The basket was the size of the ocean for the Orlando Magic in the fourth quarter of their last contest in Minnesota Monday night.
In the third quarter Wednesday, that ocean had dried up to a puddle.
The Boston Celtics, who blew a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of their last contest against Chicago Monday, ran away from Orlando in the second half - cruising to a 92-79 victory.
It’s not like the Celtics lit the world on fire Wednesday night, but they were the beneficiaries of a ten point Orlando third quarter (the second and fourth quarter offensive outputs weren’t much better).
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday evening on the air (while the Magic/Celtics game was being played) that Boston players held a ‘players only’ meeting prior to their game in Orlando.
The Magic began the game playing with a ton of energy, outhustling the Celtics to loose balls and controlling the glass. Orlando made six of their first eight attempts from the floor, and took a 16-11 lead into the first stoppage of play.
Boston settled in midway through the first quarter, steadied by Jaylen Brown, who scored 11 of his game-high 28 points in the opening period.
Despite two first quarter fouls called on Cole Anthony, the Magic were able to hold the lead after one session of play for the first time this season (trailed six previous contests, tied once).
Magic reserve guard R.J. Hampton gave the team a nice lift in the first half, scoring 7 points and pulling down 3 rebounds (in eight first half minutes). The second year guard made a conscious effort to push the ball in transition, while also staying under control (which has been a major problem for him this season).
A sloppy second quarter saw neither team eclipse 18 points in the period, and the Magic carried their first opening half lead of the season into intermission. Orlando and Boston both shot 30 percent from the field in the second quarter.
The Celtics, who lead the league with 7.3 team blocked shots per game in 2021-22, swatted six Magic attempts in the game’s first 24 minutes (finished the game with nine).
Wendell Carter Jr. scored 10 points in the first half, including two three-point field goals from the top of the key.
Things began to turn sour for the Magic right away in the second half with the Celtics opening the third quarter on a 11-0 run. The Magic missed their first ten attempts in the second half and turned the ball over three times as well (all within the first six minutes of the second half).
Coach Mosley tried to stop the bleeding, burning multiple timeouts in the third in an attempt to turn things around. But ultimately, the Celtics scored 23 of the first 25 points scored in the quarter. After holding slim leads following the first and second quarters, the Magic found themselves down by 19 points (outscored 31-10) heading into the fourth.
After the game, Coach Mosley mentioned that he tried to let his young players navigate their way through Boston’s run, but also had to balance what was best as far as trying to win the game, and that was to try and break-up what the Celtics were doing.
Orlando shot a putrid 2 for 17 from the floor in the third quarter (1 for 12 on 3PTA’s).
“I think that happens in a lot of cases, the ball will become sticky,” Mosely said when asked about settling for outside jump shots against Boston’s switching defense. “We talked about that a lot (before the game). As teams switch against us, there has to be a second action. We talked about it here, we talked about it in the locker room. They've experienced it, and they will continue to get better.”
“These are things that we will have to look at on film and see where certain cuts could have been made,” Mosley continued. “Could we have gone backdoor a couple times, could we have swung the ball to the second side more times? Again, shots are going to fall, shots are sometimes not going to fall. We have to continue going through the process.”
The cushion Boston created (or did Orlando create it with their offensive ineptitude?) was more than enough to allow them to coast their way down the stretch, despite only scoring 17 points in a fourth quarter that was effectively an after-thought.
If there’s any good news to come out of tonight it’s that the Magic will be home for their next four games (not including Wednesday) after playing six of their first eight games on the road.
“I think it’s going to be great for us to be home,” Mosley said when asked about Orlando’s homestand. “To build on some habits and get back to the foundation. Defensively, offensively, I think it will be good for us to be home.”
That next opportunity to get back to foundational basketball will come Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs, who defeated the Magic 123-97 on Opening Night.