Magic beats Celtics 101-82, advance to East finals

(AP) — Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu helped dethrone the defending champion Boston Celtics and give Orlando a chance to bring a crown to the Magic Kingdom.Howard had 12 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Turkoglu had 25 points with 12 assists in Game 7 on Sunday night, leading Orlando into the Eastern Conference finals 101-82.Orlando trailed for just 36 seconds and built a lead it couldn’t squander to earn the right to play LeBron James and the Cavaliers for a spot in the NBA finals. Game 1 is Wednesday in Cleveland; Orlando won the season series 2-1.”We believe. We believe we can go all the way,” Howard said. “It’s going to get harder.”Ray Allen scored 23 points for Boston, and Paul Pierce had 16 before they were taken out of the game for a courtesy cheer with 2:30 left and the Magic up 99-78. The other member of the new Big Three, Kevin Garnett, awaited them on the bench, where he watched the whole series in street clothes with a right knee strain.Garnett’s absence derailed the Celtics’ title defense before it got started, forcing them to fight through a seven-overtime, seven-game series against Chicago in the first round and leaving them perpetually playing from behind in the second.”We still felt like this was a team that could have gone to the championship and won it, regardless of the injuries,” Pierce said. “It felt like we ran out of gas.”Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Garnett had been holding off on having surgery on the chance he could come back if the team prolonged its season.”There’s no way he was going to play the next series,” Rivers said. “We were hoping. But I didn’t think it will happen.”The Magic nearly blew a 28-point lead in Game 1, then did waste a 14-point lead in Game 5 to give the Celtics a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Boston, which won the last of its unprecedented 17 NBA titles last year, had never lost a series after being ahead 3-2.But Orlando came back from a 10-point deficit on Thursday night to force Game 7.And there was no panic this time. Just a lot of Magic.”I would like to say we played the game exactly the way we wanted. We actually played it better,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “When you look at a team that’s 32-0 when leading a series 3-2 and then you win by 19 points, that’s a big win. I can’t say that I’ve ever had one that I’ve ever been happier with.”Orlando led by 14 in the second quarter before Boston cut it to 45-42 in the third period. Rondo’s long 2-pointer at the buzzer to end the quarter made it a 66-61 game, but Orlando scored the first eight points of the fourth to open a double-digit lead.Orlando led 81-64 with 8:04 left when Howard picked up his fifth foul and went to the bench. Boston cut the deficit to 90-78 on Allen’s 3-pointer with 4:12 to play.But Turkoglu sank a 3-pointer, then Kendrick Perkins was called for a charge and Turkoglu made a fadeaway jumper to extend the lead to 17 points. Turkoglu was 9 for 12 from the field, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter alone.Notes:@ Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing had guaranteed a victory. But Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who had been Ewing’s teammate with the New York Knicks, laughed it off. … Boston is 17-4 at home in Game 7s. … Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner took in the game from courtside. … Howard took a swing at Kendrick Perkins with about 2:30 left in the third quarter, but he did not connect and there was no call.

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