The Boston Celtics returned home and were taken down by the Orlando Magic tonight by a score of 93-90 in their second nailbiter in two games. The team could not deliver a 42nd birthday present for head coach Brad Stevens. The Celtics were glad to be back tonight in front of their home crowd, but it didn’t seem to matter after two shaky games in Toronto and New York. The pregame news was released that Aron Baynes was out for this one and for some time with a hamstring injury. Marcus Morris was also a game-time question mark, but luckily he was available for this one.
Boston just could not get anything going when the team needed a bucket. It felt like no one had the hot hand the whole night. Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting.
Boston started the game ice-cold, shooting 7 for 20 in the first quarter. The team didn’t have any rhythm at all in the early minutes of the game. The Celtics did a solid job of containing Aaron Gordon, but Nikola Vucevic controlled the boards for most of the quarter. The second unit closed the gap a bit, concluding the quarter with a Terry Rozier three-pointer. Boston trailed Orlando 28-19 at the end of one.
In the second quarter, the Magic grew their lead to 13 points. Fortunately, the bench unit worked hard to close the gap a bit. They outplayed the Magic’s second unit all night. Most everyone got their groove back, shooting a better percentage in this quarter than the last. Boston still failed to stop Vucevic dominating the inside, as the big man finished the half with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Kyrie and Tatum ended the half with back-to-back shots, closing the Magic lead to 48-45 at the break.
Starting the second half, Marcus Morris was in the game over Gordon Hayward as the Celtics still look to ease Hayward’s minutes. As the Magic had the inside edge all night, Brad Stevens tried to compete with bigger players on the court.
The whole quarter you were just waiting for the switch to be flipped, and for the Celtics to finally take control of this game. However, the Celtics could just not find their shots, and the Magic kept up the pressure all quarter. A three-pointer by Marcus Smart at the three-minute mark of the quarter tried to spark something, but the Celtics still trailed 75-70 after three. Robert Williams III got his Celtics debut in this quarter, checking in with about 4 minutes to go.
The fourth quarter opened with a bit of urgency down five. The Celtics knew they needed to amp it up to get back in this one. It was BWA who had to take advantage without Vucevic and Isaac on the floor. Four quick fouls in the first two minutes and fifteen seconds on the Magic impacted the rest of this game. The Celtics were shooting free throws by the eight-minute mark. Throughout the quarter, it looked as if they were going to take the momentum off a defensive stop and win easy, but they never did.
With about two minutes left, Jaylen Brown hit a three-pointer with a hand in the face from Aaron Gordon to cut it to three. Jonathan Isaac responded with a clutch two-point bucket in a career night for him. With 15 seconds left, Kyrie hit a shot to cut it to one. The Magic hit their free throws, and it all came down to a Brad Stevens ATO, drawing up a game tying three-point attempt. Kyrie got a decent look, missed, and then after the Horford rebound, Hayward missed as well. This one stings, as the Celtics lost to a team they should have beaten.
The Celtics ended the game shooting 40.7%, and 22.5% from three-point range. It was a cold night all around without anyone taking the game over. The Magic did what they had to do to win this game.
Al Horford contributed with 15 points, and Gordon Hayward had 11.
The Magic were led by Nikola Vucevic with 24 points and 12 rebounds and Jonathan Issac with 18 points and 12 rebounds, both careers highs for Isaac.
The Celtics hit the road again to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night at 7:00 PM EST.