretch. That seemed to benefit the C's, who had several players in foul trouble.

After the loss, the Magic weren't looking to make any excuses.

There were several factors that contributed to their loss, but none seemed to stick out more than the Celtics' impressive shooting.

Boston shot 60 percent from the floor, compared to 45.9 percent by the Magic.

Even with the C's shooting so well, the game was relatively close most of the night.

"I don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing to be in a game that close where they shot 60 percent," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "We're going to have to be better defensively then that. On the positive side, they had to shoot 60 percent to win a very close game. So I don't know there was some good things, but our defense has to change or we can't play at this level."

Rivers wasn't all that pleased with his team's play defensively for most of the game.

"I'm sure Coach Van Gundy is saying the same thing - we both prepared for this to be a defensive game," Rivers said. "And for three quarters, no one has heard that. The last three minutes, we turned back to who we are. We were a defensive team and became that, and that's why we won the game."

After Orlando got three cracks at taking the lead, the Celtics grabbed the rebound and called a time-out with 1:15 to play and the score tied at 102-102.

Out of the time-out, the Celtics got a pair of free throws from the ''new guy'' -- Garnett.

Garnett's two free throws gave the C's a 104-102 lead with 1:05 to play.

Orlando continued to battle, but the Celtics would never trail again.

The C's set the tone with an impressive start, which was one of the Magic's biggest concerns coming into the game.

"Getting off to a good start is big for us," Orlando forward Brandon Bass told CSNNE.com. "Especially on the road."

Things didn't quite work out the way Bass wanted, as the C's opened with a 15-6 before Van Gundy had seen enough and called a time-out.

A key to Boston's quick start was the play of Shaquille O'Neal.

After scoring just two points in an injury-plagued 13 minutes on Christmas against Orlando, O'Neal had 12 points and 2 blocked shots on Monday.

Boston also got a strong game from Glen Davis, who had 15 points as he reprised his usual role as an energy guy off the Celtics bench.

"Baby Davis back in his spot was great," Rivers said. "In a difficult spot, because playing Dwight Howard is never easy."

But the C's showed that even with Howard roaming around the basket, getting points in the paint is essential to beating the Magic.

Boston had 52 points in the paint compared to just 26 for Orlando in a game that had the look and feel of a playoff matchup.

"For both teams, you'll take as many as you can get," Rivers said. "It's always nice to have them. It is one of only 82 games, but the meaning of them - they don't mean a lot come playoff time because guys are coming back from injuries, back-to-backs - but they're just fun for the players. You find out a lot about your guys because of the execution and stuff like that."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

PHILADELPHIA – Despite playing its second straight game without a key rotation player, the Boston Celtics did just enough to get their first win of the season, 102-92, over Philadelphia.

Boston (1-2) was led by Kyrie Irving’s game-high 21 points, but it was Shane Larkin's floor game down the stretch that truly catapulted Boston to its first win of the season.

Larkin, who was seeing action in large part because Marcus Smart was out with a left ankle injury, provided a huge spark in the fourth before finishing with 10 points and four assists.

He drained a 3-pointer that tied the game at 75-all, which was part of an 18-9 Celtics run.

The Sixers (0-2) were led by J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless who had 19 and 18 points, respectively. Joel Embiid got off to a slow start, but finished with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Boston played with a lead for most of the first half, but Philadelphia took over with a 7-0 run to end the second quarter and had the Celtics playing catch-up for all of the third and some of the fourth quarter.

Boston was once again short-handed, with Marcus Smart out with a left ankle injury. He replaced Gordon Hayward, whose left ankle injury in the first quarter of Boston’s loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, is expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

But with players out, that opens up opportunities for others to step up.

Larkin, who walked away from a contract overseas that would have paid about $5 million more than he’s making with the Celtics, was one of those players.

Aron Baynes, who got the start with Smart out, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Boston also got another strong game off the bench from Terry Rozier who had 14 points and seven rebounds

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Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

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Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.

It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.

Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.

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“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”

In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.

In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.

“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.

“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE