By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Rust? What rust?
Despite having not played a game for a week – a week the majority of their players spent in quarantine – the Celtics looked just fine on Friday night, taking down the Orlando Magic 124-97 at TD Garden.
It was a win-by-committee, with a number of players stepping up at different moments of the game. Six Celtics scored in double figures, and five had at least 14 points. Every player active for the game hit at least one shot.
The Celtics jumped out to a quick 13-6 lead at the first TV timeout. Their early defense was smothering, and the Magic turned the ball over three times in the first four minutes. By the time Boston had taken nine shots, Orlando had just four.
Despite their depleted roster, the Celtics’ second unit held the lead for the remainder of the quarter. A pair of Marcus Smart three pointers proved to be the difference after 12 minutes, with Boston up 34-28.
Rookie sensation Payton Pritchard found his stroke to start the second quarter. The 22-year-old accounted for seven of the Celtics’ first 10 points of the quarter. When the starters returned, the momentum continued, with Boston stretching the lead to double-digits midway through the quarter.
Approaching halftime, Boston’s active leading scorer started to find a rhythm of his own. Jaylen Brown assisted on two baskets, before scoring seven straight points. He had a game-high 14 points at the half, and the Celtics led 60-48 heading into the break.
The second half went the way most of the first 24 minutes did for the Celtics, as they continued to find secondary scoring options despite the absence of Jayson Tatum. Five quick points from Jeff Teague drew an early Magic timeout. Just three minutes into the second half, the Boston lead had grown to 69-53. That gap would be maintained for the remainder of the quarter, with the Celtics going into the fourth up 88-72.
With a comfortable lead and number of players returning from the NBA’s health & safety guidelines, Brad Stevens was able to go deep into his bench in the fourth quarter. Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall each saw solid playing time to close things out.
With Tatum out, Brown carried the torch offensively. He scored a game-high 21 points, and tied his career high with eight assists. Semi Ojeleye turned in a season-high 18 points, and Teague, making his second start of the year, added 17. Two Celtics grabbed double-figure rebounds, Tristan Thompson (11) and Daniel Theis (10).
With their fifth win in a row, Boston improves to 8-3, the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics will stay for their next game, hosting the Knicks on Sunday. Coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub, leading up to a 1:00 tip.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com