Walker: 'Sky's the limit' for defense-minded Celtics


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Antoine Walker was prouder of the Boston Celtics' defensive performance than his season-high scoring total.

Walker scored 33 points and Paul Pierce added 26 to lead the Celtics to a 99-89 victory over the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.

Walker and Pierce combined for 23 rebounds as Boston dealt Orlando its third straight home loss.

Orlando missed 24 of 30 attempts from 3-point range and shot
37.8 percent overall. Tracy McGrady led the Magic with 22 points on
9-for-22 shooting.

"Our defense was solid for the whole night," Walker said. "If we can continue that, the sky's the limit for how good we can be as a team."

Walker, who shot 13-for-29, had nine points in the fourth
quarter, including a basket that put Boston ahead 90-77 with 7:31
remaining. Orlando never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Orlando played without forward Grant Hill, who missed his second game of the year with a sore left foot. His status is day-to-day.

Pierce said Orlando is a dangerous team, even without Hill.

"They have so much talent," Pierce said. "They didn't have Grant Hill last year, and they were still a playoff team. We just got the job done. Antoine really played great and other guys stepped up.

"We are still trying to develop and learn to close out games.
We did a good job. We didn't settle for outside shots. We kept
going to the hole and attacking."

Kenny Anderson had 13 points and eight assists, and Eric
Williams came off the bench to score 11. Boston took the lead for
good on a basket by Williams that made the score 16-15 with 4:52
remaining in the first quarter.

Orlando got 16 points from Mike Miller. Pat Garrity scored 13.
Darrell Armstrong added 12 on 3-for-10 shooting.

The Magic still have high expectations.

"I'm not going to hang my head, these guys in the locker room
aren't going to hang their heads," McGrady said. "Yeah, we lost
three games. We don't want to lose any games, but let's be real
about it. We're 4½ games out of first."

A jump shot by Armstrong cut Boston's lead to 64-62 with 4:56
remaining in the third quarter, but Orlando never got closer.

The Celtics went on a 15-9 run and led 79-71 heading into the
fourth. Boston led by at least six points and by as many as 13 in
the final quarter.

Walker hit four 3s and scored 19 points in the first half in
leading Boston to a 55-47 advantage. Pierce added 15 and the
Celtics shot 47.7 percent.

Orlando shot 2-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half and
shot 34.7 percent. McGrady had 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting.

Game notes
Orlando's Jud Buechler finished with a career-high 12
rebounds. ... The victory is Boston's first in the last seven games
in Orlando. ... Orlando is 0-7 this season when trailing at the
half. ... Boston's Erick Strickland had a season-high eight assists
in 20 minutes.