Mired in a particularly brutal three-game losing streak, the Boston Celtics hosted the Orlando Magic tonight, desperate for a change in fortune. And while the proceedings briefly became interesting early in the fourth quarter, the Celtics finally caught a break. Riding a tidal wave of three-pointers, they finally found themselves in the win column once again, returning to a .500 record.
Jaylen Brown was the story of the afternoon for the Celtics, as he was simply unconscious from three-point range for the duration of the game. He connected on a comical 10 of his 18 three-point attempts, scoring 34 points and leading the way for a Boston offense that splashed 23 three-pointers collectively (the second-best mark in team history). Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 23 points and 13 rebounds, but Orlando’s late rally fell short, and the Celtics finally snapped their losing streak.
The Celtics’ recent losing streak has seen them struggle to perform effectively on both ends of the court at the same time, and the early going of today’s game suggested more of the same. Early on, it was Boston’s offense that lagged behind. Outside of Tatum and Brown, who scored 16 of the team’s first 18 points, the supporting cast just couldn’t impact the game from a scoring perspective. Despite 7-of-13 shooting from the Jays, Boston shot just 39% from the field in the first quarter, and entered the second trailing 31-27.
The good news is that, while the Celtics couldn’t score, they did put together one of their stronger halves of basketball on the defensive end of the court. They looked more dialed in defensively than they had in the three preceding losses, and thus were able to mitigate their offensive struggles by preventing the Magic from breaking open the lead.
As the second quarter progressed, the Celtics continued to shoot poorly from the field overall, but started to find their rhythm from behind the three-point arc. Led by nine combined triples from Brown and Tatum, Boston shot 11-of-24 from long range in the first half. Alongside some stifling defense, it was enough to regain control of the game for the Celtics, who entered halftime leading 56-48 despite just five points scored by their reserves.
The three-point onslaught continued into the second half of the game. Brown cashed in on a pair of threes early in the third quarter, while Kemba Walker and Daniel Theis got in on the fun with a few of their own. As the third quarter progressed, the Celtics found themselves in the unfamiliar position of widening a comfortable lead. And as the third quarter came to a close, the all-too-familiar runs by the opposition never quite came. Boston pushed ahead by as many as 21 points, and entered the final quarter holding a 89-73 advantage.
With a 16-point lead, the key for the Celtics was to avoid one of their patented fourth quarter letdowns. In the early minutes, that did not happen. Boston’s offense went ice cold, and the Magic went on a run, cutting the lead as low as eight points. Thankfully, that’s as far as things went. Brown hit a pair of three-pointers, restoring a 16-point lead for the Celtics that would suffice to keep Orlando at bay for the rest of the afternoon.
Next up, the Celtics travel to Memphis to face off against the Grizzlies in the second game of their back-to-back, tomorrow at 8 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.