After scoring just nine points in 30 minutes against Toronto on Friday, Gordon Hayward matched that total in the first quarter of Boston’s matchup against Orlando on his way to 31 points. It was the impetus behind the Celtics victory over the Magic 122-119.
Neither team gained much leeway in this one, with eight points serving as the highest lead in favor of the C’s. Toronto’s victory over Memphis earlier in the day had locked Boston into the #3 seed, but the Celtics were motivated enough to come out and earn a third consecutive victory.
Hayward’s 31 were his most since way back on November 5th, when he dropped a season-high 39 in a road win over the Cavaliers. Not to be outdone, Jayson Tatum rebounded from a quiet opening quarter to finish with 29, including five points in the final minute of regulation to send the game into overtime.
Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and a season-high tying 12 rebounds and Marcus Smart chipped in nine assists and three steals off the bench.
Orlando had a chance to send the game into double-OT with six seconds remaining down three. Daniel Theis smothered Nikola Vucevic’s 3-point attempt and the Magic, loser of three straight heading into this one, continue to reel after opening their seeding games with two straight wins.
Brad Stevens had said before the game he expects Kemba Walker’s minutes to cross 30 for the first time in the bubble. Walker struggled in 31 minutes, shooting 1-of-9 for just four points. He didn’t play in the extra session, having reached his minutes limit.
It took 27 shots, but Vucevic punished Boston’s interior on his way to 26 points and 11 rebounds. A bottom-third free-throw attempt team, Orlando was 22-of-26 from the stripe in this one, but their offense struggled to the tune of 40.2 percent shooting from the field.
The Magic take on Brooklyn on Tuesday in a game that could very well determine the first-round fate of both teams. Boston will face Memphis on Tuesday in a game of little significance with their spot in the bracket all locked up. It’ll be interesting to see the type of run Stevens gives to the youngsters who could look to earn a spot in the Celtics’ playoff rotation.