The Orlando Magic have been viewed among the NBA’s more hapless teams of late, what with their four-years-and-counting rebuild and baffling front-office moves. (Tobias Harris trade? Jeff Green? Yikes.) But they hadn’t looked hapless in recent wins over the Spurs and Pistons. So would a Celtics team missing the groin-injured Isaiah Thomas have to worry? Only for one half. Boston’s crisp passing got them past a slow offensive start and led to the eventual bloodbath result of 117-87.
THE GAME FLOW
Recent lineup adjustments by Magic coach Frank Vogel have shot life into a static team: Elfrid Payton, he of amazing hair, terrible shooting and butterfingers, now backs up the veteran DJ Augustin. And Nikola Vucevic should’ve always been the microwave bench scorer he is now, due to being the James Harden of rim protection.
An Orlando squad with the league’s third-worst offensive rating and second-worst points per game shouldn’t have been difficult…right? WRONG, in the first half. Orlando made 8 triples in the first half on 10 attempts. Boston’s offense was uneven overall during the first half and godawful from 3-point range (2 for 15). They had to rely on the Magic’s remarkable gift for turning the ball over (12 total) to generate extra opportunities and stay in the game.
The Celtics’ ball movement stood out as a bright spot throughout, however. It eventually allowed the offense to start humming in the third quarter on the backs of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart, as well as major bench contributions from Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown. (We’ll get to the dunk, I PROMISE.) “Humming” soon became “devastating.” The Cs got aggressive in the paint, found better spacing and, perhaps by the grace of Larry Bird’s birthday, they started rebounding at a better clip, outhustling the Magic on the glass by double digits. Orlando’s shooting fell off a cliff early in Q3 and didn’t recover, with their best pure scorers (Vucevic and Evan Fournier) rendered ineffective, the former reduced to feckless chucking and the latter smothered by Avery.
The fourth frame had Orlando crying mercy, with Boston’s lead ballooning to 30, where it would remain. Brad Stevens handed the keys to Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey (who continues to show real progress) in garbage time, and Orlando actually played Mario Hezonja (who perhaps has received more DNP-CDs than anyone in the league – yes, even James Young). It was great to see this team be relentless like this, even against an opponent who could most charitably be described as “frisky.”
The Cs shooting 7 of 26 from 3 (26.9 percent; please add your #nice in the comments) is grotesque – even in a blowout win, even taking Orlando’s fifth-best defense of the 3-point line into account. Also, for all the shit talked above about the Magic’s turnovers, the Celtics weren’t far behind with 10 of their own.
What else could it be but Jaylen Brown’s act of sickening, beautiful dunk violence against Nikola Vucevic?
THAT’S RIGHT, NIKO, YOU BETTER CRY AFTER THE MAN WITH THE SHORTS WHO’S TWO-THIRDS YOUR SIZE JAMS ON YOU.
In lieu of Your Daily Awesome Isaiah Thomas Thing, here’s Today’s Awesome-Ass Al Horford Dunk:
Avery Bradley: Quite the line for A.B. – 23 pts on 50 percent shooting, plus 4 boards, 3 assists, plus a steal, a block and only one turnover.
Terry Rozier: While he didn’t have the highlight reel plays Jaylen did, Rozier’s line of 16-5-3 (plus a steal) was as much a part of Boston’s third-quarter takeover as the six other Celtics who reached double figures. It’s great to see him start to come into his own.