Celtics work Magic for 2-0 leadORLANDO, Florida - The Boston Celtics put the Orlando Magic in peril with a 95-92 triumph Tuesday, capturing the second straight game on their opponents’ home floor to take a tight grip on the Eastern Conference Final series.
Paul Pierce scored 22 of his team-high 28 points in the first half and the streaking Celtics withstood a late Magic run to seize a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series which moves to Boston on Saturday.
Firing on all cylinders, the Celtics have now won five straight playoff games overall as they attempt to return to their championship caliber form of 2008, when they won the NBA title.
Boston had its 11-point fourth-quarter lead wiped away as Orlando took a one-point edge with 3:35 left, but the Celtics closed the game with a 6-2 advantage capped by two Pierce free throws for the final margin.
Jameer Nelson took a desperation three-point attempt from just inside half-court at the buzzer but could not draw rim.
Dwight Howard rebounded from a tough game one and scored 30 points, but the Magic were held to just 39 percent shooting and now face a major uphill battle if they are to reach their second straight NBA Final.
Meanwhile, the NBA held its draft lottery on Tuesday and the Washington Wizards drew the first pick in next month’s draft.
The Wizards won despite having the fifth-best chance at securing the top choice, while NBA-worst New Jersey Nets had to settle for third. Washington, 26-56 in the regular season, cashed in on their 10.3 percent chance among the 14 clubs eligible for the weighted lottery for clubs that failed to make the playoffs.
The second choice went to the Philadelphia 76ers (27-55), who had only a 5.3 percent representation in the drawing. The Nets, who stumbled to a 12-70 regular-season record, had a 25 percent chance of snaring the number one overall pick, widely expected to be Kentucky point guard John Hall.
Ohio State forward Evan Turner is also considered a possible top selection by draft experts.
“This is a great night for our franchise and particularly for our fans,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement.
“They have shown great support and passion during what has been a difficult stretch over the last two seasons, but they can celebrate tonight knowing that we’ve taken a big step toward building the team that they deserve.”