Daniel Theis made several clutch plays during the closing stretch of Friday night’s matchup in Orlando, but none were bigger than his momentum-swinging dunk with just under two minutes remaining, which shut the door on a late Magic rally.
Orlando went on a 17-8 run late in the final frame, which cut a 95-81 Celtics advantage down to just a five-point lead with 2:30 left to play. A red-hot Evan Fournier then tried to bring Orlando within two with a 3-point attempt, but the ship carromed off the front-rim and landed in the hands of Celtics rookie Javonte Green to set up the pivotal play of the game.
Green handed the ball off to Kemba Walker, who dribbled just past center court, where he was met by Magic guard Markelle Fultz. Theis came over and set a screen on Fultz, which forced 7-foot center Nikola Vucevic to switch onto Boston’s speedy, 6-foot point guard.
After fighting off the screen, Fultz went over to help Vucivic, which allowed Theis to roll toward the basket unguarded. Once the double-team arrived, Walker tossed the ball over to his wide-open center, who caught it at the free-throw line, pump-faked Terrance Ross, and then drove straight ahead for a two-handed tomahawk jam that put the Celtics on top 105-98 with 1:44 remaining.
The electrifying dunk completely killed Orlando’s rally, as the C’s held the Magic scoreless for the remainder of the contest, while pulling away for a 109-98 win.
With three of their top six scorers sidelined Friday night, the Boston Celtics needed somebody to step up big on the offensive end. That somebody was – no surprise – Kemba Walker.
Walker helped to make up for the voids of Jaylen Brown, Enes Kanter and Jayson Tatum by pouring in a game-high 37 points just one night after being named an All-Star starter. The Celtics point guard shot 12-of-23 from the field, 6-of-12 from long range, and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line during his 36 minutes of action.
Walker didn't just impact the game through his scoring, however; he also tied Marcus Smart for the game-high in assists with six, while snagging a game-leading four steals on the other end of the floor.
Box Score Nuggets
- Kemba Walker led all scorers with 37 points.
- Walker was also the game's top ball hawk, as he snagged four steals.
- Evan Fornier paced the Magic in scoring with 30 points.
- Boston's starters shot a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.
- Gordon Hayward had the best rebounding effort of his Celtics career as he grabbed 14 boards.
- Grant Williams led the game with two blocks.
- Orlando only blocked one shot as a team.
- Boston led by as many as 14 points, while Orlando led by as many as 16.
- The Celtics snagged twice as many steals (10) as the Magic (five).
- Both teams logged 13 second-chance points.
- The win marked Brad Stevens' 300th with the Celtics.
Quote of the Night
He willed us to be in that game.
Brad Stevens on Kemba Walker