Celtics

BSJ Game Report: Magic 93, Celtics 90 – Offense stumbles again

(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Everything you need to know about the Magic's 93-90 win over the Celtics at the TD Garden on Monday night

Box Score

HEADLINES

A late rally falls short: The Celtics never led in this one, as the Magic built a double-digit lead in the first half that the hosts chipped away at all game long with limited success due to a woeful offensive shooting performance (22.5 percent from 3-point range). A strong second half by Kyrie Irving (17 of his 22 points after intermission) helped pull the C’s to within three points in the closing seconds. However, Gordon Hayward (11 points) and Irving missed game-tying 3 point attempts in the closing seconds as the Magic held on for the road win. Four Orlando players posted double-doubles in the win, led by Nikola Vucevic (24 points, 12 rebounds)     

Starters struggle again: The widely hyped starting five struggled out of the gate yet again on Monday night, falling behind early thanks to some woeful offensive performance by Jayson Tatum (3-of-12), Jaylen Brown (2-of-9) and Al Horford (5-of-13). The Magic starters outscored them 79-60 on the night and their sluggish defense at the start of the game earned the entire group an extended benching for a five minute stretch in the first half.

Robert Williams makes debut: The rookie big man got a chance against Orlando in the second half for three minutes as the C’s tried to match up with a sizable frontline of Vucevic and Mo Bamba without the services of Aron Baynes (strained hamstring). Williams did not post any stats in his brief stint but had a nice defensive stop on Vucevic in the post. He may see additional opportunities in the coming days with Baynes sidelined for an uncertain amount of time.  

TURNING POINT

Irving had a chance to take a 3-point shot with the Celtics trailing 91-88 with 22 seconds remaining in the game. Instead, he opted for a relatively quick two points on a long jump shot, instead of searching out a look for himself or his teammates beyond the arc. The Magic made a pair of free throws on the other end and forced the C’s into a couple of attempts from downtown as time expired. Looking back, Irving regretted not going for the 3 with more time left on the clock.

TWO UP

Irving in the second half: The All-Star snapped out of his offensive funk after the break, carrying the C’s offense with 17 of his 22 points over the final 24 minutes to keep the hosts competitive on an off-shooting night. The point guard also chipped in with a season-high eight rebounds and five assists over 34 minutes.  

Gordon Hayward: The minutes' restriction for the small forward came back to bite the Celtics on Monday night as Hayward was the only Celtic having a good shooting night from deep (3-of-5). He scored 11 points in 24 minutes but was tied for fifth in shot attempts on the team with eight. On a night where his teammates couldn’t find a rhythm, he should have found a few more opportunities.    

TWO DOWN

Jaylen Brown: The shooting guard has made a living in this spot all season long and his struggles continued on Monday night. He finished with just five points in 31 minutes on 2-of-9 shooting and was a team-worst minus-15 over that stretch. On the season, he’s now shooting a team worst 34 percent from the field and has attempted just seven free throws over four games.

Terry Rozier: Nine shot attempts in 15 minutes was a bit too much for the sparkplug off the bench. He was forcing a lot of looks that didn’t go down (2-of-9 overall) and it looks like he was pressing a little bit in his limited minutes.  

TOP PLAY

TWO TAKES B-ROBB WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER

The Celtics need to find ways to get to the free throw line: After Monday’s loss, the Celtics now rank 30th in the league in free throw attempts, averaging just 16.5 per game after taking just nine on Monday night. While there’s no doubt that this is a jump shooting team, they need to be more aggressive attacking defenses on nights where the deep ball isn’t falling. They’ve got plenty of talent that can get in the paint between Irving, Hayward and Brown, but that trio combined for zero total free throws against the Magic. Creating contract needs to be a bigger point of emphasis going forward for that trio.

Defense is going to be the way this team has to win games for a while: The offense is undoubtedly a work in progress and that’s going to be a problem for at least another few weeks while Brad Stevens tries to iron out the kinks and get this group working cohesively. As we saw last season, the defense can keep this group in every game though and that’s an area that will need to be counted on over this upcoming stretch. There were some unnecessary lapses against one of the worst offensive teams in the league in Orlando on Monday night (bad fouls, uncontested shots) and those need to be cleaned up for the C’s to have any chance over this stretch. Otherwise, a change in the starting five with a stronger defensive presence (Aron Baynes) could be in order.