Jaylen Brown scored a game-high 21 points in only three quarters and every player that was active for the Boston Celtics scored as they crushed the Orlando Magic 124-97 on Friday night in Boston. Playing without their leading scorer in Jayson Tatum, six Boston players scored in double figures, and the Magic only managed to lead the game by one point on two occasions, both in the first half. With the win, Boston extended the longest active winning streak in the league to five games.
Coming off a week-long break due to COVID spreading through the team, it was reasonable to expect that the C’s might come out a little slow in this game. That wasn’t the case, though, as Boston scored 34 points in the first quarter, more than their season average of 27.7 points in first quarters, to take a six-point lead into the second. Jeff Teague and Marcus Smart both scored 8 points in the first to give the C’s a lead that they would hold onto for all but 15 seconds of the rest of the game.
Boston pulled away in the second, going on a 26-13 run to close the half after Aaron Gordon hit a 3 to give the Magic a 35-34 lead with 9:34 remaining in the quarter. This gave them a 60-48 lead that they would never relinquish, coasting to victory in the second half.
For the Magic, Aaron Gordon led the way with 17 points, while Nikola Vucevic, Cole Anthony, and Dwayne Bacon all chipped in 15 apiece. This was their fourth loss in a row after Orlando had started the year 6-2. In the past few seasons, the Magic have had hot starts and slumped down the stretch, so they’re hoping that this skid isn’t the start of their annual fade from contention.
With only 12 active players, this game provided an opportunity for everyone on the Celtics roster to get out there and put some shots up to try and find a rhythm, and many of them took advantage of it. Semi Ojeleye, who has secured his spot in the rotation this year much quicker than in years past, continued his strong start to the season. He contributed 18 points on 6-10 shooting, including 3-6 on 3-pointers. His role on this team is as a 3-and-D guy, so the fact that he’s now up to 42% on 3’s for the season is big development. For a guy whose previous career high shooting percentage on 3’s was 37%, that’s a big jump, so hopefully he sustains it.
However, this game also gave an opportunity to several players who aren’t already firmly in the rotation. Javonte Green returned from the league’s Health & Safety Protocol for this game and finished with 10 points on 4-6 shooting. While his outside shot isn’t the prettiest, he’s an explosive athlete who is always on the verge of a big dunk, like this one.
Aaron Nesmith finally made another 3 in this game as well. Although he’s struggled with his spot-up opportunities so far, he’s been pretty solid on his shot attempts where he takes a dribble or is on the run before his shoots, which is a little strange. He clearly has a pretty stroke as shown by plays like this one, so hopefully he can sort out whatever is plaguing him on his spot-up attempts.
If he can get back to anywhere near the ridiculous 52% he shot in his final college season, that’s a weapon that would open up so much space for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Although he’s further down on the roster now, these next few games should provide him an opportunity to have playing time to find his shot, and it would be a huge boost for the Celtics if he can.
With all that said, the unquestioned best moment of the night came during Tacko Time. The gigantic fan-favorite continues to make plays whenever he’s on the court, putting a dent in the belief that he’s just big and has no skill. Coming off the best game of his short career a week ago, he had another solid outing tonight highlighted by two straight offensive possessions. First, he banked in a long two, leading the bench to go crazy. On the next trip down the court, he caught the ball behind the arc, pump faked, and drove to the basket for a dunk. If there had been fans in the stadium, it may have set a record for the loudest TD Garden had ever been.
Obviously, Tacko is probably never going to be a starter in this league. His enormous body has a lot of limitations, mostly on the defensive end where the league is trending more and more towards centers who can shoot the 3. However, these last two games have shown that Tacko is more than capable of making plays on the defensive end, as he has four blocks in just over 27 minutes of action. Put him in a matchup with a non-shooting big, and he’ll be able to at least hold his own.
Up next for the Celtics are the New York Knicks on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Knicks started the season well, but have lost five in a row coming into this matchup. As the C’s will once again be without Tatum for this game, they’ll have to depend on bench contributions and Jaylen Brown leading the way once again. After that, the C’s next game isn’t until Wednesday when they face the Philadelphia 76ers, in a game that Tatum may be available for. But the best news of all is that All-Star point guard Kemba Walker is getting closer and closer to making his season debut. It will be fun to see this team back at full health, as they are currently sit atop the Eastern Conference despite missing quite a few key players.