There were a few good things to take away from Monday's game between the Magic and Celtics. Victor Oladipo continued his outstanding play from recent weeks, putting up an efficient 25 points to go with 8 rebounds and 5 steals. Elfrid Payton, while not perfect, improved in his second game back from his injury, getting 8 points and 6 assists. The Magic took a losing effort and managed to make it competitive with yet another fourth quarter comeback effort, even without Nikola Vucevic as he continues to nurse his groin injury. In the end, however, it wasn't enough, as Orlando fell to the Celtics 107-96. Isaiah Thomas was a force for Boston, matching Oladipo's effort with 28 points and 7 assists, while Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk added 22 points each.
Offense was hard to come by for both teams in the first quarter, but especially for Orlando. In the first seven minutes of the game, the Magic's only points came on two Dwayne Dedmon alley-oops. Fortunately, they were able to find a bit of a groove in the rest of the quarter when some of the subs came in, including Elfrid Payton, who came off the bench again for the second game in a row. He had 2 points and 2 assists in the last 4:30 of the quarter, and Oladipo had a couple excellent drives of his own to get the Magic back on track. For the Celtics, Thomas led the way with his nifty finishes around the basket, getting several tough layups and finger rolls to fall and pushing the ball of the Magic's turnovers. He had 9 points to go with 5 rebounds and 2 assists in the first, which the Celtics led 22-17.
The second quarter was just the opposite of the first, as the pace increased and the points started to rack up for both teams. Oladipo and Payton continued to lead the Magic's offense with their drives, with the former scoring and the latter dishing to teammates. Mario Hezonja was also a positive contributor, scoring just 3 points (on a great and-1 make on a dunk attempt), but corralling a game-high 6 rebounds by halftime. Aaron Gordon also scored 7 points in the quarter for Orlando, whose 32 second quarter points nearly doubled their first quarter total. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to close the gap, because the Celtics' offense was even better. Bradley and Olynyk combined for 21 points in the second, the former on a variety of drives and the latter from outside, including a 3 on the Celts' last possession with just over a second remaining on the game clock. The Magic trailed 56-49 at halftime.
The third quarter was much like the second: the Magic were good on offense, but the Celtics were better. Even though Boston had just one made 3-pointer in the quarter, they abused the Magic from close-range. Time and again, Orlando allowed easy drives into the paint, and showed little ability to contest the layups when the Celtics took them. That aggression also earned the Celtics several trips to the foul line, where they hit 8-10 free throws in the quarter. Thomas continued to lead the charge for Boston, earning 8 more points and 3 more assists. On Orlando's end, Oladipo continued his efficient scoring, almost entirely coming on drives to the hoop. He was active attacking the ball as well, picking up his 4th steal and always looking to push the pace off those turnovers. He was able to keep the Magic in it, but they continued to trail 91-78.
The Magic have been involved in more close games than most NBA teams this season, and they managed to make it close again tonight. The Magic put together an 8-0 run early on, and later a 6-0 run. Oladipo continued his excellent performance, both scoring and rebounding in his effort to keep the Magic in the game. That got the score within 4 points with just a few minutes to go, but Orlando couldn't get any closer. Thomas and Bradley combined to score the Celtics' last 11 points to close out the Magic, while Amir Johnson's rim protection and offensive rebounding stifled the comeback effort.
Orlando's next game is Wednesday in Detroit.