Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Sometimes in professional sports — and life in general, really, as we continue to descend closer towards undeniable madness with each passing day — there’s things that just don’t seem to make much sense.

The NBA-best Celtics’ struggles with the Orlando Magic, who even after Monday’s triumph over the Celtics remain in the third-worst spot in the East and 4.5 games out of the playoff play-in tournament, would certainly fall under that umbrella.

On the wrong end of a 113-98 final at Orlando’s Amway Center, the Celtics have now dropped three of four meetings with the Magic in 2022-23, with defeats to Orlando making up 23 percent of the Green’s total losses on the year.

”I think it says more about Orlando and how they played tonight,” Boston interim coach Joe Mazzulla said after the loss, which put an end to the C’s nine-game winning streak. ”They were physical, they played with an edge the entire game. We had a lot of good moments of that, but I thought they played really well.”

  • Jan 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) dunks the ball against the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) dunks the ball against the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. (Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Down by seven through the opening 12 minutes of action — and with Jayson Tatum struggling to put points up behind a 1-for-4 start with two misses from deep and even a free-throw miss — the Celtics rallied to enter the locker room at halftime trailing by one, and showed bits of a potential ‘takeover’ coming.

    But when a poor shooting third-quarter effort (the Celtics dropped just nine of their 25 field goal attempts in the third quarter) collided with six turnovers, the Magic had more enough to dig the Celtics back into their hole with a nine-point deficit through 36 minutes of action. Complete with an injury scare for Tatum, too.

  • Fortunately for the Celtics, Tatum returned to the game, and speaking with reporters after the game, Tatum acknowledged it as a “stomach issue” and nothing more.

    The slight departure from the game did not stop Tatum from finishing the night as the Celtics’ leading scorer, with 26 points on 9-for-19 shooting (4-for-10 from three-point range) in 37:38 of action.

    Jaylen Brown matched Tatum’s output with a 26-point outing of his own on 10-for-22 shooting.

    But behind the Celtics’ one-two superstar punch, there wasn’t much to celebrate, as the rest of Boston’s starters (Al Horford, Blake Griffin, and Derrick White) combined for just 20 points on 7-for-18 shooting. Among that group, Horford struggled mightily, with makes on just two of his eight shots in 30:08 of play.

  • Jan 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA;  Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) guards Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) guards Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. (Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports)

  • The Magic, meanwhile, were paced by a team-leading 23 points from Paolo Banchero on a 7-for-13 shooting night from the 2022 No. 1 overall pick. Center Wendell Carter Jr. provided strong support behind Banchero, too, with 21 points on 8-for-13 and 11 rebounds, which was good for his fifth double-double of the season.

    Orlando’s starters were straight-up efficient throughout the night, in fact, as Orlando’s starting five of Banchero, Carter Jr., Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, and Franz Wagner went 27-for-53 from the field (50.9 percent).

    Bench presence and former North Carolina standout Cole Anthony also provided a lift, and stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists in just 23 minutes and change.

  • Jan 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) drives to the basket past Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony (50) in the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) drives to the basket past Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony (50) in the second quarter at Amway Center. (Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports)

  • In a game that saw the Celtics outmuscled and out-hustled, it was more than noticeable that Mazzulla and the Celtics played this game without guards Malcolm Brogdon (personal reasons) and Marcus Smart (ankle), as well as center Robert Williams III.

    The backcourt losses led to an increase role for Payton Pritchard, who logged a season-high 30:47, but Pritchard finished with just five points, three rebounds, and four dimes in the losing effort.

    Elsewhere on the bench, Sam Hauser came back to life, with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting (3-for-6 from deep) in just under 19 minutes of work. The 13-point outing was Hauser’s best scoring night since a 14-point night against Washington back on Nov. 27, while his 18:52 was his most action on the floor since a 23:02 night in Oklahoma City back on Jan. 3, which was Boston’s last loss previous to Monday night in Orlando.

    The Celtics will return to work Tuesday night against the Heat.

    Oh, and the good news: They’re done with the Magic for the remainder of the regular season.

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

*
*
By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.