By John Denton Nov. 24, 2017
BOSTON – Two days removed from seeing their 16-game winning streak come to an end, the Boston Celtics captured a victory on Friday that just might propel them to another noteworthy winning streak.
Sadly, for the Orlando Magic, they are also in the midst of a noteworthy streak, but it’s one they want no part of and can’t wait to get rid of.
Once darlings of the NBA following a stellar start to the season, the Magic fell further into the abyss on Friday with a seventh consecutive defeat – this one a game where they collapsed on the defensive end, trailed by as much as 32 points and fell 118-103 to the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics.
``No, (the sense of desperation) wasn’t (there) and we played like it was just another game. We didn’t play like they are first in the East and we’re on a losing streak,’’ said Magic forward Aaron Gordon, who scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but made just two of 10 shots. ``I’m not sure (why). I can do my best to try and rally guys, but … We have guys who are remaining positive, but when it comes down to it, we have to perform.’’
Orlando (8-11) hasn’t won since Nov. 10 and winning was never much of a possibility on Friday after the way the Celtics (17-3) rained in 3-pointers from all corners of the TD Garden early on. The Magic yielded highs for points allowed in a first quarter (40) and a first half (73) while allowing Boston one uncontested shot after another. The Celtics made 11 3-pointers in the first half and 17 threes for the game.
``We’re giving in too much right now and we’ve got to correct that,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``We’ve got to get better with that, show more toughness and fight. I think they’re trying, but not playing tough enough – not anywhere near tough enough.’’
The listless performance led to the continuation of another disheartening streak for the Magic concerning their lack of luck in Boston. Orlando has now dropped its last 14 games on Boston’s parquet floor – a streak that incredibly dates back to February of 2010.
An Orlando team that moved the ball exquisitely early in the season while piling up scoring and shooting records had just 11 assists in the game’s first three quarters. The Magic had nearly as many assists in the fourth quarter – 10 over the final 12 minutes – even though the team’s third string was on the floor.
The game was so out of hand that Vogel spent much of the second half tinkering with rotations to try and find something – anything, really, at this point – to spark some life. Orlando opened the second half with Jonathon Simmons in the starting lineup in place of small forward Evan Fournier, the team’s leading scorer on the season.
Later, Vogel pulled Gordon out of the game early in the third period when the standout forward took a spinning, contested fade-away attempt early in the shots clock – the kind of low-percentage plays that the coach has tried to deter Gordon from taking. Gordon and Fournier eventually came into the game together with 5:19 left in the third period.
Said Gordon of the benching: ``I want to be held accountable and I like being coached like that. I appreciate that he’s doing that and I want him to do that from here on out. To make me an example (for others), I’m all for that. I hope that’s how we play from here on out. If you want to stay in the game, that’s how you are going to have to play. Pick up your performance defensively and make the right play offensively. That keeps people from being lackadaisical and (Vogel) did a great job of coming down and explaining why he took us out. I appreciate that and I like being coached like that.’’
Added Vogel: ``I was taking everybody out for defensive breakdowns in the third quarter, the whole group. There were five guys pulled out for defensive breakdowns and then we put in (Simmons) on (Boston point guard) Kyrie (Irving), so someone had to come out of the starting lineup.’’
Orlando trailed by 14 at the end of the first quarter, 26 at the half and by 30 as the fourth quarter was beginning.
If not for reserve big man Marreese Speights – who scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter on four 3-pointers – the game would have been even more one-sided. Simmons scored 14 points, while Nikola Vucevic chipped in 12 points and 11 rebounds and Elfrid Payton added 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. Fournier was uncharacteristically off the mark again, making just three of 13 shots and scoring seven points.
Boston’s Kyrie Irving, who had a subpar game in Orlando when the Celtics beat the Magic 19 days ago, scored 30 points in just 25 minutes. Terry Rozier scored 23 points and hit five 3-pointers off the Boston bench. Al Horford scored just five points, but he handed out 10 assists – many of them leading to 3-point shots.
The Celtics shot 46.2 percent, while the Magic finished at 43.2 percent from the floor. Orlando missed nine of its first 10 3-point attempts, but managed to hit nine of 24 for the game.
Orlando will be back in action again on Saturday night as it played the Philadelphia 76ers for the first time this season. Whereas the Magic will be playing a second time in as many nights, the 76ers should be well-rested after having Thursday and Friday off.
Early in the night, the Magic actually led by four points – a shocking fact considering that they yielded season highs for points in a first quarter (40) and a half (73) and trailed by as much as 28 points in the first 24 minutes. Orlando hit intermission trailing 73-47 and with far more questions than answers.
``If you’re not going to switch (point guards through centers), then this is what these types of teams are going to do,’’ Vogel said of Boston’s desire to pick-and-pop for 3-pointers. ``They create confusion with your defense. There were a handful of possessions like that, but we’ve just got to tighten things up on that (defensive) end.’’
Orlando’s defense was repeatedly burned by pick-and-roll plays that resulted in wide-open 3-point shots for the Celtics. When defenders either couldn’t get over screens or didn’t fight hard enough to do so, it left Magic big men mostly defenseless against Boston’s shooters.
Boston made five of its first seven 3-point shots, seven of 12 in the first quarter and at one point in the second period it was nine of 17 from beyond the arc. At that very same moment, the Magic had connected on just one of 10 tries from 3-point range.
``We just have to be a lot more physical,’’ said Magic guard Terrence Ross, who scored five points. ``Even if they are hitting shots, we have to have more pride and have a mentality of going out there and hitting somebody in the mouth. We can’t keep letting people feel good and do what they want to do. We have to play with more physicality.’’
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