The Boston Celtics could have packed things in during the second quarter Friday night, and few would have bat an eye.
But they didn’t and they earned a win because of it.
Down by as many as 16 in the second against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center, the Celtics surged back to shrink the deficit to just four heading into the half, and it was thanks in large part to 19 points from Kemba Walker. The Celtics ultimately won 109-98, with Walker posting 37 points by game’s end.
The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Enes Kanter, but in the end that was nary an issue given the admirable resolve of those available.
“Just will. We really wanted to win,” Walker told NBC Sport Boston’s Abby Chin after the game. “We did everything we could to just keep playing as hard as possible through adversity. (The Magic) were playing extremely well. But like I said, we had the will to win tonight, and that’s how we have to be. That was a pretty impressive win in my opinion.
“We just want to win, you know? We’re all competitors,” Walker later noted. “These guys, like I said, they play well here at home. They were playing well. We made a push and a hell of a comeback. My teammates they did a hell of a job tonight.”
Walker’s eight points in the first quarter paced the Celtics, but he really took it to another level in that second quarter. The guard is no stranger to taking over games, and it seems he knew he needed to do just that against Orlando.
“Just the way the game was going I knew I had to be aggressive and kind of find my shot as much as possible because we had some guys out,” Walker said. “Gordon (Hayward) was going, I knew he needed some help, so I wanted to be as aggressive as I can, get to my spots and I was able to knock some shots down.”
Overall, it was more than just Walker and Hayward that put up big performances. In fact, pretty much every Celtic that checked in made some sort of meaningful contribution.
“I thought that he gave us everything he had in the first half, to be in the game,” Brad Stevens said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Everybody made plays, but he kept us in it.”
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Celtics-Magic game:
— Terrence Ross usually undresses the Celtics, but it appears his kryptonite is … Javonte Green?
While the undrafted rookie created some buzz with a couple impressive dunks, he was tasked with trying to stop Ross with Brown and Tatum out, and he did just that.
Green logged 28:22 minutes of work, and ended up limiting Ross to just eight points over 31 minutes off the bench.
“Ross killed us last year in all three games, and we talked to Javonte this morning about Tatum probably out, Jaylen might be out, like you need to be ready to guard him as hard as you can,” Stevens said. “He spent all day watching extra and preparing extra, and that’s what you have to do. So, hats off to him, he’s the one we singled out in the locker room because I think that’s what good teams do, they have guys that take those little things about the game and try to help you win.”
— Grant Williams often is called on for defense, but he did a nice job on the offensive end.
Like Daniel Theis did in Wednesday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Williams made a trio of 3-pointers. He finished with nine points.
“Grant played well,” Stevens said. “The three 3’s were huge because they were helping him quite a bit. He made them, stepped up and made them at big times. Defensively I think that he’s obviously brought a lot to us. We’re pretty small without Tatum and Brown out there, with him at the five, so that didn’t look as good as it usually does, but I thought he was good at the four tonight.”
— The victory was Brad Stevens’ 300th as head coach of the Celtics.
His response to that milestone would have made Bill Belichick smile.
“I don’t really stop and think about that stuff,” Stevens said. “We’ve had really good teams, really good players, a staff that works really hard.
“We just appreciate where we work. It’s nice but we just move on to New Orleans.”
— Hayward recorded his fifth double-double of the season, dropping 22 points on 8-for-18 shooting with 14 rebounds and five assists.
— Theis also had a nice night, putting up 16 points with six rebounds.