The Celtics weren't bashful about their game plan for Sunday's tilt and coach Doc Rivers playfully admitted that the team was willing to sacrifice Dwight Howard buckets if it meant less damage from Orlando's vaunted 3-point shooters.
"Even my Marquette math tells me that two is better than three," Rivers joked before Sunday's game.
After the Magic erupted for 11 trifectas in each of the first two meetings this season, Boston responded by limiting them to 3-of-24 shooting beyond the arc, Orlando's worst showing beyond the arc this season (previous worst: 4-of-24, 16.7 percent vs. Miami on Oct. 29) and matching Orlando's lowest total 3-point output of the year (3 vs. Philadelphia on Dec. 18).
So even with a game-high 28 points from Howard -- 22 of which came in the first half -- the Magic labored through 34.4 percent shooting (32-of-93) and could only watch Boston blaze away in the second half.
"Our game plan was to stay home on the shooters and kind of let Kevin [Garnett], [Kendrick Perkins] and [Glen Davis] play [Howard] 1-on-1," said Paul Pierce. "The good thing was we took away the 3-point line. We can live with that. There are nights where [Howard will] play big, but if the 3-point game is going, then they are a tough team to beat.
"We had a number of how many 3's we wanted to limit them to, and we did more than reach our number tonight. We felt that there's a certain number of 3's where they usually win. But we felt like Dwight couldn't beat us by himself."
The Celtics were adamant they didn't make any changes in the way they defended Howard in the second half, but one thing was clear: They did a much better job of forcing him outside. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Howard scored 14 of his 22 first-half points from inside of 5 feet. In the second half, he only registered two attempts that close to the rim (missing once). Overall in the second half, Howard was 1-of-6 for six points.
"No changes -- we didn't do anything," Rivers said. "We just told them to hang in there. Listen, if he's going to go off and keep making shots, it might be a tough night. But if he misses a couple, like I said before the game, I know my math and three points is more than two."
--DAVIS SHAKEN UP, BOUNCES BACK WITH STRONG EFFORT--
Glen Davis lands hard on his head in the first quarter.Davis landed hard on his head while absorbing a first-quarter charge from Jameer Nelson and returned to the locker room, but suffered only what the team termed a head bruise.
Davis drew the contact as Nelson slashed to the hoop from the left wing with 3:57 to play in the first quarter. As he earned his league-leading 39th charge of the season, Davis slammed the back of his head hard on the Garden parquet and was immediately tended to by team trainer Ed Lacerte and team physician Brian McKeon before retreating to the locker room for examination.
Davis returned to the court for the start of the second quarter and provided a much-needed big body at both ends. Davis chipped in 11 of Boston's 20 bench points, grabbed six rebounds, and, maybe most importantly, played strong defense when matched up 1-on-1 with Howard in the second half.
"We kind of focused in a little bit harder, me and Perk, making sure that we didn't let him score as much," Davis said. "He changed up his little game plan for us, by not standing with the ball and trying to back us down. We adjusted to that and kind of figured out how to play him, and it helped us [limit] his scoring."
Davis brushed off any talk of his injury with the team far more concerned with the well-being of teammate Marquis Daniels.
--LOOSE BALLS: PERK'S AWESOME SCORELESS NIGHT; BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS--
* Kendrick Perkins missed all five shots he took, finishing with zero points, yet the Celtics couldn't have been happier with his effort. In his seventh game back from offseason ACL surgery, Perkins hauled in a game-high 13 rebounds (matching Howard's total) while adding three assists over 32:34.
* The Celtics finished with 34 free throw attempts, their third most this season -- only Nov. 21 vs. Toronto (38) and Dec. 8 vs. Denver (36) featured more attempts at the stripe. The 28 makes for Boston matched a season high (28 in that Toronto game).
* In an ultra-physical (and often chippy) game, the often short-fused Celtics maintained their composure. Orlando's Howard, Nelson and Earl Clark all got tagged with first-half technicals and, if nothing else, Boston did a good job of hitting first and allowing Orlando to get caught reacting.
* Stan Van Gundy took the blame for much of his team's struggles, but sure didn't sound too keen on Hedo Turkoglu's struggles.
"I don’t have any idea, I don’t like the way he’s playing at all," Van Gundy said. "I don’t like his decision making, his shot selection, his energy. Usually with Turk, there will be two or three plays that are a little crazy. But for the most part, I think his decisions are usually good. I’ve never been through a stretch with him where the majority of the plays he’s making, I’m sort of saying, 'What the hell is he doing?' I mean, he’s coming off a pick and has a clear path to the lane, and he’s taking a step-back jumper. I don’t know the answer, we’re going to have to look at the tape. I’m going to have to talk to him, we need to do different stuff for him. But he’s not the only one. There isn’t one guy who right now is playing consistently well. Well, Dwight and Ryan [Anderson] are playing pretty good."
* Gilbert Arenas didn't score. He thinks it might have something to do with breakfast and an early start time. No, really.
“I haven’t liked the 2 o'clock games in the past because I can’t eat breakfast," Arenas said. "And [Saturday], I slept all day, so I figured I’d put food in my system. So I came into the game a little weary, I guess when I got the offensive rebound, I don’t know who hit me, but I got hit a little hard, was a little dazed.
"I didn’t score today? Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever not scored. Maybe rookie season. Nah, I scored in middle school, this is probably the first, I guess there’s a first for everything."