The Magic went to Boston, home of one of the league’s best teams, and never trailed. And a big reason why was Jonathan Isaac.
Isaac was incredibly active on the boards and tallied 18 points and 12 rebounds, both career highs, as the Magic stunned the Celtics, 93-90, on their home court.
The Magic led by as many as 13 points, but a contested corner three by Jaylen Brown pulled the Celtics within one with 1:11 remaining. Seconds later, Isaac responded, not only showing the confidence to take a pull-up 19-footer, but the ability to make it, increasing the Magic lead to 91-86 with 53.7 seconds remaining.
Thanks to some strong closeouts and defense that helped compensate for some questionable shot selections at the other end, the Magic managed to hold off the Celtics at the end of the fourth for what is as impressive of a victory as it gets for Orlando.
Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 24 points and and 12 rebounds. Evan Fournier added 14 points and a career-high 10 assists. D.J. Augustin also recorded a double-double with 10 point and 10 assists, with seven of his dishes coming in the first half as the Magic established their lead. The Magic assisted on 28 of their 38 buckets.
Fournier’s 10th assist came on a dish to Augustin, who hit a three with just over five minutes remaining for a 84-77 lead.
Playing against one of the league’s best for the second straight game, the Magic again got off to a strong start, establishing a double-digit lead, just as they did against the Sixers on Saturday.
It started with Isaac, which was a very welcome sight given his start to the season. Isaac, who entered the game having scored just 16 points combined in three games, scored nine points in the first quarter, including a three midway through that opened a 17-10 advantage for the Magic. Behind strong ball movement (nine assists) and efficient shooting (52 percent), the Orlando lead would increase to 12 in the first quarter.
But an ugly trend began where the Magic failed to close out each of the first three quarters, allowing the Celtics to creep back in. A step-back three by Terry Rozier with two seconds left in the first pulled the Celtics within 28-19.
The Magic lead would again reach 13 points early in the second. But the Celtics chipped away and a three by Irving followed by a jumper by Tatum with 1.3 seconds left made it a one possession game as the Celtics pulled within 48-45 heading into the break.
Vucevic led the Magic in the first half with 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting.
V CH is having himself a night.— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) October 23, 2018
16 points & 9 rebounds
Magic 48, Celtics 45 at halftime. pic.twitter.com/lZPv5DC1tb
The Magic lead again grew to 13 points once again with 4:47 left in the third when Aaron Gordon drained a three for a 68-55 lead. And again, the Celtics would close the quarter strong, with a pull-up J by Irving and a three by Hayward with 11.7 seconds left to bring Boston within 75-70 heading into the fourth.
For every Celtics run, the Magic had a response.
When Augustin missed a three with just over four minutes left, Vucevic converted an acrobatic tip in for his first basket since first half, giving the Magic a 86-79 lead.
Off a missed floater by Fournier, Isaac soared in for the offensive rebound and put back for an 88-81 lead with 3:19.
When Irving pulled the Celtics within one with 14.4 seconds left, Fournier then drained two free throws with 7.8 seconds to increase the lead to 93-90. Irving and Hayward each had quality looks at a potential game-tying three in the closing seconds, but neither could convert, as the Celtics finished just 9-for-40 on threes.
The Magic walked away with an uplifting victory. Coming off a disheartening back-to-back that included a disaster of a loss against the Hornets and a heartbreaking defeat to the Sixers, the Magic showed that they can compete with the East’s best and that’s just what this team needed to get back on track.
And think about this for one second: the Magic were essentially one basket away from being 3-1, with wins on the road against the Sixers and Celtics.