Moe Wagner posted a season-high 25 points, his younger brother Franz had 19, and rookie Paolo Banchero scored 20 – his 18th 20-plus-point performance already in his career – as the Orlando Magic notched their fifth straight victory with Friday’s 117-109 road win over the first-place Boston Celtics.
After a Jaylen Brown 3-pointer cut Orlando’s lead to eight with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Markelle Fultz made three straight shots – two from the mid-range and the other a driving layup. Then, with just under three minutes left, the 6-foot-4 guard dished out a kickout pass to Banchero for a wide-open 3-pointer.
This is the Magic’s first five-game winning streak since winning the final three games before the pandemic pause and the first two in the Disney bubble. The last time Orlando won at least five straight without a season hiatus was when they reeled off six consecutive victories in March 2019.
The Celtics, tied coming into Friday’s action with the Nuggets for the best 3-point percentage in the league, made just 11 of their 46 3-point attempts (23.9 percent). They knocked down just five of them after the first quarter. This was Boston’s worst 3-point percentage with at least 40 attempts from downtown since Dec. 29, 2021. The Magic outrebounded the C’s 53-38, including 15-10 on the offensive glass.
This was Boston’s first non-overtime home loss of the season. Their other two defeats at TD Garden – against the Cavs and Heat – required an extra session.
Quote of the Day
“Just the fact that we are making improvements – taking the right steps to get better every day. We are having fun. That’s just leading to easy points. Our defense is playing well. We have to keep that up to help fuel our offense. If we keep doing that, we’ll be fine.” – Terrence Ross
Gary Harris (right hamstring soreness), Wendell Carter Jr. (right plantar fascia strain), Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness), and Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation) were out for the Magic. Danilo Gallinari (knee) was unavailable for the Celtics.
This Day in History
One of the Magic’s most memorable regular season games in franchise history came on Dec. 16, 1994, when Shaquille O’Neal scored 40 points and Penny Hardaway tallied 38 points with 13 assists in their overtime win over the Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Latrell Sprewell erupted for 40 points for the Warriors, while Tim Hardaway dished out 22 assists, tied with John Lucas for the second-most in team history. Guy Rodgers once handed out 28 dimes in 1963 when they were the San Francisco Warriors.
The Celtics are obviously great. They rank No. 1 in offense and No. 8 in defense. The question at this point is which of the other top-tier Eastern Conference teams has the best chance to beat Boston in a seven-game playoff series. Most will point to Milwaukee because of everything Giannis Antetokounmpo does. Cleveland will be a tough out. But there’s arguments to be made for both Brooklyn and Philadelphia. The Nets, since Jacque Vaughn took over as head coach, have been the second-best team in the league. The Sixers, meanwhile, have the game’s most dominant player right now in Joel Embiid.
The rematch between the Magic and Celtics will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. This is the fourth of six times this season in which the Magic will play the same opponent in back-to-back games in the same city. Last month, the Magic were in Indianapolis for two straight games against the Pacers, while the Sixers visited Orlando for consecutive contests. In late January/early February, the Magic will have an extended stay in Philadelphia. The Cavs come to Orlando for two straight in April.