There’s no good way to give up a long win streak, so the Boston Celtics can be forgiven for dropping this one to a very over-confident Orlando Magic team while missing three key contributors – Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and Malcolm Brogdon. Boston went down by at least 13 points twice, dropping the game 113-98. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both put in 26 points to lead Boston as Orlando won the season series.
Jaylen Brown was hot right out of the gates as the rest of the Celtics were a bit more timid, especially when it came to the paint. The Magic did a great job of owning that pot on the court while Boston was deterred by long limbs on defense. In the first half, the Celtics fell behind by as much as 14 as the Magic waltzed to the rim in transition. Orlando had a host of highlights, led by Jonathan Isaac’s return (imagine my surprise after they kept running plays for him nonstop) and Cole Anthony’s instant offense.
After Mo Wagner waved Boston goodbye with about eight minutes left in the first half, Grant Williams had enough. Imploring Boston to limit transition and get to the rim, Boston earned control back almost instantly with a little under four minutes left in the first half, capping off a 16-point turnaround. Three straight Jayson Tatum buckets at the rim (two of those should have been and-1s) put Boston on top. Instead of letting the energetic Orlando team dictate the pace, the best team in the league got their . . . ahem . . . magic back.
Half spin left the defense frozen pic.twitter.com/8rbgmqHgcI— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 24, 2023
Out of the half, the Celtics kept the momentum going despite giving up more transition opportunities than they did in the late second. About midway through the quarter, Jayson Tatum exited the game and headed straight to the locker room while grabbing at his ribs. It’s hard to see where the injury occurred since he hit a 3-pointer just seconds earlier. Pretty much immediately, things got out of hand as Jonathan Isaac (10 points in 10 minutes) gave Orlando a significant lift.
Orlando went on a 20-5 run after Tatum’s injury, putting Boston in a similar position as they were in the previous quarter, going down by 13. It is notable that timeouts led to both of the times Boston dug itself out of a hole tonight. Tatum’s return to the floor helped Boston stabilize a bit, taking a nine-point deficit into the fourth quarter.
Sam Hauser (13 points, 1 block) finally broke out of his slump tonight, and his play early in the fourth quarter was a huge boost for the Celtics as the offense ground to a halt. After a massive hustle play on the floor, he bailed out Boston for five-straight points on broken plays. After only playing 9 first-half minutes because of the aggravation of his neck injury, Derrick White (11 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks) also came up big down the stretch. Payton Pritchard was also an unsung hero, making good decisions with the ball all evening.
For the Magic, Franz Wagner (15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) continually doused Boston’s chances with timely plays on both ends. Wendell Carter was solid, posting 21 points and 11 rebounds. Paolo Banchero led the Magic with 23 points and three 3-pointers (sigh).
Orlando went on an 10-0 run, making things increasingly difficult for Boston to get some traction going. Horford finally broke the run with just over two minutes left in the game. Boston turning the ball over 17 times was a big impediment on their chances to win the game. A lot of 50/50 balls went Orlando’s way, and the Celtics simply ran out of time to complete the second comeback of the game.
The Celtics take the best record in the league (still) to Miami tomorrow night as part of the NBA’s rival week in a matchup against the Heat.