BOSTON — Entering Sunday’s tilt against the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he was looking for momentum from his team heading toward the playoffs.
Home court in the first round now is locked up, but the Celtics lost a bit of the momentum they were in search for, losing 116-108 and had two starters exit with injuries in the process, as Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart each left the game.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 23 points. Al Horford (18), Gordon Hayward (16), Marcus Morris (13) and Jaylen Brown (13) were all in double digits for Boston.
With the loss, the Celtics move to 48-33, while the Magic move to 41-40 with the win.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
Nothing separated the two sides in the opening 12 minutes, with the first quarter ending in a 27-27 deadlock.
Neither team could gain more than a five-point lead in the quarter.
Horford led the charge for the C’s with 10 points.
Boston did lose Jayson Tatum for the rest of the evening after the forward suffered a left shin contusion in the early goings.
C’s CAN’T HOLD GAP
Boston got out to a much better start to the second quarter, opening up a double-digit lead. But the Magic were able to close the gap before the half, with the C’s heading to the room with a 52-48 lead.
Hayward put the Celtics up 32-30 with 10:34 to play in the half, as Boston would lead the rest of the quarter from there following an 11-2 run over the next 4:51.
Irving gave the Celtics their biggest lead of the half with a jumper to make it 50-37 with 4:32 remaining.
But Orlando closed out the half on an 11-2 run, led by Vucevic, who led all players with 19 points at the break. Hayward and Horford led the hosts with 10 points each.
LESS THAN IDEAL
The third quarter was somewhat of a nightmare for Boston, losing Marcus Smart to injury and heading into the fourth trailing 83-78.
Orlando pushed back into the lead, starting the second half on a 6-0 run. That sparked a third quarter that closely resembled the opening 12, with both teams trading narrow leads.
Three Celtics were in double figures through three quarters, with Horford leading the way.
But more bad news came the Celtics way when Marcus Smart went down hard following a collision with Vucevic that sent him to the floor. Smart was clutching his left hip as he left the court and would not return to the game.
Vucevic put the Magic up 72-69 with a hook shot with 3:41 to play in the third. The Magic would hold that slight lead heading into the fourth, outscoring the C’s 35-26 in the frame.
The fourth quarter went down to the wire, with the Celtics sparking a massive comeback.
Orlando jumped out in front with a 12-0 run in the early goings of the fourth, with Terrence Ross hitting a three to make it 94-80, Orlando’s largest lead of the night.
Boston stormed back with an 8-0 run, capped by a Brown triple to make it 99-93 with 7:18 to play.
Irving closed the gap to one with a straightaway trey to make it 99-98 with 4:50 to play, sparking an electric dash to the finish.
Both sides traded buckets, with Irving tying the game at 106 with another three. But Orlando answered with a 6-0 run that the C’s were unable to come back from.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Shout out Scary Terry.
The Celtics will close out the regular season against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night. Tip-off from Capital One Arena is slated for 7 p.m. ET.