Celtics Keep Rolling Against Magic

Monday, December 24th 2007, 7:49 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ Here's a scary concept: Boston coach Doc Rivers thinks his team has a chance to be far better than it is right now.

When Rajon Rondo is tossing in 23 points, it's a bit hard to believe.

``I had an expectation that we were going to be a good team,'' Rivers said after a 103-91 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday night. ``We're playing OK. We have a chance to be, if we keep working on it, so much better than we are right now.''

Paul Pierce scored 24 points and Kevin Garnett had 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds for the Celtics (22-3), who have the best record in the NBA. Ray Allen added 22, marking the first time in more than eight years the Celtics had four players with at least 20 points.

``I think the league has the misconception of the three-headed monster, but obviously when you play a team that good, there is no room for error,'' Magic guard Keyon Dooling said. ``You have to play almost flawless.''

In other NBA games Sunday, Kobe Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks 95-90. Also it was Denver 106, Sacramento 105; Detroit 94, Houston 82; and Golden State 105, Cleveland 96.

The Celtics led by 20 in the third quarter. But the Southeast Division-leading Magic, who handed the Celtics their first loss on Nov. 18, twice cut the lead to single digits in the fourth quarter.

Both times, Allen responded with 3-pointers to put the Celtics up by a dozen.

``You need a lot of things to go right against them,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``They have a lot of people out there and they make shots.''

Dwight Howard led the Magic with 23 points and 14 rebounds for his 25th double-double of the season. Hedo Turkoglu scored 19 points and Rashard Lewis added 15 for Orlando, which has dropped seven of its past nine games.

Howard could have had an even better night, but was just 5-for-16 from the free-throw line. The crowd chanted ``brick'' when he stepped to the line in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics, who improved to 14-1 at home, used an 11-1 run at the end of the first half capped by a Rondo 3-pointer at the buzzer to take a 49-42 lead.

``Most teams start doubling off Rondo,'' Allen said. ``He's proven that he can knock that jump shot down. That's been the question of him going into the season and, up to this point, he's done a great job for us.''

Lakers 95, Knicks 90

At New York, Kobe Bryant had 39 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in his first game at Madison Square Garden in nearly two years, and his 3-pointer in the opening minute of the third quarter allowed him to reach the 20,000-point milestone at 29 years, 122 days.

Wilt Chamberlain (29, 134) and Michael Jordan (29, 326) also got there before turning 30.

Jamal Crawford scored 31 for the Knicks, who were again without Stephon Marbury and have lost eight of 10. David Lee had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Nate Robinson scored 16 points.

Nuggets 106, Kings 105

At Sacramento, Calif., Linas Kleiza recovered the ball in a scramble and hit a jumper just before the final buzzer sounded, lifting Denver to a thrilling victory over Sacramento.

After Allen Iverson missed from in close, Marcus Camby tipped the ball and Kleiza grabbed possession and nailed the shot while falling away under pressure from the left wing.

Carmelo Anthony had 30 points and 12 rebounds, Camby added 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Iverson had his streak of four straight 30-point performances end, finishing with 21.

Ron Artest scored 24 points and Brad Miller had 22, but the Kings couldn't overcome their mistakes in crunch time.

Pistons 94, Rockets 82

At Auburn Hills, Mich., Richard Hamilton scored 17 points and Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace added double-doubles, helping Detroit beat short-handed Houston.

The Rockets lost Tracy McGrady to a sore knee at halftime, and Yao Ming missed most of the second half after needing four stitches to close a facial cut.

McDyess finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Wallace had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Warriors 105, Cavaliers 96

At Cleveland, Stephen Jackson scored 29 points and Baron Davis added 27 to help Golden State hand Cleveland its 10th loss in 13 games.

The Warriors never trailed and built an 89-61 lead late in the third quarter. The Cavaliers outscored the Warriors 29-14 in the fourth to make the final score more respectable, but were nonetheless booed by the home crowd despite 25 points from LeBron James.