The Wagner Brothers combined for 44 points, Paolo Banchero had 20, and Cole Anthony added 14 off the bench, leading the Magic to a 117-109 victory over the Celtics. Boston started strong, but after losing their lead late in the first quarter, they never got it back.
The Celtics returned to Boston after a 4-2 road trip. They open a seven-game homestand with two straight against the Magic, who sit at the bottom of the standings but have now extended their winning streak to five games.
With Robert Williams scheduled to make his season debut, Al Horford’s return after a five-game absence predictably got overlooked. But he made his presence felt immediately, hitting his first two 3’s as Boston jumped out to an early 14-4 lead. Williams checked in at the 7:03 mark, and within two minutes, he had this alley-oop:
Welcome back, Robert Williams pic.twitter.com/lfgmWbDOat— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 17, 2022
An A+ reaction from the bench on that second slow motion replay. Despite this injection of energy, the Celtics were sloppy with the ball, collecting six first-quarter turnovers. Banchero hit a buzzer-beating three, his 12th point of the quarter, and the Magic led 32-28. They grabbed 6 offensive boards and hit 9 free throws in the opening frame.
On the first play of the 2nd quarter, Rob had this emphatic block on Mo Bamba:
get that outta here pic.twitter.com/BduzIZ9gly— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 17, 2022
Didn’t look like the knee was bothering him there. Tatum scored 8 straight points, but Orlando’s Cole Anthony and Franz Wagner were a handful on offense and the Celtics couldn’t regain the lead. This throwback hook shot from Terrence Ross would have made Tommy Heinsohn proud:
nah the sky hook is crazyyy @TerrenceRoss pic.twitter.com/aKVx4VNAHy— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 17, 2022
Following a Jaylen Brown three and a Malcolm Brogdon transition layup, the Celtics cut the lead to 54-52 with two minutes left in the half. But Orlando promptly went on an 8-2 run and led 62-54 at halftime.
Tatum scored 20, Malcolm Brogdon added 12 off the bench, and Smart had 7 assists. The Magic’s length bothered the Celtics throughout the first half, holding them to 7 of 25 from beyond the arc. Former-Celtic Mo Wagner scored 13 and grabbed three of Orlando’s 10 first-half offensive rebounds, and everyone who played scored.
Less than two minutes into the 3rd quarter — and after much deliberation at the replay booth — Horford got called for an uncharacteristic flagrant-2 after hitting Mo Wagner below the belt. After a few possessions of inconsistent officiating, Tatum got called for a technical foul and Orlando went up 75-56.
It was an insufferably slow and disjointed three minutes of basketball, but a Smart runner followed by a Luke Kornet tip layup brought some life into the understandably listless TD Garden. Around the six-minute mark, Jaylen and Timelord had back-to-back dunks that vaulted the crowd out of its hibernation state. Jaylen’s was one of his loudest of the season, and he did it over the 7’2” Bol Bol:
JAYLEN BROWN OVER BOL BOL! pic.twitter.com/vdI2mr5qyL— ☘️ (@CelticsRiley) December 17, 2022
With 11 seconds left in the period, the refs (again, after much deliberation) upgraded Bamba’s common foul to a flagrant-1. Grant Williams’ two free throws cut Orlando’s lead to 88-81 going into the final frame. Despite shooting under 40 percent, the Celtics still had the game in reach.
Anthony made Orlando’s first three field goals of the 4th quarter. His fearlessness and shot-making ability remind me of a certain little guy who used to wear green. Markelle Fultz hit back-to-back elbow jumpers to give Orlando a 108-96 lead at the 3:55 mark. The Celtics made a few buckets in the final minute to cut the lead to 7, but it was too little, too late, and the Magic won 117-109.
Boston made 28 free throws but shot a dreadful 23.9 percent from three. Tatum finished with 31 and Brown had 25. Mo Wagner led Orlando with 25 points, and Bamba was a +15 with 8 points and 5 offensive rebounds off the bench.
The Celtics have an opportunity for revenge, as they again play the Magic this Sunday at 3:00.