For a while, it seemed it was going to be “new year, new me” for the Orlando Magic.
The Magic had some familiar faces back in the lineup with Mo Bamba and Terrence Ross among those cleared to return from health and safety protocols. And they held a late 14-point lead in what seemed on its way to being an impressive road victory in Boston that would snap a four-game losing streak and start the year on a positive note.
Instead, the Magic opened 2022 with a fourth quarter collapse and overtime loss, falling to the Celtics, 116-111. That was thanks in large part to Jaylen Brown, who scored a career-high 50 points to power the comeback for the Jayson-Tatum-less Celtics.
It had been a slow start to the game for Orlando, which opened the game going 2-for-11 from the field as the Celtics took an early 16-5 lead.
Wendell Carter Jr. then scored seven straight points, including a runner over Al Horford and a three off the kick out from Hassani Gravett to pull the Magic within six. A 12-2 Magic run was capped by a Bamba three to make it 18-17 with 2:27 left in the quarter.
The Celtics used an 8-0 run to take a 28-19 after one, with Marcus Smart scoring 10 first quarter points, making all seven of his attempts from the line.
Threes began falling for the Celtics in the second, extending their run to 19-6 after makes by Brown and Pritchard pushed the lead to 37-23 early in the second.
Despite the Magic’s offensive struggles, they remained in the game thanks to contributions off the bench from Ross, and Boston committing 14 first-half turnovers.
Orlando closed the second on 14-4 run, with a late runner by Moe Wagner making it a one-possession game at 45-42 at the end of the half. The Magic trailed by only three at the break despite shooting just 37.5 percent, making 2 of 10 attempts from three.
Brown had 17 points at the half for the Celtics, who shot 38.9 percent.
Ross and Gary Harris scored 11 points each in the third as Orlando established its lead. The Magic closed the quarter on a 20-4 run, capped with consecutive threes by Ross and Bamba in the final minute, to take a 77-65 lead into the fourth.
After the Celtics pulled within single digits in the fourth, Ross drained a deep three early in the shot clock to push the lead back to 94-82. Wagner followed with a drive that made it 96-82 with 4:20 left.
Then the Boston comeback began.
The Celtics went on a 7-0 run to pull with 96-89 before Wagner answered with a drive and finish with the left hand. Brown responded with a three to bring the Celtics within 98-92. After a foul on Carter Jr.’s shot attempt was overturned, Smart drove the lane for a layup that made it 98-94. Brown then converted a layup plus the foul, though he missed the free throw, to make it a two-point game at 98-96.
Wagner was then stripped from behind by Smart, who fed Brown in transition for a lefty layup that tied the score at 98-98 with 37.8 seconds left.
Marcus steal ➡️ Jaylen finish! pic.twitter.com/kPvaNcg1hb— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 3, 2022
After the Magic were called for a five-second violation, Brown split two defenders for a layup that put the Celtics back on top at 100-98 with 30 seconds left. An up-and-under by Tim Frazier seconds later at the other end tied it at 100-100 with 21.8 seconds to go.
Brown missed a contested fadeaway to send the game to overtime.
The Celtics went up 110-104 in OT, highlighted by threes from Brown and Dennis Schroder. Ross then drained a corner three plus the foul to pull the Magic within two with 1:07 left. Carter blocked a layup attempted by Josh Richardson and then at the other end hit one of two free throws to make it a one-point game. Horford answered with a corner three for a 113-109 lead, and the Celtics sealed it with free throws from there.
Al Horford with the DAGGER pic.twitter.com/vAa9RO1nnU— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 3, 2022
Brown shot 19-for-29 on his career night, going 5 of 10 from deep. He also had 11 rebounds and four assists. Schroder added 21 points and seven assists.
JAYLEN BROWN WITH 50 POINTS pic.twitter.com/JSm77ygNSW— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 3, 2022
Ross led the Magic with a season-hgh 33 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 4 of 8 from three. Harris finished with 23 points. Carter had 15 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists. Wagner and Frazier each scored 14 points.
Tough loss for the Magic, but they don’t get much time to think about it. They complete a back-to-back on Monday in Chicago when they face old friend Nikola Vucevic and the East-leading Bulls.