Playoff teams beat the Orlando Magic. The Celtics do not look like a playoff team.
Favored to win, the Boston Celtics (25-36) squandered a 20-point first half lead and lost 103-98 to the Orlando Magic (21-43) Sunday night in Orlando. Victor Oladipo, who scored 70 points in his previous two games, led the Magic, scoring 15 of his 22 points in the second half. Rookie Elfrid Payton approached a triple-double, finishing the game with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. With Nic Vucevic on the bench with a left ankle injury, journeyman center Dwight Dedmond had a double-double, grabbing 16 rebounds while scoring 11 points.
Isaiah Thomas scored 21 points, shooting 8 of 10 from the line while also dishing out eight assists. Marcus Smart added 16, shooting 6 of 16 from the field, while Brandon Bass had a double-double, notching 19 points and 17 rebounds.
For a complete box score, click here.
DEFENSE SHINES EARLY
The Celtics played outstanding defense in the first quarter, giving up only 17 points on 6 of 21 (29%) shooting. Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder led the way, harassing Magic ball-handlers on the exterior, switching on the majority of picks, and forcing 7 turnovers. The C’s also did a great job of getting out in transition, turning their great defense into easy scoring opportunities.
SMALL-BALL GIVES CELTICS TROUBLE
After the Celtics scored the first six points of the second quarter to extend their lead to 20, interim head coach James Borrego put Tobias Harris in at the four. The smaller line-up opened up the floor for Elfird Peyton and Victor Oladipo, who led the Magic on a 24-7 run. The Celtics only forced 3 turnovers in the quarter and were unable to create the kind of easy opportunities they found in the first. Without a second big man, the Celtics were unable to capitalize against the shorter lineup and the half-court offense instead settled for outside jumpers.
MARCUS SMART: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.
Smart had a very nice start to the game, making scoring nine points in the first quarter. He came out very aggressive on defense, grabbing three steals. In the second and third quarters, the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month showed that his game has room to grow. Smart’s aggression worked against him, as he forced a number of ill-advised passes in transition. On defense, he went for a number of steals which led to some wide open looks for the Magic. Smart was ejected in the final minute of the game after he was called for a flagrant-two for elbowing Elfird Payton in the head while driving to the basket.
DATOME TAKES JAMES YOUNG’S MINUTES
Rookie James Young only played five minutes in the second quarter. He missed both his shots, and didn’t really make an impact. In the second half, Luigi Datome played small forward on the second unit. Datome did a bit of everything for the C’s, hitting open threes, throwing down a dunk, and playing great help defense. Datome finished with 10 points as well as this great block on Victor Oladipo.
BASS ON THE GLASS
Brandon Bass pulled down a career high17 rebounds, including a career high 10 on the offensive end. The King of the two-handed standing dunk added a number of impressive high-flying put-backs. Bass has played extremely well recently, averaging 13.5 points over his last ten games.
With the loss the Celtics fell 2.5 games behind the Pacers and Heat for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The C’s will play a game with huge playoff implications on Monday night against the Heat in Miami.