ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Rajon Rondo had 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, and the Boston Celtics bullied the Orlando Magic with strong defense in an 86-77 victory Friday.
Ray Allen added 18 points and Tony Allen scored 16 in place of the injured Paul Pierce for the Celtics, who rolled to their 14th win in the last 15 games.
The only big blow for the Celtics came in the final minutes, when Kevin Garnett jumped to block a shot by Vince Carter, only to land awkwardly and go tumbling to the ground. He hobbled back to the bench holding his back and didn't return.
Carter finished with 27 points, and Rashard Lewis had 19 points for the Magic. Orlando had no answer to Boston's relentless pressure, which held Dwight Howard to five points and Orlando to a season low in points.
Even with all that, the Magic had a chance.
Lewis' 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining — the same play Garnett went down — cut Boston's lead to 78-75. Then Ray Allen connected with a jumper and made a pair of free throws to seal the win, perhaps cementing the Celtics as the top contenders to dethrone the defending Eastern Conference champions.
This was exactly the game the Celtics wanted.
They beat and bruised the Magic's front line, smothering Howard so much he only had one shot attempt in the opening quarter — a missed tip in the final minute — and struggled to get free until the final buzzer. The Celtics didn't double-team the Magic's center like so many teams do, mostly because they didn't have to.
Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Co. limited Howard's touches and were able to close out fast on Orlando's potent shooters. The physical play turned things into the kind of foul-filled defensive game where Boston flourishes.
And the Magic don't.
The Celtics held Orlando to 28 points in the first half, tying a franchise low. They closed the quarter on an 18-2 run to take an 11-point lead, smiling on their way to the locker room as some fans showered the home team with boos.
This was Boston's style. All the rough and tough play had emotions high, too much so for the Magic. There were three technical fouls in the game, with Howard and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy getting called on consecutive plays in the third quarter. Garnett was also called for a technical foul after elbowing Howard.
Even Celtics reserve Brian Scalabrine got in the action, tossing Carter into the scorer's table in the third quarter just as he caught the ball sprinting up court. There were 47 personal fouls in the game.