First impressions: Magic 96, Celtics 89

BOSTON -- Instant reaction after the Orlando Magic posted a 96-89 triumph over the Boston Celtics Sunday at TD Garden:

How the game was won: Vince Carter connected on 7-of-13 shots for a team-high 20 points to lead Orlando's entire starting five in double figures. Rajon Rondo paced Boston with a team-high 17 points (also on 7-of-13 shooting), adding 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Paul Pierce returned from a foot injury to score 13 points in 30 minutes, while Marquis Daniels added 8 points in 11 minutes in his first game back from left thumb surgery.

Turning point: Boston's bench helped the Celtics open an 11-point halftime lead, but the starters were absolutely trampled in the third quarter as the Magic outscored Boston 36-11 for a 14-point advantage after three. The Celtics led 57-46 with 9:03 to play in the third quarter, but Orlando closed out the period on a 30-5 run, including a 19-0 burst over little more than a five-minute span that turned a nine-point lead (60-51) into a 10-point deficit (70-60). Carter scored nine of the first 12 points in that burst, and his 3-pointer gave Orlando a lead it wouldn't give back (63-60).

Stat of the game: The Magic connected on 11-of-22 3-point attempts. Orlando averages 10.1 trifectas per game and is set to challenge the NBA record of 10.2 set by the 2005-06 Phoenix Suns.

Unsung hero: Orlando forward Matt Barnes finished 4-of-6 shooting for 11 points with a mind-numbing plus-25 in the plus/minus category. By comparison, Dwight Howard and Carter were next best at plus-10, while Kevin Garnett was minus-7.

What it means: Aided by the return of Pierce and Daniels, the Celtics looked like the team that opened the season on fire -- for a while. But all positive feelings were washed away with an abysmal third quarter in which Boston simply had no answers for stopping the Magic. Since Christmas, the Celtics have fallen to fellow Eastern Conference front-runners Orlando and Atlanta five times in five meetings. Questions remain about just how far this team can go given its struggles against elite competition. Boston has simply been unable to put together 48 minutes of consistent play against top teams.