Coming in losing 12 of their last 13 games, the Orlando Magic came in hoping to avenge a 19 point loss by way of this same Celtics team Friday. They successfully did so, in a much closer contest, knocking off the Celtics 119-114.
The game started off slowly as the Celtics lead for much of the first half. Orlando was slow to rotate over to the three-point line all night as the Celtics hit a flurry of three's and lead by double digits for most of the half. It seemed as if this would be a repeat of Friday’s game, however, the Magic made a little run at the end of the second quarter to cut the lead to seven and keep it interesting at the end of the half.
The second half was a completely different story.
Despite the Celtics reaching their largest lead of 13 early in the third, the Magic went on a furious run to take a two point lead late in the quarter. At that point, there were several lead changes from the late third to the mid fourth quarter, with neither side being able to take a stronghold on the game.
Behind some timely hot shooting from Evan Fournier, the Magic were able to push their lead up to 11 late in the contest. However, the Celtics wouldn't go away, cutting the Magic's lead down to as few as three as the Magic struggled to knock down free throws and keep the Celtics off the tree-point line. Despite the struggles late, the Magic were able to hold on thanks to timely free throws from Nikola Vucevic to take home a much needed victory.
The star of the game for Orlando was Aaron Gordon, who tied his career high with 19 points, while setting his career high with 14 rebounds, and five assists. Despite going a woeful 3/9 from the free throw line, Gordon had an efficient shooting night, knocking down eight of his 11 attempts, while flying all over the court making big, timely plays for the Magic. Gordon was all over the floor on the defensive end, while also making smart, timely cuts to open spaces to help generate some much needed offense for a struggling Magic bunch.
Mario Hezonja put together his best game of the season, posting a career-high 17 points on 7/13 shooting as we saw his confidence materialize into a positive contribution. For seemingly the first time all season, Hezonja wasn't gun-shy, confidently stepping into his jumpers, as well as making big shots off the dribble. Hezonja's strong performance resulted in him leading the Magic in +/-, posting +20 for the night. Evan Fournier had an incredibly efficient 24 points on 6/8 shooting with many of those points coming in the fourth quarter as he was able to help the Magic extend their lead before eventually icing it late.
On the Boston side, Marcus Smart lead the team in scoring with 26 points, going 5/9, from 3 including 3/4 in the first quarter and converting on a four-point play at the end of the game to keep the Celtics within reach. All-Star Isaiah Thomas added 23 with five triples of his own. The Celtics as a team were 16/46 from 3, with the 46 attempts being a season high. The Magic were pretty slow for most of the games rotating to shooters, but Boston also hit some really tough shots.
The Magic have an incredible difficult schedule coming up as they have to play the Spurs & Hawks twice, the Clippers, and Thunder in the next 6, so this win was important to get some confidence going. They are still not out of it as far as playoff positioning goes, but it won’t be easy to keep afloat in this six game stretch. Their next game is against San Antonio Monday night, a quick turnaround after a big win on Sunday.