It had been twelve days since the Magic last played a game on their home floor. In fact, it would be correct to say they hadn’t played at the Amway Center since last year.
After an eleven-day, six-game road trip ended for Orlando with just a lone win against the Chicago Bulls, the Magic returned home and defeated the Boston Celtics Saturday night, 105-103.
The Magic won both games against the Celtics this season, the first time they’ve won the season series against Boston since the ‘09-’10 season. The Magic beat the Celtics in Boston earlier this season (in late October).
Aaron Gordon led the way for the Magic with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Gordon went 13-13 from the free throw line. Orlando, one of the worst clubs in the league at getting to the free throw line, went 22 for 24 from the charity stripe as a team.
Steve Clifford’s bench played an integral part in Saturday night’s win. Isaiah Briscoe (4 assists) and Khem Birch (10 rebounds), two guys that haven’t played a whole lot this season, were +20 and +23 in the contest respectively. Terrence Ross chipped in 25 points off Orlando’s bench to boot.
Orlando looked unsettled to begin the game. Gordon picked up two fouls (one defensive foul, one offensive foul) in the game’s first four possessions. Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac failed to communicate with one another on an early defensive rebounding opportunity. Neither player corralled the ball, and Boston got a wide-open three from Marcus Morris as a result.
Orlando missed 16 of their first 19 attempts from the field, but closed the first quarter positively behind strong play from Gordon (who had 11 first quarter points).
The Magic began the second quarter on an 8-0 run (17-1 run stretching back to the end of the opening period). Birch gave Coach Clifford some really strong minutes in the first half. The Canadian big-man scored 4 points (including a thunderous put-back dunk), pulled down 6 boards, and blocked two shots in his nine first half minutes.
After a Boston timeout with 10:36 remaining in the second quarter, the Celtics proceeded to go on a 17-3 run to reclaim the lead mid-second quarter.
Orlando had some defensive lapses to close the half which allowed Boston to get off some clean looks from three-point distance (5-8 on 3PTA’s in the period). Boston took a double-digit lead into halftime (51-41).
Both teams went back-and-forth for the majority of the third quarter without the Magic able to cut into Boston’s lead.
That changed stemming from a play on the defensive end by Briscoe, who is now playing the back-up point guard position for Clifford. Al Horford blew by Vucevic off a shot-fake as the shot-clock was winding down. Briscoe slid in and took Horford on head-on, drawing an offensive foul from the seven footer in the paint. A couple possessions later, Briscoe dove on the floor and outworked Terry Rozier to grab a loose ball, which led to an uncontested dunk for Isaac.
The Magic evened the scored with 8:15 left in the fourth quarter on a big play in transition that started with a Ross steal, and ended with a huge Gordon dunk from Evan Fournier.
The Magic stretched their lead to seven points with just under six minutes remaining in the game on a corner three from Fournier, who was set-up nicely by Birch.
With the Magic up three points late in the game, the coaching staff decided to foul Boston and send them to the free throw line (rather than allow them to try and tie the game). Kyrie Irving was fouled and calmly knocked down both free throws to draw the contest within a point with 10.2 seconds remaining.
After Vucevic went 1-2 from the line, the Celtics called timeout, down two points with 2.9 seconds remaining in the game. Boston got a clean look off, but a corner jumper from Jayson Tatum missed long as time expired.
Irving led the way for Boston with 24 points (10-12 FTA’s). All five Boston starters scored in double-figures.
Evan Fournier had a really nice game Saturday, responding from his 1-point performance in Utah Wednesday night. Fournier had 18 points, and Vucevic posted a double-double (16 points and 13 rebounds) once again as he continues to push for his first All-Star berth.
The Magic outscored the Celtics 64-52 in the second half.
Orlando will look to build on their performance tomorrow night. Things don’t get any easier for the Magic as they welcome James Harden and the Houston Rockets to town (6:00 EST tip-off).