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After coming out of the gate hot, going up by as many as 20 points, the Boston Celtics held off the Orlando Magic 92-88 to take a 1-0 lead in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics, led by Ray Allen, who was looking more like his movie alter-ego Jesus Shuttlesworth, stole an important game on the road. Allen’s 25 points came on 8-16 shooting, including four key free throws in the final minute to seal the deal for Boston. Along with Allen, Paul Pierce added 22 points and 9 rebounds.

From the beginning, both sides were playing sloppily, Orlando and Boston alike unable to get much going in the halfcourt. These turnovers allowed Boston to get out to their big early lead, highlighting a key they had been looking to exploit: converting defense into offense. But, it cannot all be attributed to defense, as many Magic turnovers came unforced, lazily throwing the ball out of bounds or losing it entirely.

The brightest spot for Orlando was Vince Carter, who has 23 points on 9-18 shooting. Jameer Nelson, running the point, added 20 points and 9 rebounds.

Though it looked like Orlando was out of it from the beginning, they were able to shake off the rust in the 4th quarter and make it a respectable game. Outscoring Boston 30-18 in the 4th, they had the game within 2 in the final minute.

Surprisingly, Rasheed Wallace turned his game on for the first time this season, playing stellar defense on Dwight Howard and limiting him to just 13 points on an abysmal 3-10 from the field. The Celtics are using the same, smart technique that teams used to employ to beat Shaq on the Lakers. When he gets the ball down low, hack him and send him to the line. Don’t let him throw down on you. Make him earn it from the stripe.

And it seems to be working. The platoon defense of Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, and Kevin Garnett sent Howard to the line 12 times, where he made seven. When you eliminate Howard’s ability to dominate down low, you take an important facet away from Orlando’s offense.

This will probably be the most intriguing series of an otherwise boring playoffs. Boston has reason to be scared because Orlando only really played the final quarter. If things had been clicking for them the whole game, the story would be different. Most times, 15 turnovers don’t translate into a playoff win on the road. Boston will have to clean their act up if they want to take this series from a very skilled, yet a bit rusty, Magic team.

-Dan Martin

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