The Celtics expected the departure of Turkoglu, who will come to Boston next Friday as a member of the Toronto Raptors, to potentially be an advantage when the Orlando Magic visited the TD Garden Friday night in the first meeting since last year's Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.
But Turkoglu's departure forced the Magic to aggressively pursue Vince Carter during the offseason and the 12th-year swingman slayed Boston with his clutch shooting.
Carter's field goal percentage isn't eye-popping (10 for 29, 34.5 percent) -- in fact it matches Boston's dismal effort overall -- but he poured in a game-high 26 points and shined in crunch time.
"In this kind of basketball game, you don't want to let down," said Carter. "It would have been great to make 29 shots, make some of the layups I missed -- I missed like four of them -- but all that matters is getting the win. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game regardless. We knew they were going to make a run, they play well here. So it was, 'Can we sustain and persevere?' "
The answer is a resounding, "Yes." When Boston closed within one at 75-74 with 5:16 to go, Carter hit a 7-foot baby hook. When Boston tied the game at 78, he hit a fearless 12-foot turnaround fadeaway to regain the lead for good.
"Against great defenses down the stretch, it's sometimes hard to free people up," explained Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "You gotta have a guy -- a Paul Pierce, a Vince Carter, a Dwyane Wade, a LeBron James -- someone who can get a shot against a good defense. Vince can get off a pretty good quality shot all the time and at least you will have a chance, even if the defense is good."
Added Rashard Lewis: "He is the guy we went to pretty much the whole game -- went to him on pick-and-rolls, we thought we had a mismatch on the post. He came up with some big shots."
Carter is simply happy to be playing for a winning team and beating good competition.
"I don't put any pressure on myself, I am just thankful that I was able to come to a great team and that, in the early point of the season, they have this confidence in me," said Carter. "Whether it is putting it in the basket or trying to find the right guys. I am just glad I was able to deliver."
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