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Celtics 91, Magic 89: Missed opportunities cost Orlando as winning streak ends

Orlando committed far too many mistakes, at both ends of the floor, in Friday's loss to Boston.

Courtney Lee and Jameer Nelson
Courtney Lee and Jameer Nelson
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics ended the Orlando Magic's winning streak at three games on Friday, upsetting Orlando by a 91-89 final at Amway Center. Orlando committed 20 turnovers, shot just 65.5 percent at the foul line, and generally executed poorly at both ends of the floor. As such, Boston managed to earn the victory despite shooting 35.8 percent from the floor.

Brandon Bass led six Celtics in double-figure scoring, with 16 points. Arron Afflalo had 23 for Orlando, while Nik Vucevic added 14 points and 13 boards. Magic guards Victor Oladipo and Jameer Nelson had rough outings, combining for 21 points on 7-of-27 shooting with 10 assists and 10 turnovers.

The Magic rode Nikola Vučević to an early lead. Orlando's center shot 5-of-6 from the floor in the first period, scoring 12 of Orlando's 24 points. Boston struggled to match his speed in diving to the rim.

The visitors also struggled to put the ball in the basket, connecting on just 25.9 percent of their first-quarter offerings. Most players miss shots short or long, but Boston's errant shots were either too far to the left or the right, a disconcerting development for coach Brad Stevens. The Magic built a seven-point lead after one.

But Boston, a grind-it-out team on most nights, opened the game up in the second period, thriving in fast-break chances. Former Magic guard Courtney Lee changed the game for the Celtics off the bench, pushing the pace and scoring in transition. He shot 4-of-5 for 11 points in nine minutes.

The Magic, meanwhile, went away from what worked in the first quarter: Vučević's lone second-period shot attempt was a 13-footer in heavy traffic. Gone were the easy pick-and-roll and tip-in chances that availed themselves to him in the opening frame. Without Vučević to carry the load, and with Boston's length on the perimeter discouraging dribble penetration, the Magic reverted to 2012/13 form in the second period. They recorded nearly as many turnovers (six) as baskets (eight) and in genearl allowed Boston to dictate the terms of the game.

Orlando ended both quarters of the first half with defensive lapses that can prove devastating in close games. Rookie big man Kelly Olynyk took an inbounds pass with 4.4 seconds remaining in the first quarter and went three-quarters of the court to score an uncontested layup. At the end of the second, Jordan Crawford rebounded a Maurice Harkless miss and took the ball the length of the floor completely untouched... until Arron Afflalo hacked him across the arm, giving the veteran scoring guard a three-point conversion chance. The five points Orlando yielded as a result of sloppy, end-of-quarter defense could prove costly. The home team held a three-point edge at halftime, but it could have been eight.

Boston continued to impose its will on the game in the third quarter, and it did so inside the painted area with impressive passing from its post players: Jared Sullinger, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass, and Vítor Faverani combined for 14 points and five assists in the third quarter as Boston built itself a three-point advantage. Meanwhile, Orlando shot just 35 percent from the floor.

The Magic crept closer in the fourth period, with a Jason Maxiell jump hook bringing the hosts to within a point at the 6:13 mark. He did not convert the three-point play, but Orlando had possession after Crawford lost the ball out of bounds. The Magic called for time to set up a play, but Victor Oladipo lost the handle and Avery Bradley came up with a steal, dunking on the Magic rookie at the other end and converting a three-point play to put Boston up four points at the 5:48 mark.

Afflalo converted a four-point play--the first of Orlando's season--with 1:38 to go to trim Boston's lead to just two points. Olynyk answered with a 12-footer off a great pick-and-op set with Crawford. Jameer Nelson created a great three-point look for Harkless on Orlando's next possession, but his offering from the left corner was just long.

Afflalo sank another key basket with 26.5 to play, driving to his left around Bass and converting the layup and-one to bring his team to within a point. He and Vučević played a two-man game that briefly went awry when Vučević hit Afflalo with a pass while Afflalo was on his backside, having slipped, but the pair improvised to create a scoring chance anyway.

Forced to foul, the Magic hacked Bass with 10.5 seconds to play after trying desperately to get a steal or force a travel. Bass sank both foul shots, setting up Orlando's penultimate possession. Afflalo sprung free in the left corner off a Vučević screen, but he pulled up with both feet inside the arc. He sank the shot over a great contest by Wallace.

Bradley shot 1-of-2 from the foul line on Boston's final trip, putting the Celtics up two with 3.5 seconds to go. Orlando, with no timeouts, was forced to heave and hope for good fortune. Oladipo's attempt from just inside midcourt was wide and to the left.

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