Jaylen Brown poured in a career-high 10 three-pointers on his way to 34 points, Jayson Tatum added 23, and the Boston Celtics rode a dominant second quarter to the feel-good win they desperately needed, securing a 112-96 victory over the Orlando Magic Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden. The win got Boston back to 21-21 on the season, far worse than anyone could have expected from a team with this much talent, but far better than they’ve looked for stretches of the year. As they head into the final 30 games of the year, they’ll need more performances like this one more often than not.
As has become tradition for the C’s in afternoon games, they started off slow and were behind 31-27 after the first quarter. In that first frame, it looked like Nikola Vucevic was going to have yet another ridiculous performance against Boston, as he racked up 10 points and 7 boards in nine minutes of play.
However, the C’s ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the second quarter, only allowing 17 points in those 12 minutes. At the same time, they started to move the ball more effectively than we’ve seen in weeks, generating open shot after open shot. They outscored Orlando 29-17, and took a 56-48 lead into the break.
By halftime, Brown had scored 14 points and Jayson Tatum had 19. While Tatum only managed 4 more points in the second half, Brown exploded to lead Boston to victory. Boston kept up the defense and ball movement in the early third quarter and built their lead to as large as 23 on a three by rookie Aaron Nesmith.
That play shows the ball movement that was on display today. When Boston plays like that, they’re a matchup nightmare, with four guys on the court at all times that can either punish slow rotations or drive against a close-out.
Beginning immediately after that Nesmith three, however, the Magic went on a 23-8 run to close the Celtics lead to 8 with just under 9 minutes remaining in the game. With how the Celtics have struggled to close out games this season, you couldn’t blame Boston fans if they thought to themselves, “Here we go again”. However, Jaylen Brown refused to let this one slip away, as he guided the C’s down the stretch. By the end, the reserves were on the court, seeing home the 16-point win.
The main story from this game is Jaylen Brown. He was just incredible today, nailing shot after shot, with the degree of difficulty increasing on each one as he gained confidence.
That’s just a crazy shot, but that’s the kind of afternoon that JB had. While comparing himself to the greatest shooter of all time was obviously a joke, that one shot was certainly reminiscent of the Warriors star point guard.
But the secondary storyline from this game is that Boston finally played the right way, and it paid immediate dividends. For the season, the Celtics rank 27th in the league at a shade more than 22 assists per game. Against the Magic, they had 27. Those five extra assists may not seem like much, but it’s indicative of ball movement that felt much better than it has in a long time. If they can keep this style of play up, instead of reverting to isolation plays with 15 seconds left on the shotclock, this group still has plenty of time to start climbing up the crowded Eastern Conference standings.
Luckily for Boston and their fans, the C’s will have an immediate shot to show that this wasn’t a one game outlier. They face the Memphis Grizzlies Monday night on the second leg of this back-to-back, and will need to play with the same determination against a team that finds themselves in a very similar situation to Boston.
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