The Boston Celtics faced off against a defanged Orlando Magic squad that had just nine players available. This was a winnable game for the Celtics, and they seized their opportunity to strengthen their playoff positioning. In a game that was almost never in question, Boston cruised to a decisive and resounding victory, 132-96.
Boston opened this game playing uncharacteristically well, as five points from Kemba Walker in the opening two minutes jumpstarted a 10-2 start for the C’s. The Celtics parlayed their fruitful offense into stops as well — Orlando turned the ball over five times and missed all three of their field-goal attempts at the eight-minute mark. Boston generated high-percentage looks time and time again during the maiden half of the quarter while the Magic were hard-pressed even to get shots off.
Fortunately for the C’s, this status quo carried over into the final minutes of the first. Evan Fournier and Payton Pritchard shouldered the scoring load with the bench unit, combining for 10 points in the waning moments. Boston found themselves in charge at the end of one, 39-27, and Walker led all Celtics in scoring with 12 on 5-for-7 accuracy.
The beginning of the second quarter was a brick fest — neither team found nylon until Dwayne Bacon nailed a floater at the 9:18 mark. Boston noticeably lacked the offensive cohesion and rhythm that they had competed with in the early going. Instead of sharing the sugar, the C’s resorted to a string of consecutive Jayson Tatum isolation sets, which proved largely unsuccessful — at the halfway point, Boston had just four points to show for their efforts.
Fortunately for the Celtics, their stagnant offense didn’t come back to bite them as much as it should have. As was the case for the entirety of the first half, Orlando couldn’t find the bottom of the net with any consistency. Their ball movement improved slightly compared to quarter one. Mo Wagner headed into halftime with a solid performance and 11 points, but ten turnovers and 25% (3-for-12) shooting from deep allowed Boston to gain a sizable edge on the scoreboard. Tatum and company entered the locker room comfortably ahead, 63-45.
Kemba Walker continued to knock down shots at a remarkably efficient rate after the break. The former UConn standout accounted for 11 of Boston’s first 13 second-half points with two treys, a mid-range pull-up, and a trio of free throws. By the end of Walker’s surge, he was up to 29 points on 15 shots, and more importantly, the Celtics extended their lead to 26, 76-50 by the seven-minute mark. Orlando head coach Steve Clifford then opted for a timeout.
The score discrepancy was significant, but the Magic refused to lay over and responded after the timeout with spry play on both ends of the court. Orlando forced a few Boston turnovers on ensuing possessions, fueling a 14-4 Magic run that kept them somewhat within ear’s shot. However, Orlando’s auspicious stretch was in vain, as Tatum went on a solo tear to bookend the third and pushed the Celtic advantage to the brink of the 30s. Twelve points from Tatum across the final 4:30 of the third propelled Boston to a 25-point lead after 36 minutes, 100-75.
The entirety of the final frame was nothing more than garbage time, as the outcome was already all but decided. With that said, Boston operated akin to a well-oiled machine offensively. Fournier and Walker cashed in on buckets from inside and out to up their point totals to 18 and 32, respectively.
With seven minutes remaining, Brad Stevens waived the white flag and emptied the bench, which led to guest appearances from Carsen Edwards, Jabari Parker, and Tacko Fall. All three scored at least once, but Fall stole the show with a nifty up-and-under in the post and a resounding rejection on RJ Hampton at the rim.