ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was a strange day for the storied -- but fading -- Boston Celtics.
They celebrated the early announcement Thursday that Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce were joining Kevin Garnett on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Then they finished a game like none of them belonged there, fueling the belief that their day as a serious NBA title contender might be over.
They are living on reputation now.
The Celtics played well and inspired for more than three quarters against the Orlando Magic -- dominated the game -- then wilted like the aging, worn-out team that they are looking like, making defensive mistakes and mental errors down the stretch that All-Stars don't normally make.
They blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead by letting the Magic shoot 75 percent from the field in the last 12 minutes, something great teams don't do. The core is the same that won the 2008 NBA title, but this isn't the same team.
Time may have passed it by.
The Celtics (29-14) still have the second-best record in the East, but it's slipping away. They likely will fall to third Friday after playing the Atlanta Hawks (29-15), who will be trying to complete a four-game, regular season sweep of the Celtics. The Magic (30-16) hold a 2-1 series lead against Boston.
The Celtics, who started strong this season, have lost nine of their last 15 games. The return of Garnett three games ago from the hyper-extended right knee was supposed to solve their recent problems, but it only has cast more doubt upon this season.
Garnett, who missed the second half of last season with bone spurs in the same knee, looked slow and unhealthy Thursday. After 14 years in the league, the knee may never be the same.
It was Garnett -- once the league's best defensive player -- who was beaten badly by Rashard Lewis, who blew past him to score the winning basket with :01.3 remaining.
It was Garnett who let Lewis jump over him from behind for a rebound in the third period. It was Garnett who missed an early alley-oop pass that he once would have scored with easily.
"I'm OK (physically). I just played like crap,'' Garnett said. "It was one of those nights when I looked like pure crap out there. It was abysmal. I've got to rebound better. I've got to play better overall.''
Garnett played 33 minutes and managed six points and seven rebounds. Pierce, 32, played 40 minutes and had 12 points. Rondo played 37 minutes and had 11 points. None of them looked like an All-Star Thursday.
"I'll take this team against anyone, any day,'' said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, whose confidence was not convincing. "I like our team. I like where we're at. I just don't like the way it played tonight.''
Garnett, 33, has missed 11 games. Pierce, 32, missed five with his knee problem. Allen, 35, has played in every game. Rasheed Wallace, 35, has missed three. They know how to play, better than any team in the league, but the overall age of the core may prevent it from doing what it wants.
"No, I like our team against any team in the league,'' Garnett said defiantly. "This will motivate me to keep working.''
The Celtics, who beat the Magic in Orlando on Christmas Day, pushed them around much of the game. The Magic have their own problems, too, with their stars. Seven-time All-Star Vince Carter is struggling badly and having his worst NBA season. He made only two of 13 shots Thursday.
Dwight Howard came alive in the fourth when he scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds. J. J. Redick tied the game at 94 when he broke free from Allen and hit a 3-pointer with :41 remaining. The Celtics lost all focus in the closing minutes, a strange sight for such a veteran team.
"We played hard. We just didn't play smart,'' said Celtics center Kendrick Perkins. "We move on.''