A combination of stingy defense and a deep roster helped the Boston Celtics knock out the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Boston took that same act on the road to topple the Orlando Magic, 92-88, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston imposed their will on Orlando in the first half, holding them to 4-of-20 shooting and only 14 points in the first quarter. Orlando, who had gone undefeated in the playoffs, went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal through the first half until Vince Carter’s dunk midway through the second quarter ended their drought.

Boston opened up a 16-point lead after a Ray Allen three-pointer made it 60-44 with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. Boston led by as much as 20 points with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter, as a combination of poor shooting by Orlando and Boston’s rotating defense allowed Orlando to score just 58 points through the first three quarters.

But the Magic roared back in the fourth quarter, closing the 20-point deficit to just two points with less than 20 seconds remaining, until clutch free throws by Allen put the game out of reach.

Allen set the tone for Boston with 25 points and seven rebounds, while Orlando center Dwight Howard struggled mightily against Boston’s swarming defense, scoring 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting and committing seven turnovers.

Orlando will try to even the series in Game 2 on Tuesday, May 18.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO