The streak is over, long leave the streak. And while the suck-my-Kyrie Boston Celtics couldn’t reach 17, the team isn’t about to start a losing streak just cause they dropped a tough one in Miami. Fortunately, the Cs headed home to face the Orlando Magic, looking hapless on six straight losses after a respectable run at the season’s start. If that was hapless, Orlando’s performance here was downright tragic, and Boston steamrolled them.
THE GAME FLOW
Orlando’s offense is slightly ahead of Boston’s by points per 100 possessions–15th in the league to 18th–but the two squads are, all things being equal, reasonably well-matched in various aspects. This led to a game that began with trading buckets and no clear advantage established by anyone…until around the point we were knotted at 20. After that, Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving went on scoring tears and pulled the Celtics well ahead of the Magic, scoring 40 points in the opening frame. Boston created a double-digit lead that would persist for much of the rest of the half. At times it went as high as 28.
Honestly, when the Celtics are this far ahead, there isn’t much to say about the specifics of play-by-play, and broader overall impressions will provide better evidence of meaningful trends. What drove so much of this hyperspeed offensive attack was perhaps the best passing the Celtics have executed all season. It’s not like they’ve been short on good ball movement this year, so that’s saying something.
By the time the buzzer proclaimed the end of the first half, Boston had a 26-point cushion of 73-47, with 21 assists on their 28 field goals having produced most of those points. Al Horford got 8 of those dimes by himself. Everything looked right for the Celtics, and little looked even competent for the sinking Magic. Aaron Gordon drew considerable attention with his pedigree and size on drives, which got him to the line a lot, but primary Orlando producer Evan Fournier looked lost with chuck-tastic unsuccessful shooting (3-10) in the first half, and Nikola Vucevic couldn’t do much either. Also, whatever Terrence Ross was in Toronto, he ain’t anymore–he looks lost on an NBA court.
Things started in the second half much as they’d gone for the majority of this game. The Magic’s inability to buy a shot continued, and Kyrie kept pouring on the punishment with a little help from Marcus Morris. Meanwhile, the entire Celtics squad maintained the defensive intensity that’s been their hallmark all season–they’re still league-best in both opponent points allowed per game and points allowed per 100. They took the perimeter away almost entirely from the Magic, forcing the visiting team to a meager 21 percent beyond the arc and 37 percent from the field.
As Q3 crossed into Q4, Boston’s cushion had ballooned almost comically to 30, and the only way it would go down by much was if Brad Stevens let the Cs’ bench play the entire fourth frame. They were good tonight, but they’ve still got the worst bench in the league by field goal percentage–still much room for improvement–so Morris stayed on the floor.
–Is this a laptop, or a future-creation machine? I ask because in four minutes of this fourth quarter, the 30-point deficit fell to 20 through a combination of rookie sloppiness and the indefatigable truth that if Mareese Speights (now a bench vet for the Magic after a decent stint with the Clippers last season) keeps shooting 3s, he’ll start making a bunch of them. He kept shooting, and eventually four of them went in–all in the first 6 minutes of Q4. (I ain’t mad, though: The Cs are still about 20 ahead with just above 6 minutes left, and like, have you seen Speights smile? It’s goddamn delighful.)
Terry Rozier decided to make the most of his extended tick, scoring a career-high 23 points–the runner-up in Boston buckets behind Kyrie, who had 30. He made the real difference in this fourth quarter and kept it a situation the bench could handle on its own. Though the game ended 118-103, it was never that close from Q2 on–this win was nearly wall-to-wall Celtics dominance.
The HOT: Kyrie, Rozier, the bench scoring 49, Baynes holding down the center position for most of the game.
And the NOT: Little to complain about here, but Horford’s weird shooting hesitancy, which has continued for the past couple of games, is something to watch. Hopefully it’s no big thing.
An impressive combination of moves between Horford, Morris and Brown to turn defense into offense in the space of a few seconds:
Obligatory Kyrie Irving Handles Appreciation Highlight Clip:
Jaylen Brown does not respect you, Elfrid Payton, or your hair–not one little bit. (And neither do I, TBH):