ORLANDO — Dwight Howard got back into the Eastern Conference final Tuesday night.
The Magic did not.
Paul Pierce fouled out in the final minutes but scored 28 to lead the Celtics to a 95-92 victory and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
After starting the playoffs 8-0 including a dominating sweep of Atlanta in the second round, Orlando has lost the first two in this series by a combined seven points.
"I think we are becoming the team that started the season," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "The team that started the season was pretty good."
Howard, who struggled in Game 1 with 13 points, was far more effective Tuesday. The center scored 30 and Boston's big men in charge of containing him mostly just found foul trouble — Kendrick Perkins fouled out after just 15 minutes and Rasheed Wallace drew five fouls.
The Magic overcame an 11-point deficit to take a brief lead in the fourth quarter — finding its rhythm late, just as it did in Game 1. Vince Carter's jumper with 3:35 left put Orlando up 90-89.
Then the Celtics summoned their championship form. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo made consecutive jumpers, and after Jameer Nelson made a layup, Pierce answered with two free throws that put Boston ahead by three.
Carter missed two free throws with 31.9 seconds left, which cost Orlando dearly.
At 95-92, Garnett missed a shot with seven seconds left. But after a timeout, Orlando couldn't set up anything better than Nelson's heave from near halfcourt, which was short.
"Our shot selection was terrible and we didn't play smart enough," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I thought we played hard enough."
Pierce, asked if Boston would relax after going up 2-0, said, "Our fans aren't going to let us relax. …We're coming home to close it out."
|Celtics lead series 2-0|
BOSTON (95): Pierce 8-16 9-11 28, Garnett 5-16 0-2 10, Perkins 3-5 4-4 10, Rondo 10-16 5-6 25, R.Allen 1-6 2-3 4, Wallace 2-6 0-0 6, Davis 3-4 2-2 8, T.Allen 2-5 0-0 4, Finley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-74 22-28 95.
ORLANDO (92): Barnes 2-9 1-2 6, Lewis 2-6 0-0 5, Howard 9-13 12-17 30, Nelson 4-12 0-0 9, Carter 5-15 5-7 16, Redick 3-9 8-8 16, Gortat 1-1 0-0 2, J.Williams 1-3 0-0 3, Pietrus 1-3 3-4 5. Totals 28-71 29-38 92.
Boston 27 26 25 17— 95
Orlando 28 23 19 22— 92
3-Point Goals—Boston 5-15 (Pierce 3-7, Wallace 2-3, R.Allen 0-5), Orlando 7-18 (Redick 2-3, J.Williams 1-1, Carter 1-2, Lewis 1-3, Barnes 1-3, Nelson 1-5, Pietrus 0-1). Fouled Out—Perkins, Pierce. Rebounds—Boston 47 (Garnett 9), Orlando 51 (Howard 8). Assists—Boston 20 (Rondo 8), Orlando 18 (Nelson, Redick, Lewis 4). Total Fouls—Boston 29, Orlando 25. Technicals—Boston defensive three second, Carter, Orlando defensive three second. Flagrant Fouls—Howard. A—17,461 (17,461).
Around the league
Wizards win lottery: The Wizards moved from the No. 5 spot to earn the top pick in next month's draft. The Wizards were represented by Irene Pollin, who wore the 1978 Bullets championship ring of her late husband, longtime owner Abe, who died in November at 85. Washington, which had a 10.3 percent chance of winning, likely will choose between Kentucky freshman John Wall and Ohio State's Evan Turner, the national player of the year. The 76ers moved up to No. 2. The Nets, 12-70 this season, had the best chance of winning but fell to third. The Timberwolves fell two spots to No. 4.
BOL IN ILL HEALTH: Former center Manute Bol is hospitalized with severe kidney trouble and a painful skin condition after falling critically ill while returning home from helping fight election corruption in his native Sudan. "I believe he is going to survive this, but he's had a total kidney failure," said Tom Prichard, director of Sudan Sunrise, which promotes reconciliation. The skin around Bol's mouth was so sore that he didn't eat for 11 days and could barely talk. Prichard said it's believed that Bol, 47, who now lives in Kansas, contracted the skin disease as a reaction to kidney medication he took in Africa.
LAKERS: Center Andrew Bynum said swelling in his injured right knee decreased, but the team had concern after the 7-footer had a third straight quiet playoff game. Bynum had four points in 19 minutes of a 128-107 win over Phoenix in Monday's West final opener.
CELTICS 2, MAGIC 0
Game 1: Celtics 92, Magic 88
Tuesday: Celtics 95, Magic 92
Saturday: at Boston, 8:30, ESPN
Monday: at Boston, 8:30, ESPN
May 26: at Orlando, 8:30, ESPN *
May 28: at Boston, 8:30, ESPN *
May 30: at Orlando, 8:30, ESPN *
LAKERS 1, SUNS 0
Game 1: Lakers 128, Suns 107
Today: at Los Angeles, 9, TNT
Sunday: at Phoenix, 8:30, TNT
May 25: at Phoenix, 9, TNT
May 27: at Los Angeles, 9, TNT *
May 29: at Phoenix, 8:30, TNT *
May 31: at Los Angeles, 9, TNT *
* If necessary