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Lack of rim protection sinks Magic in Boston

For the third straight game, a subpar defensive effort doomed the Magic’s chances out of the gate

NBA: Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The old adage in the NBA is that the first team to 100 points often wins.

Well, it took less than three quarters for the Boston Celtics to amass that total in their 128-98 win over the Orlando Magic.

The Celtics took the upper hand in the first quarter and never looked back, leading by 15 at the end of the first period. The largest Magic lead was two points, and it came in the first quarter. The largest Celtic lead was 40. In other words, Magic fans were able to get an early start on their weekend because Friday’s game was a blowout.

When asked if the team quit on defense, Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel was very brief.

“Nobody’s quitting on anything”, said Vogel, “we stunk tonight, there’s no other way to put that. We gotta get back to work tomorrow.”

As has been said time and time again, this team’s success is dependent on a defensive identity. Without that defensive identity on Friday, the Magic felt the full brunt of the playoff-bound Celtics, even without stars Al Horford and Avery Bradley.

After a lacking effort against a reeling Bulls team on Tuesday, the Magic came out with energy on offense – dueling the Celtics to a 20-23 shootout early. That burst would be short-lived, as the Magic offense would run into a familiar rut.

Orlando finished at 43 percent from the field, and had just 65 points through three quarters. Their struggles from beyond the arc continued in the absence of guards Evan Fournier and Jodie Meeks. The Magic would again hit just nine three-pointers, converting 36 percent of their looks from deep.

Meanwhile, the Celtics would never see their field goal percentage drop below 50, as a lack of defensive communication by the Magic led to dunk after dunk. Despite missing their deadliest shooter in Bradley, the Cs would still sink 16 from deep at a 47 percent clip.

Boston’s freshly-minted All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 21 points, and dished out eight assists. Despite starting off slow, Thomas was able to run the offense with deadly precision by driving to the rim, drawing help, and kicking to an open teammate under the hoop. His leadership was a big part of Boston’s fluid offense, which registered 39 assists on their 50 field goals.

As for the Magic – their leading scorer, Nikola Vucevic, mustered only 14 points.

The Orlando Magic (18-30) face a treacherous road ahead, as they head to Toronto on Sunday to face a Raptors team that prevailed 109-79 in their first meeting at the Amway Center. The currently second-seeded Raptors 29-18 record is a near mirror image of the Magic’s.