By A.Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON Sometimes the greatest inspiration comes about in moments of tragedy.
We saw that on Sunday afternoon.
The Boston Celtics showed no signs of life against the Orlando Magic until one of their own, Marquis Daniels, went down because of a neck injury.
As he laid motionless, face-down on the floor, his teammates slowly gathered nearby, one by one to offer support.
In a season in which the Celtics have been challenged in so many ways on and off the court, here was yet another moment in which that tougher-than-teflon bond that Celtics players talk about, was put to the test.
And once again, they collectively rose to the occasion in rallying for a 91-80 win over Orlando.
Rajon Rondo led the way with a season-high 26 points, to go with game-high seven assists.
But maybe the biggest assist of the night came from Daniels, whose injury seemed to light a fuse in his teammates.
Paul Pierce has seen plenty of teams go into a funk when a teammate goes down, essentially using that as an excuse to lose.
But the Celtics once again proved they're mental make-up is different from most teams.
"I think we kind of fed off Daniels' injury," Pierce said. "It was kind of like, 'Let's do this for 'Quis.' I was on the bench at the time, but it was like our energy went up. That's what started the run."
With the victory, Boston (38-12) has now won the head-to-head series with the Magic, a nice little card to have in hand in case these two finish with an identical record.
For Orlando (32-20), it was another loss that draws the Magic closer to the middle of the Eastern Conference pack, and pads even more distance between them and the top teams in the East like Boston, Miami and Chicago.
Of course, the Magic were short-handed without power forward Brandon Bass, who is out because of an ankle injury.
But the last team with whom you can have a pity party when it comes to injuries, is the Celtics.
Even before Daniels' injury, it, appeared the Celtics were going to have to finish out Sunday's game with fewer players than they began it with.
Glen Davis suffered a head bruise in the second half, and appeared as though he might not be able to return.
After heading back to the locker room in the second quarter for further examination, he was deemed fit enough to return and was on the floor in the second half.
Prior to the game, coach Doc Rivers told CSNNE.com that Shaquille O'Neal (right Achilles tendon) would not play on Sunday. Rivers later told a group of reporters that O'Neal might be sidelined until the All-Star break.
Even with all the banged up bodies, the Celtics refused to let Sunday's game get away from them.
And when all was said and done, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was once again placing the blame for his team's struggles squarely upon himself.
"I just could not find anything for us to run to get a decent shot," Van Gundy said. "I didn't know who to play, I really did a poor job today."
Orlando, one of the NBA's better 3-point shooting teams, missed 21 of its 24 3-point attempts.
When the Magic struggle like that from the perimeter, that puts their chances of winning squarely upon the broad shoulders of Dwight Howard.
He did his part, scoring a game-high 28 points to go with 13 rebounds.
The C's had no problem with Howard having a big night offensively.
"We felt Dwight couldn't beat us by himself," Pierce said.
And as it turned out, the C's probably could not have beaten the Magic without Daniels' injury providing a much-needed emotional lift.
"We're happy that he's OK. He probably gave us a spark," Pierce said. "Thanks, 'Quis."