The Orlando Magic again could not shoot and again looked disorganized as the Boston Celtics looked refreshed and deadly in another blowout loss.
The Orlando Magic had cut the Boston Celtics’ lead to six points in the second half. They had continued to fight back and scratch their way back into the game.
They dug out offensive rebounds and tried to scramble and stay in the game. They drove headlong into the lane to get to the foul line.
This group just needed to hang on. They needed to be in the game and play with a big more confidence. They needed something to fall their way.
That is not how this league works. There is no willing your way into the game. Not when shooting is so terrible and not when every mistake seems to hurt. There is no forcing your way into the game. It is about execution and without better execution, teams get embarrassed.
Orlando could not shoot — making just 25-percent of their shots in a second quarter where the team actually played some decent defense. And the Celtics eventually overwhelmed the Magic, forcing them into a death spiral wild drives to the basket, missed 3-point shots and turnovers.
Boston, even after a week without playing because of the league’s health and safety protocols, knows who it is. Orlando still does not know how it needs to play or how to play that way well enough to win.
The Celtics turned a close game in the third quarter into a rout, sending the Magic to their fourth straight loss in a 124-97 win at TD Garden on Friday.
In the end, the Magic shot 40.4-percent from the floor. They made just 7 of 28 3-pointers (25.0-percent). It is simply not enough to generate enough offense to compete. Not with the league trending offensively the way it has.
And especially not with the Celtics shooting the way they did. Boston made 51.1-percent of its shots and 17 of 42 (40.5-percent) of its 3-pointers.
Orlando was left frustrated and clearly fighting to get back in the game but trying to do too much and losing their connectivity to each other. The Magic tallied only 14 assists on 38 field goals and committed 11 turnovers, including five in the first quarter.
It was the wrong tone to set and the Magic were seemingly just waiting for that final knockout blow from the Celtics to put them away. Orlando simply has not been able to be good enough long enough to compete.
Yes, Aaron Gordon led the Orlando Magic with 17 points and made three of his five 3-pointers, one of the few players who was able to hit from the outside with any consistency. But this just was not a good Aaron Gordon game. He made only 5 of his 12 shots overall, meaning he went 2 for 7 on 2-point field goals and went a brutal 4 for 8 from the foul line.
Gordon is never usually the picture of efficiency. But with his increased responsibilities, he has to be better. He now sets the tone for the team. And so he has to cut out the wild drives to the basket or the tendency to settle for fadeaway jumpers. He has to be looking and thinking about passing on those drives as much as his shot.
The lone bright spot for the Orlando Magic might well have been the efforts of Khem Birch. He was one of the few players that seemed to be playing with any kind of energy and almost singlehandedly kept the Magic in the game in the first half with five offensive rebounds for 10 points.
Khem Birch finished the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds. The Magic are going to need players who can scratch out those extra possessions if they are going to win as presently constructed. Birch’s strong start to the season is certainly welcome.
Cole Anthony had his most energetic and, perhaps, the best offensive game of the season to this point. He scored seven quick points on three shots in the first quarter, including a baseline drive that ended with a two-handed slam. He said he is playing with more confidence now and the comfort is showing.
But he is still undoubtedly a rookie. And Jeff Teague took him to the cleaners on several occasions, including a third-quarter pick pocket that led straight to a momentum-killing layup. Cole Anthony had five turnovers in the game. And he struggled to stick with Teague either off the dribble or at the 3-point line.
Credit Dwayne Bacon too for his energy and aggression throughout the night. He was also fairly willing to attack off the dribble and get into the lane and make things happen. Most of those things were for himself — he is not great passing out of the paint — but still, the Magic needed someone who could make some things happen.
Dwayne Bacon finished with 15 points on 5-for-14 shooting, adding eight rebounds for good measure. Bacon has been one of the few pleasant surprises for this team. His scoring and driving ability are better than advertised.
The Boston Celtics had not played in a week thanks to the league’s health and safety protocols. They looked like they had a lot of pent-up energy to spend and got after the Orlando Magic almost immediately. Or maybe Orlando did not make Boston get winded from the time off by playing lax defense.
Either way, the Celtics looked like a team that knew exactly what they wanted to do and how to execute it. And the Magic looked like a team that was still a bit lost. Jaylen Brown was certainly a welcome return with 21 points and a career-high eight assists. The Celtics made 3-pointers with ease. It was their night.
The Magic are now 6-6 on the season and sixth in the Eastern Conference. They are back in action Saturday as they take on the Brooklyn Nets.