The Boston Celtics were flat most of Monday night, and they paid the price for it late in the game.
Boston put up a late fourth-quarter comeback, but fell to the Orlando Magic 93-90 at TD Garden.
The Celtics failed to hit a game-tying 3-pointer in two opportunities in the final possession. Save for the comeback, it was a mostly uninspired performance, which put them in a tough spot the entire game. They never led and the only time the game was tied was at 2-2.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 22 points, while Al Horford (15) and Gordon Hayward (11) also scored in double figures. Nikola Vucevic was one of five Magic in double digits, scoring a team-high 24 points.
With the loss, the Celtics fall to 2-2, while the Magic climb to 2-2.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
F: Jayson Tatum
F: Gordon Hayward
C: Al Horford
The C’s were down a big man, as Aron Baynes was out with a right hamstring strain. Marcus Morris was a game-time decision but ended up playing.
MAGIC COME OUT FIRING
The Celtics struggled to be efficient on offense early on and the Magic capitalized, leading 28-19 after one. Boston trailed by as many as 12 at one point, shooting a dreadful 7-for-20 from the field, with Orlando going 13-for-25 from the floor.
Part of the C’s strife was getting manipulated in the paint, as they were outscored there 16-4 and out-rebounded 15-10. Terry Rozier kept the game within single digits by drilling a trey just before the buzzer sounded.
Jonathan Isaac led all scorers with nine points. Hayward and Horford each had six points.
C’S START BOUNCING BACK
The Celtics responded with a more energetic second stanza, outscoring the Magic 26-20 to head into the break down just 48-45.
The Celtics started chipping away at the Magic’s lead shortly into the period, pulling within three thanks to a 13-3 run midway through. Orlando opened things back up later in the frame, but some solid play down the stretch from the C’s cut its lead back down. Irving hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left to trim the deficit to five, then Tatum knocked down a 20-foot jumper to cut it to three just before the buzzer.
Vucevic led all players with 16 first-half points. The Celtics didn’t have anyone in double figures, but Hayward led the team with eight at the break.
The Celtics started to slip again in the third, but they showed some resolve late in the frame to keep things tight. They were outscored 27-25 and went into the fourth trailing 75-70.
The Magic didn’t wait long before getting comfortably back ahead. After just over four-and-a-half minutes, they forced Brad Stevens into a timeout by opening their advantage back up to nine.
With 51 seconds to go and the Celtics down 10, Irving — who led all players with 11 points in the third — knocked down a two-point jumper. Then with 11 seconds remaining, Hayward drained a three, cutting the lead to five.
Rookie Robert Williams also made his NBA debut in the quarter, checking in with just under four minutes left.
COMING UP SHORT
Oftentimes throughout the fourth, the Celtics were right in striking distance. But poor shot selection and execution allowed the Magic to keep them at arm’s length. The Magic were outscored 20-18 in the final frame, but buckled down enough late to earn the win.
Boston showed some life in the final 90 seconds. Down six, Brown hit a contested 3-pointer in the corner to pull Boston within one possession, but Isaac responded with a two-point jumper to put the Magic back up five. Horford hit a roller with 46 seconds left to bring Boston back within three, then after Vucevic missed a shot, Irving hit a two-point shot to cut the deficit to one with 14 seconds left.
Evan Fournier put the Magic up three by sinking two free throws with 7.8 left. Irving shot a corner three off the ensuing inbound but hit the rim. Horford got the offensive board and kicked it to Hayward, who missed a contested trey as well with time expiring to seal the loss.
The Celtics will hit the road for a Thursday night matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tip-off from Chesapeake Energy Arena is set for 8 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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