Boston’s Courtney Lee shoots over Orlando’s Tobias Harris during Saturday’s game in Orlando, Fla.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Celtics coach Doc Rivers is going to be cautious with how hard he pushes Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce over Boston’s final two games of the regular season.
At the same time he doesn’t want his aging stars out of game shape entering the playoffs.
An easy night against the Orlando Magic allowed him to satisfy both concerns.
Courtney Lee scored 20 points and Jeff Green added 17 as the Celtics cruised to a 120-88 victory over the Magic on Saturday night.
The win locked up the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference for Boston, which never trailed in beating Orlando for the eighth straight time.
“It’s a fine line between rest and health,” Pierce said. “With this team you want to be as healthy as we can get at this point. Right now we’re as healthy as we’re gonna be for the rest of the season. ... If we play the next couple of games or if we didn’t, the most important thing is that we’re ready for the playoffs.”
All five Celtics starters reached double figures, with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively, after sitting out Friday against Miami.
Tobias Harris led the Magic with 22 points, and Nik Vucevic added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Orlando hasn’t won back-to-back games since December. The Magic play their final home game of season on Monday against Chicago, and head to Miami for the season finale on Wednesday.
With the rest afforded to the veterans and extra playing time to the younger players, Celtics coach Doc Rivers feels good about his team in spite of the surprises dealt to it this season. He said he feels like the players are setting themselves up for a “pretty good run.”
“I like our team. I like our team a lot,” Rivers said. “The key for us is to get through these two games, have some great practices and get ready for the playoffs. That’s what you play the whole season for.”
The Celtics conclude their regular-season schedule against Indiana on Tuesday and at Toronto on Wednesday.
After resting their sore ankles the previous night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers re-inserted Pierce and Garnett into the starting lineup against the Magic.
They made an immediate impact, combining for 20 first-half points as the Celtics built a 20-point halftime advantage.
Garnett missed only one of his eight shots on the night.
“I’d like to see more consistency from us defensively,” he said. “Obviously the roster will shrink a bit, that will alleviate a lot of other things. I’ve always loved our team ... as long as we play the right way.”
The Celtics were able to add to their cushion in the second half against the young Magic, who are showing more signs of a team ambling toward the conclusion of an injury-plagued transition season.
With the exception of Harris and Vucevic, the Magic were mostly passive offensively and were a step behind on defense most of the night as Boston was able to work the ball around for easy looks.
“We have to get better,” Magic forward Kyle O’Quinn said. “We have to take advantage of those teaching points. Those guys out there playing, we just have to learn everything we can from them.”
The only brief moment of peril for Boston came late in the third quarter when Green remained on the floor after planting awkwardly on his left leg.
He stayed down a few minutes during a timeout, but was able to remain in the game. He said he was fine after the game.
A first-round matchup with the New York Knicks seems likely at this point for Boston, but it’s not a mathematical certainty yet. Indiana still has a chance to slip into the second seed.
But whoever the opponent is, Pierce said it’s clear the Celtics will need Green to be upright if they’re going to be able to stick around in the postseason past opening round.
“Definitely, we’re going to need him to step up,” Pierce said. “He’s going to be huge for us as that third scorer. And he has to be a third consistent scorer. Everybody already knows what me and Kevin bring. He’s going to have to be that guy now.
BOBCATS 95, BUCKS 85
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kemba Walker had 21 points, Josh McRoberts nearly had a triple-double and Charlotte handed Milwaukee its ninth straight road loss.
The loss locked the Bucks into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, meaning they’ll draw the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
McRoberts had 18 points, nine rebounds and a career-high nine assists. Bismack Biyombo chipped in with 13 points and 17 rebounds, as the NBA-worst Bobcats dominated the Bucks 52-36 on the boards.
Mike Dunleavy had 19 points and Monta Ellis added 16 to lead the Bucks, who have lost 11 of their last 14.
TIMBERWOLVES 105, SUNS 93
MINNEAPOLIS — Ricky Rubio had a career-high 24 points, 10 assists and five steals, and J.J. Barea scored 16 points to lead Minnesota past Phoenix.
Derrick Williams added 15 points and six boards for the Timberwolves, who gave coach Rick Adelman victory No. 1,001. It’s also the first time the Wolves (30-50) have won at least 30 games in a season without Kevin Garnett on the roster.
CLIPPERS 91, GRIZZLIES 87
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Chris Paul hit a free throw with 18.3 seconds left, and Los Angeles edged Memphis in a possible preview of a first-round playoff series.
With the win, the Clippers took the season series 3-1 for what could be a crucial tiebreaker giving Los Angeles home-court advantage in the postseason even though the teams now are tied at 54-26.
That puts them both one-half game behind Denver for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers with 16 points. Paul finished with 13, Blake Griffin had 12 and Willie Green 10.
Marc Gasol had 18 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists for Memphis. Zach Randolph finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.MORE IN Sports WireABOARD THE LAKE SHORE LIMITED — As the Amtrak train slowly chugged through the Ohio night, past... Full Story
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