Without three key players, the Orlando Magic scrapped and clawed on Sunday evening, but it was not enough as the Boston Celtics rallied late before holding on in overtime, 122-119.
The contest was close throughout, but it looked as though Orlando (32-39) was going to find a way. Nikola Vucevic had pushed the Orlando lead to five on a difficult jumper with 48 seconds to go, but Celtics’ forward Jayson Tatum had the answer.
After a second-chance triple cut the lead to two, Tatum made a contested shot over Markelle Fultz with four seconds to play to knot the score at 112. Terrence Ross’ winning attempt on the other end was blocked and the contest went to overtime.
Fultz scored the first basket of overtime to put the Magic in front, but Boston (47-23) was able to get to the foul line when it mattered. Three free throws by Gordon Hayward put the Celtics in front for good with 2:29 left in overtime. Tatum converted three of four free throws over the next two possessions.
Following a three-point player by Orlando’s Gary Clark Jr. to cut the lead to one, Boston responded with a Tatum jumper and then a Daniel Theis layup after a deflected pass got through a sea of Orlando arms. The Magic drew to within three on a dunk by Fultz and then got a stop, but Vucevic’s tying three-point attempt fell just short.
Orlando trailed by as many as eight in the second quarter, but finished the half strong and that carried over into the third quarter. Back-to-back triples from D.J. Augustin and Clark midway through the fourth gave the Magic a 106-101 lead, but they unable to build on that lead after two scoreless minutes.
Without Jonathan Isaac, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, multiple Magic players had career-nights. Clark’s 15 points and Melvin Frazier’s eight were each career-highs. Vucevic led Orlando with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Ross, Fultz, Augustin and James Ennis III all hit double-figures with 18, 16, 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Hayward paced Boston with 31 points on an efficient 12-for-18 shooting. Tatum added 29 points. Jaylen Brown chipped in with 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
For Orlando to clinch the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, it will need to beat the Brooklyn Nets and New Orleans Pelicans in its final two games and have Brooklyn lose out. The Nets play the Los Angeles Clippers later before taking on the Magic and Portland Trail Blazers.