Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Magic 103, Celtics 95: Woeful offense, lackluster defense lead to third straight loss

John Tomase
January 21, 2018 - 3:25 pm

For a team with the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics don't play with much of a margin for error.

They've leaned on Kyrie Irving for scoring all year, and when they struggle to get baskets elsewhere -- which is often -- they turn games over to a hustling, scrambling defense that has helped them eliminate more double-digit deficits than any team in the league.

The problem with this approach is that it leaves the team in a constant state of battle. Exhibit A: Sunday's 103-95 loss to the Magic.

The Celtics trailed by 19 entering the fourth quarter, thanks to a lackluster defensive effort that handed the Magic, the league's worst team, layup after layup.

They finally turned up the intensity in the fourth, cutting their deficit to single digits. But the hole they had dug themselves was simply too deep and the Magic prevailed, dealing the Celtics their third straight home loss before embarking on a West Coast trip that starts on Tuesday in Los Angeles against the Lakers.

Irving was magnificent, scoring 40 points on 14-of-23 shooting, but everyone else let him down. The bench was particularly atrocious, shooting a combined 4-for-19, including 1-for-9 from guard Terry Rozier. The C's also continued a recent trend of woeful shooting from 3-point territory, going 8-for-27. Take out Irving's 5-for-7, and the rest of the team shot just 3-for-20, which is a success rate of 15 percent.

The Celtics looked tired and slow against the Magic. With a month to go until the All-Star break and a grueling travel schedule awaiting them, there's no rest for the weary.

JBL Audio Stat of the Game: Kyrie Irving scored 40 points for the second time this season.

 JBL is the Official Sound of Jayson Tatum, The Boston Celtics, and the NBA.

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