ORLANDO, Fla. -- It didn't take long for the Orlando Magic to start justifying why they made those risky, midseason trades that turned a pretty good team upside down.
It happened quicker than they even thought.
Just a week before, the Magic were fading rapidly out of contention in the Eastern Conference, stuck in a high-priced rut as the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics pulled away, leaving them to wrestle with teams like Atlanta, Chicago and New York in the middle of the pack.
Today, the hope is back.
By beating the Boston Celtics 86-78 on Christmas Day and snapping Boston's 14-game winning streak, the Magic proved they can become contenders again -- with a revamped roster -- and expect to rekindle their championship goals.
It came just two days after they had clubbed the San Antonio Spurs -- who had a 10-game winning streak -- now having beaten the best teams in the West and East, respectively.
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The Magic became the first NBA team in 13 years to end two winning streaks of at least 10 games in consecutive games. And they did it in convincing fashion, even though their newest three key players still haven't had a full practice with the team.
"This just shows what we can do here,'' said Gilbert Arenas. "We'll be dangerous down the road.''
There may be some flaws -- and they still need another big man -- but the additions of Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson and the subtractions of Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat, have made them a bigger threat to those at the top.
"I like what I've seen out there so far,'' said center Dwight Howard, who pushed for changes to the roster. "People were counting us out already, but I think what we've seen lately just shows how tough we can be when we get it going.''
The Magic (18-12) may have lost the first two games to Atlanta and Dallas after the trades, but they have begun tapping into the quicker, more athletic players, allowing them to speed up the game.
They went five games early this season without any fast-break points. But in the last two victories, they had 30 and 20 fast-break points, respectively.
"We clearly have gotten better in the last two games. There still are going to be plenty of ups and downs as we put this back together, but you can see the possibilities now,'' said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. "You can see we have a chance to be a very good team now. There is a belief, a confidence that if we stay with it, we will be very good. To get that belief that 'Yes, this will work,' is big. Hopefully, we don't get too full of ourselves now.''
The Magic had lost to the Celtics last spring in the Eastern Conference final, hoping to use this one as a measuring stick, even though they were still adjusting to their latest players.
They won Saturday with Howard struggling uncharacteristically on offense. He had only six points, making one of four shots, but he had a game-high 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Against San Antonio, it was Arenas who sparked their offense. Against the Celtics, it was Turkoglu.
They got 21 points and nine rebounds from lightly regarded Brandon Bass, who has moved into the starting power forward slot that Lewis once occupied. They got 16 points from Turkoglu, who was key for the Magic when they reached the NBA Finals in 2009 but left as a free agent, only to beg for a return trade.
They got a good defensive effort on a night when their offense sputtered. Ryan Anderson, who was all but forgotten before the trades, served as a backup forward and center Saturday, getting 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Celtics (23-5) were without starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who missed the fourth consecutive game with a sprained ankle, and his absence was obvious. Replacement Nate Robinson struggled badly. And center Shaquille O'Neal played only 13 minutes before fouling out.
It was Celtics backup center/forward Glen Davis who put a damper on the Magic's belief that they could work their way back into the hunt.
"They can't beat us. They can't,'' said Davis, who had 16 points and 8 rebounds. "We just have too many guys. They came out and played better than us today, but if you are talking about a seven-game series, I don't think they can beat us.''
The Magic did it Saturday by persistence. Although they trailed much of the game, they closed much stronger than the Celtics, outscoring them 9-1 in the final two minutes. They made their last five shots and last eight free throws. In the final 6:50, they missed only one field goal attempt. Both Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick hit decisive jumpers in the final minute.
"Our offensive talent is better now. And right now, everything sounds good, but we'll see how committed everyone is to learning the system,'' Van Gundy said. "Boston and Miami clearly are the two best teams, defensive teams. It will be difficult to get to that level. We've still got a challenge ahead of us.''