The Celtics played without their leading scorer Isaiah Thomas, and for most of the first half it looked like they missed him. Then everything turned in the third quarter with some key stops by Marcus Smart and great play off the bench from Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier.
The first half of tonight’s game can be summed up in by the difference in three-point shooting. The Magic, who aren’t known for their offensive prowess, shot 8 of 10 from three in the half. The Celtics were just 2 of 15 from deep. The Magic backcourt of Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin led the way with 10 and 15 points, respectively, on a combined 5 of 6 from three. Augustin alone was 4 for 4 from distance.
Smart made several jaw-dropping plays on the defensive end, including a signature “Cobra”-style steal of a pass that Fournier never expected he could reach. He also delivered nine first-half points on 3-of-4 shooting, helping to keep the Celtics in the game.
Brown flashed his athleticism with a massive dunk over Nikola Vucevic. More importantly, he was aggressive on both ends of the floor all game long. He and Rozier really helped set the tone when they came in the game by attacking the rim and playing tight defense.
Brad Stevens’s comments on Jaylen Brown’s big dunk started out somewhat muted: “I don’t care about the dunk stuff. It only counts for two points, then you have to defend.” Stevens went on to say “But it does energize the team and the building.” He then finished with a big smile and said, “But wow. What an athlete!”
In the third quarter, the Celtics took over, outscoring Orlando 36-23. From that point forward, the game was never really close again. Smart would finish with 13 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting. Avery Bradley led the way with 23 points for the Celtics. Brown and Rozier combined for 29 off the Boston bench. Al Horford struggled some with his shot, but he led the Celtics with 8 assists and grabbed 6 rebounds.
Horford talked about the ball movement saying “Jae, Avery, Marcus, those guys just know how to move and how to cut. When we move the ball like that we are tough to beat.”
In every way this was a team game, as seven Celtics finished in double figures, and the team had 29 assists on 43 baskets. Considering Boston entered the night just 1-5 over the last three years in Orlando and was without Isaiah Thomas, this was one of the more impressive wins of the year.