Celtics Pull Away Late in KG's Return, Edge Magic

The Celtics revenged their Christmas Day loss tonight, by edging the Orlando Magic 109-106 in Kevin Garnett's return from a right calf injury.

Ray Allen scored a team-high 26 and shot the way only he can. Hitting 8-11 shots from the field, 3-4 from downtown, and 7-7 from the foul line, he shot over 50% from the field for the 12th straight game. Garnett dropped 19 points and eight rebounds in his return, looking sharp from the opening tip.

Rajon Rondo added his daily double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, Shaquille O'Neal added 12 points, and Paul Pierce netted 14 points on 5-7 shooting. The Truth also recorded five rebounds and four assists, while frustrating Orlando's shooters with stalwart defense.

Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson converted on a combined 9-25 shots due to Pierce's pressure. Dwight Howard scored a game-high 33 points and grabbed 13 boards. He earned a ridiculous 18 free throw attempts, and converted on 13 of them. Brandon Bass and Jameer Nelson added 13 and 9 respectively, while Ryan Anderson drained 4-6 shots from deep and tallied 16 points.

The Celtics jumped out to an early 22-12 advantage after Allen drained a jumper. The Magic were able to chip away at that lead and trailed by just five after the opening quarter. With the win, Boston is now 15-0 when leading after the 1st quarter at home this year.

Boston held that lead within a minute of halftime, but Orlando cut it to just a point at the break, closing the half on a 4-0 run. The Celtics netted 61.1% of their 1st half shots, while the Magic connected on just 41.7%.

The 3rd quarter was literally 12 minutes of basket for basket action. Neither team led by more than three the entire frame. Boston and Orlando entered the 4th quarter knotted at 81-81.

The heated action continued through the final frame. After Nelson drained a midrange jumper with 51.1 seconds left in regulation, the two teams were tied again--this time at 104-104.

Paul Pierce baited Richardson with a pump fake, took the contact, and swished the jumper--a trademark play for #34. He converted on the free throw and gave Boston a three point edge. After a Turkoglu miss, KG picked off a Nelson pass to seal the game for Boston.

He lobbed the ball ahead to Allen, who ran off some clock before being fouled with 11.1 seconds left. He nailed both shots from the charity stripe and finished off Boston's scoring. After Howard knocked down a couple of pointless free throws, the buzzer rang, and the C's prevailed 109-106.

The Celtics improve to 31-9 with the win, and Orlando drops to 26-15. Boston returns to the hardcourt Wednesday night, when the Pistons come to Beantown. Tipoff is at 7:30 PM ET.