BOSTON (AP) – Rajon Rondo took the pass from Eddie House and bolted for the basket, cutting between 6-foot-11 Dwight Howard and 6-10 Rashard Lewis for a thunderous dunk.

In a crucial game for the Boston Celtics, the little guys came up big.

Rondo had 15 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds for his third triple-double of the playoffs, and House scored a career playoff high-shattering 31 points on Wednesday night to lead Boston to a 112-94 victory over the Orlando Magic in Game 2 that evened the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I’ve seen some great shooting shows in my life, but that was unbelievable,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We didn’t take away anything; they got everything they wanted. They just had us running around. … And we did not handle it well.”

Howard had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Lewis had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic, who stole Game 1 on Monday night despite blowing almost all of a 28-point lead. Orlando never led Wednesday night, trailing by 15 at halftime and by as many as 26 in the second.

Game 3 is Friday night in Orlando.

“They got what they wanted: They got a win. Now they have home court,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We have to go there trying to get wins.”

Rondo had 12 assists without a turnover at halftime and finished one assist short of his career high. The only time the 6-1 point guard has had more than 18 assists was the triple-overtime Game 6 of the first-round series against Chicago in which he played 571/2 minutes.

Rondo has five career triple-doubles – three in the last eight games. He is the only Celtic other than Larry Bird to have three playoff triple-doubles in one season.

“I was sluggish to start Game 1 and didn’t come out with enough passion,” Rondo said. “And that will never happen again.”

Ray Allen scored 22 points for the defending NBA champions, who will have at least one more home game.

Celtics All-Star Paul Pierce scored three points in 16 minutes, hitting a 3-pointer for the first basket of the game. But he picked up two fouls in 50 seconds early in the first quarter and headed to the bench, played just 2 more minutes in the second quarter before picking up his third and lasted 4:07 into the third before drawing his fourth and sitting back down.

“That’s a championship team,” Howard said. “When one player’s not playing as good, everybody else picks it up.”

By the time Pierce came back in, Boston was coasting to victory with an 18-point lead and just 7:06 left and a crowd was chanting “Eddie!” for the backup whose 20 second-half points were more than he had scored in any playoff game in his career. House, who once scored 31 in a regular-season game but never more than 16 in the playoffs, also goaded Magic guard Rafer Alston into a head slap that led to a double-technical.

“All I did was hit a shot, turn the other way and I got hit upside the head,” House said. “I guess he was tired of getting hit upside the head.”

Van Gundy, who coached House in Miami, put the blame on his own team.

“If he gets under guys’ skin, it’s just because he gets very excited when things are going good,” he said. “He’s really excited and he’s going to let you know he’s kicking your butt. There’s a lot of guys like that in this game.”

Van Gundy said he couldn’t worry about whether Alston would be suspended by the NBA. The Magic lost Howard to a suspension for Game 6 of the first-round series against Philadelphia – but won.

House went 11 for 14 from the field, making all four of his 3-point attempts and adding four 2-pointers from at least 20 feet in 27 minutes – the most he’s played in a playoff game since he was a rookie with Miami in 2001. In the last three games, House is 18 for 24 from the field and 10 for 12 from 3-point range.

Notes: Celtics legends Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn, JoJo White, John Havlicek and Kevin Garnett watched the game from courtside. … The Celtics had never beaten the Magic in a playoff game in Boston, having previously met in the best-of-five first round in 1995. … Orlando’s J.J. Redick was ejected from the game after he fouled out with 4:45 left. … Orlando had won its previous three playoff games by an average of 14 points. … Van Gundy said Courtney Lee, who is recovering from a fractured sinus, didn’t seem ready to play in Wednesday’s shootaround. “I really, right now, don’t know,” Van Gundy said.

AP-ES-05-06-09 2356EDT

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