Jameer Nelson got his first start as a Celtic tonight, and made his first regular season appearance against his old team. The new starting rotation came out shooting abysmally, and that's putting it mildly. The starting unit literally did not make a shot from the field in the first quarter. After missing their first 10 shots, the Celtics finally scored when Avery Bradley made a 20 footer at the 6:18 mark. The defense looked out of sorts, allowing numerous open 3 point attempts. I would've liked to see some more fouls called on the Magic, but there's no excuse for shooting sub 10% in the first quarter.
After spotting the Magic a 17 point lead going into the second quarter, the Celtics responded. Unfortunately, "responded" meant giving the Magic an even larger lead going into half. Their shooting regressed back to the mean, but turnovers killed anything positive that Boston had going on offense. Ben Gordon had a great appearance off the bench for Orlando. He scored six points in under a minute, which started giving me flashbacks to 2009. Nikola Vucevic put up another monster stat line in the first half, with 14 points and six boards. All these factors came together to give the Magic a 23 point lead, their largest halftime lead of the season.
Boston and Orlando traded baskets to start the third quarter. They just could not put a dent in the Magic lead for the first six minutes of the quarter though. That appeared to change when Avery Bradley caught fire and hit three 3 pointers. The Celtics cut the lead to 19 a few times, but couldn't sustain that momentum long enough to really threaten the Magic. Orlando just needed a small run to end the quarter, and their lead stretched to 25.
Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright checked into the game to start the fourth, after getting a combined four minutes of play to that point. They were joined by Nelson, Turner, and Bass. This unit played by far the best basketball of the night for the Celtics. They went on a fantastic run to cut the lead down to 10 points. Some of this might have been the Magic taking their foot off the gas in garbage time, but it was a huge stretch nonetheless. Their energy was great, and this unit gave Boston hope of getting back into the game. Once Zeller and Olynyk came back in with just under three minutes left, Boston cut the lead to six. Then they got a stop, and Olynyk hit a huge transition 3 to bring the Celtics within one possession of tying the game. Unfortunately the Celtics fell just short, and the Magic held on to win.
Bradley finally shot well. In his last six games he was shooting 30% from the field, so going 7 of 13 is a huge improvement. He also won a jump ball against the 6'10'' Kyle O'Quinn, which was pretty nice.
Marcus Smart came out aggressive and it showed in his free throw attempts. He got to the line three times in his limited first quarter minutes, but only made 3/7. However, he was largely a nonfactor after that. He only played 16 minutes and was held without a shot attempt.
Jae Crowder scored his first points as a Celtic and provided energy off the bench. He was definitely a factor in the scoring run that brought Boston back in the game.
This looked like a discouraging blowout loss to a mediocre team, but the Celtics rallied back to make it a game. Brad Stevens deserves credit for getting his team to stay competitive.