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Celtics lean on big third quarter and Al Horford to defeat Magic, 92-79

Boston found their defensive rhythm in the third quarter, defeating a rebuilding Orlando squad.

Boston Celtics v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Coming off the most demoralizing loss of the young season, the Celtics kicked off a three-game road trip with a hump day contest against the Orlando Magic. In a slow grind of a game, the Celtics reversed their recent misfortunes, snapping their three-game losing streak with a 92-79 win.

With a clean injury sheet, the Celtics came into the Amway Center in desperate need of a “prove it” win versus a young, rebuilding Orlando Magic team. It was reported before tipoff that the Celtics held a “players only” meeting in Orlando to address team chemistry issues.

Boston came into the game 26th in the NBA in points allowed in the paint per game, according to the NBCS Boston broadcast. To start against the Magic, the paint was once again open season. Orlando scored six of their first eight points in the paint, taking a small lead in the opening minutes.

Jaylen Brown was carving up the Magic defense in the first, leading Boston in offense and converting nearly every opportunity from the floor. Brown put 11 points up in the first, going 4/5 from the floor and adding two free throws. In the end, Brown was the straw that stirred the drink against Orlando, leading the Celtics with 28 points.

Jayson Tatum had a quiet, but perfect first quarter. He scored just five points, but hit both of his shots, including one 3-pointer.

Once Brown got cooking, the Celtics were able to come back from an early deficit and eventually take the lead back, but Orlando continued attacking inside and getting high-quality shots.

Both teams struggled from three in the first, but what put Orlando the top was paint points. Orlando scored 18 in the paint compared to Boston’s 10. After one quarter, the Magic held a 28-26 lead over the Celtics, led by Wendell Carter Jr.’s seven points.

Horford hit a pair of threes, dropped two dimes, flashed that signature Al defense with a steal and a block early and brought down a handful of rebounds. The 35-year-old forward kept the Celtics steady when he saw the floor, as he has all year. He flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 12 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. In addition, his defense was spectacular. The NBA’s leader in blocks per game finished the game with two blocks and a steal.

Orlando, after a 2/9 3-point first quarter, hit three 3-pointers in a row to reclaim a moderate eight-point lead.

Brown continued to be the engine of the offense, finishing with 17 first-half points on 6-10 shooting. After a 28-point game against Chicago, Brown continued to shake off some early season rust in the first half.

Tatum endured a rough second quarter scoring the ball, going 1-9 from the floor. He was able share the ball well, finding Horford and Brown for assisted threes.

A slow second quarter for both teams resulted in a diminutive first half score. The Magic scored just 18 in the second, Boston kept pace, adding 18 of their own. Both teams shot a subpar 7-23 from the floor, 30% overall. A perfectly parallel second period ended with Orlando up two at halftime, 46-44.

Boston responded with urgency to kick off the third. The Celtics attacked Orlando better, got out in transition and began to establish a lead. Orlando stayed cold, and the Jays eventually found their footing again.

After an 11-0 run to open the quarter, Boston took a 55-46 lead into the first timeout. The Celtics started 4/8, while the Magic were silent, shooting 0/8 to begin the third.

At the seven minute mark, the Magic were in the middle of an eight minute scoring drought, which dated back to the first half. Their first point in the third came with 5:59 remaining on a free throw.

Following the 16-0 run, the Celtics kept their foot on the gas. The offense began to run better, and the defense was keeping Orlando from getting easy paint looks, as they had all game prior.

After trailing 48-46 at the start of the third, Boston held a massive 75-56 lead going into the fourth quarter, hoping to not have a repeat of the Monday night meltdown against Chicago.

The third period was incredibly lopsided, ending 27-10 in favor of the Celtics. The Magic shot 2/17 (12%) from the floor, compared to Boston’s 12/18 (67%). The hay was made defensively, a far cry from the early season struggles.

The big lead was enough for Boston to coast to a victory in the fourth – hardly a guarantee with this team. Orlando continued to make young mistakes which kept them out of the game, despite stringing together a good stretch in the middle of the fourth, where they went on an 8-0 run. The double digit lead never wavered in a slow fourth period.

Tatum wasn’t able to get it going in the second half. The struggles with efficiency continued. He went 4/16 (25%) from the field in another tough night, following 41%, 31% and 36% shooting performances in his last three games.

Brown poured in at least 28 points for the fifth time this season. Four of five of those performances came on the road.

Boston has no break before its next game. The Celtics take on the 6-1 Miami Heat in an early test of might at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4 in South Beach, hoping to improve to 4-5.

For more postgame coverage of the Celtics win over the Magic, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full postgame breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss the players only meeting to address the Celtics early season dysfunction.