(AP Photo/John Raoux)
By Patrick Whalen
The Celtics came into Saturday night coming off a blowout 16 point loss to the Heat that also featured some tempers flaring between teammates. The Celtics looked to put all that behind them as they took on the Orlando Magic down in Orlando. The Celtics injury report featured the usual combo of Aron Baynes still out and Al Horford still on his minutes restriction. Meanwhile, good news for the Celtics was the Magic were without two big men as both rookie Mo Bamba and Timofey Mozgov were both out with injuries. the Celtics and Magic both struggled in the first but jumped out to a 10 point half time lead thanks to a good second quarter.
The leader of that offense that helped them jump out to the halftime lead was none other than Kyrie Irving. Kyrie had 25 points on 7-16 shooting with 6 assists and 5 rebounds including getting buckets like this fade away early and his best sky hook imitation.
Perennial All-Star Marcus Morris continued his good play as well going for 17 points on 6-12 shooting with 8 rebounds. Tatum was third on the Celtics in scoring with 16 points but was just 6-16 from the floor. Al Horford bounced back from his poor performance in Miami with a double-double going for 10 points and 11 rebounds while also getting 4 assists and 4 steals. Smart kept his offensive presence going with 10 points on 4-7 shooting including this nice drive and finish.
The Celtics bench also had someone break double figures last night as Jaylen Brown had 13 points on 5-9 shooting (Basketball-Reference.com).
The Magic opened up the second half by battling back in the third and cutting the Celtics 10 point lead down to just 5 to start the fourth quarter. Leading Orlando’s come back efforts was Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross. Gordon had 28 points and 12 rebounds while Ross had 25 points on 8-20 shooting off the bench. Nikola Vucevic also had a double-double himself with 16 points and 13 rebounds to help the Magic win the battle on the glass. Evan Fournier also chipped in 18 points on 8-15 shooting (Basketball-Reference.com). This scoring outburst helped the Magic come all the way back and hold a two-point lead late in the fourth. The Celtics on-court frustrations between teammates reared its ugly face yet again during the final seconds. After coming out of a timeout down two the Celtics were inbounding with just two seconds left. Gordon Hayward then inbounded the ball to Tatum for the last shot which he missed to seal the Celtics 105-103 loss to the Magic but then Kyrie angrily confronted Hayward screaming about his decision to give Tatum the ball rather than wait for Kyrie to start his motion. Like Hayward said postgame it wasn’t a horrible shot but it as a Celtics player you can’t be mad at Gordon when if the Celtics could have simply hit free throws they would have won by 7 points rather than taking another tough loss to a mediocre team in the east.
This game was a painful loss for the Celtics as they now fall to 25-17 on the season and 6 games out of first in the east. Lossing to a team like Orlando is unacceptable for a team with this much talent and to think that if the Celtics just hit all their free throws they win by 7 is just frustrating to think. This team just needs to figure out their roles and gain some consistency because that is definitely one thing this team lacks, consistency. Especially off the bench in the likes of Hayward, Brown, and Rozier. Kyrie talked post game how this team had no expectations last year and it allowed them to play freely and that playing with expectations this year is something new for everyone on the team. If the Celtics ever want to even come close to reaching those expectations the bench needs to become more consistent and so does Al Horford and Marcus Smart who can score anywhere between 2-25 points on any given night.
Up next the Celtics will have Sunday off before heading to Brooklyn on Monday to take on the Nets who they beat just last week in the Garden by a score of 116-95. the Celtics need a bounce-back win here against a mediocre team in Brooklyn before they come home for another big test on Wednesday as the Raptors will be coming to visit the Garden. Let’s hope the Celtics can handle business in Brooklyn before coming home again.
And of course, remember to vote for all your favorite Celtic players for the 2019 All-Star game. Hit the link below to help send the boys in green to Charlotte to represent the Celtics in the All-Star festivities.