Magic hold off Celtics for fourth consecutive win

BOSTON (AP) -- Before the game, Doc Rivers spoke glowingly of Orlando forward Dwight Howard. A few hours later, Howard made the Celtics coach's words come true.

Jameer Nelson scored nine of his 16 points in the final 9:52 of the fourth quarter and Howard blocked Mark Blount's potential game-tying shot with 12 seconds left Monday night, helping the Magic beat the Celtics 87-83 for their fourth straight win.

Howard had 10 points and 10 rebounds, shooting just 2-for-3 from the field as he battled double teams all night. Despite his offensive struggles, he made the key defensive play.

Orlando led 83-81 when Blount took a pass in the lane, but Howard got a piece of it before the shot could be released.

"Some nights it's not going to be there for you on the offensive end," Howard said. "I knew he had to go up with it, so I just wanted to get that block."

Steve Francis led the Magic with 19 points and DeShawn Stevenson had 11. Howard was 6-for-12 from the free-throw line and had two blocks.

"He has the skill of [Tim] Duncan and the athletic ability of [Kevin] Garnett at this age," Francis said of Howard. "He's on the way up."

Before the game, Rivers said Howard's skills reminded him of former San Antonio star David Robinson.

"I feel honored that somebody said I remind them of one of the great players of the game," Howard, who turns 20 on Dec. 8, said when informed of Rivers' comments.

"I just want to get there. I want to be a great player. I just feel honored that Doc Rivers thinks I remind him of some great player," he said.

After Howard's block, Hedo Turkoglu hit two free throws with 9.3 seconds left, stretching Orlando's lead to 85-81. After Ricky Davis hit a jumper, Turkoglu hit two more from the line with 4.8 seconds left to seal it.

Davis led the Celtics with 22 points, and Paul Pierce had 16 points and 13 rebounds.

"I thought Orlando made timely plays," Rivers said.

The Celtics were looking for consecutive wins for the first time this season. Boston had won the last eight home meetings against the Magic.

"This was a tough loss," Davis said. "Tough when guys come in and beat you in your own gym."

Francis' twisting scoop shot had moved Orlando ahead 71-69 with 8:35 to play. After Nelson made a jumper, he stole ball away from Dan Dickau and coasted in with a breakaway layup, pushing the Magic's lead to six with 7:28 left. They made it 79-71 on Howard's two free throws with 4:56 to go.

Boston then closed it to 83-81 on Delonte West's two free throws with 1:30 left. After Pat Garrity missed a jumper with just over a minute to play, Davis missed badly with a baseline jumper that would have tied it.

Neither team held more than a four-point edge in the third quarter, with Orlando holding a 64-63 lead heading to the final period.

The Magic led 47-45 at halftime.

Game notes
Boston's Al Jefferson left the floor with a mild concussion late in the first quarter after banging heads with Howard. He returned in the second half. ... West returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a bruised left hip. ... Blount played after being benched the entire game in Friday's win over Charlotte.