BOSTON — The Orlando Magic have won just 21 games this season, but it looked for much of Friday night like the Celtics were going to lose to them twice in six days.
The Magic grabbed the lead midway through the second quarter and didn’t trail again until less than three minutes remained in the fourth. But thanks to a near-perfect final frame by Evan Turner, the Celtics were able to pull away for a 95-88 victory — their fifth win in their last sixth games.
The ending was thrilling, sure, but wouldn’t the preponderance of bad basketball leave a bad taste in head coach Brad Stevens’ mouth? Apparently, no.
“I think this is one of the best wins we’ve had,” Stevens said after the game. “And the reason I say that is because we didn’t have it. Like I said earlier, we didn’t have it. We had to figure it out and we had to find a way, and that’s not easy. But it’s a long game. If you stay the course, you get enough opportunities. You just can’t — you have to take advantage of them, especially late, and your margin for error goes down the further you’re down.
“But we were very efficient scoring late, in large part because Evan thought he was throwing the ball in the ocean.”
— Isaiah Thomas did not play Friday and will not travel to Indiana for Saturday’s game as he continues to recover from a badly bruised lower back. He remains a possibility for Monday’s matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, per Stevens.
— In keeping with their annual tradition, the Celtics wore special St. Patrick’s Day-themed jerseys for the game. As was the case last season, they were of the sleeved variety.
Turner, shown here modeling the new duds, finished with a game- and season-high 30 points, 16 of which came in the fourth.
— Rookie big man Aaron Gordon finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for the Magic. Gordon was Orlando’s highest-scoring bench player, and his performance allows us to recall that time he passed out on the Red Line during a trip to Boston last summer.
[tweet https://twitter.com/IamAaronGordon/status/472218563194142721 align=’center’]
Gordon also did this to Tyler Zeller:
— James Young’s minutes have been cut down dramatically since Kelly Olynyk returned from injury, and Stevens was asked before the game whether he’s given any thought to sending the rookie back down for another stint with the Maine Red Claws. The coach said he’s certainly considered it, but he stressed that the Celtics need all the depth they have given their strenuous schedule.
?We talk about that stuff all the time,” Stevens said before the game. “I guess our days off are relative to what people would consider a day off. I mean, we play every other day, and we had better maintain our legs, and we?re going to need some depth. … We see it right now with Isaiah being out, but you?re one tweaked ankle or one bad meal away from needing everybody on the bench again in a lot of minutes.”
— Magic point guard Elfrid Payton did something Friday he hadn’t done since Jan. 2: Hit a 3-pointer. He hit two, in fact. Shots of the 1-point variety, meanwhile, presented a much greater challenge for the rookie.
Payton, a 55.2 percent free-throw shooter this season, went a woeful 4-for-15 from the line in the loss. His 15 attempts were more than all his Magic teammates combined — a stat that did not come by accident.
“At the end of the third quarter, we were trying to foul (Payton),” Stevens said. “I think he’s really good, but we were.”
Photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images