Orlando Magic Grades: Boston Celtics 112, Orlando Magic 96

Jaylen Brown went for 10 3-pointers as the Boston Celtics made quick work of the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Jaylen Brown went for 10 3-pointers as the Boston Celtics made quick work of the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

18. Final. 96. 38. 112

Despite a strong first quarter which saw the Orlando Magic lead 31-27 heading into the second, coach Steve Clifford’s team fell apart in the next two quarters as they gave up shot after shot to Boston’s two stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics made 23 of 54 3-pointers, finding little resistance with Brown making 10 3-pointers, one shy of Boston’s franchise record in a 112-96 win at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.

Tatum and Brown were getting whatever they wanted with little fight from the Orlando defense. Time after time Daniel Theis would set a hard screen on Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier or Al-Farouq Aminu on the perimeter and Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown would get free before knocking down a superb three from deep.

There is only so much you can do to stop talents on the level of Boston’s two All-Stars, but the Magic did not do nearly enough to make it difficult for them. Tatum finished with 23 points and five threes, while Brown hit a whopping 10 threes and 34 points.

The Orlando Magic could not contain the shooting from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum as the Boston Celtics unraveled their defense.

Despite being outscored 29 to 17 in the second, the Magic were still firmly in the game and trailed by just eight points heading into the third. But as the perimeter defense dropped in standard, so did the team’s offense.

Offensive weaknesses have long held back Orlando and prevented the team from progressing, even when fully healthy. Nikola Vucevic was still finding a way to score but the rest of the team was not as the lack of creativity and movement once again proved to be a huge stumbling block.

The Magic just do not have enough players that can create a basket. Gordon tried his best at the point guard spot, where he played for much of the game. But playing out of position, his lack of shot creation ability was clear to see. Pair that with an off shooting night for Fournier and this was never going to go well for Clifford’s team.

And the Celtics put the game out of sight in the third as the threes started raining in.

Brown continued to get open as he had done all game and showed no signs of slowing up as Kemba Walker and Daniel Theis started getting in on the action too. All while the Magic struggled to get anything going on the offensive end, being outscored 33 to 25 in the third.

A late fightback at the end of the quarter which continued into the start of the fourth gave some hope for Orlando as the lead was cut to eight. But it did not last long as Boston soon extended it back to 15 and Brown hit a big three to seal a much needed victory.

The Magic might have caught Boston on a good shooting night but this was a defeat that showcased the very worst of the Magic’s limitations as a team.

The returns of Gordon and Fournier and a win over the Brooklyn Nets had reinstated some positivity in what has been a dreadful, backward step of a season. But this was a harsh reminder of why the Magic have not been able to progress with this current core.

And as the trade deadline approaches, the woeful run of form has only heaped more pressure on the front office to make moves that look toward the future. Clifford and the Magic might look at the standings and believes a playoff push is not out of reach, but the recent run should tell you all you need to know.

B+. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Even on a team that struggled offensively for much of the game, Nikola Vucevic still found a way to score as he has done all season. He finished with 22 points and made three of his six 3-pointers, while also setting up his teammates with some fantastic passes. This was not the center at his All-Star best. But without him, this defeat would have been a lot worse. His ability to score from all over the court continues to prevent the Magic from falling into complete disarray.

Defensively, there was room for improvement. Daniel Theis played a key role in the Boston Celtics’ victory with his screen setting and tendency to hover away from the basket and knock down jump shots. Vucevic failed to get a proper grip on the problems his matchup was posing. That should not take away from the fact that once again. But, he was comfortably the Magic’s best player.

Orlando Magic. AARON GORDON. C-. . F

After scoring a season-high 38 and leading his team to a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, Aaron Gordon did not enjoy a performance of that caliber against the Boston Celtics. Gordon really struggled to shoot the ball, going 3 for 13 from the field and making just two of his seven threes as he finished with 12 points.

With injuries still impacting the Orlando Magic, Gordon once again filled in point guard duties for much of the game. While not fulfilling the role particularly poorly, his unfamiliarity with the position was clear to see and it contributed to a faltering offense.

Gordon has won plenty of plaudits for his defense when he has been on the court this season but this was not one of those games. He really struggled fighting over screens out on the perimeter and continued to lose track of Jayson Tatum, as well as Jaylen Brown, which let them get into their positions and knock down threes. Fans are waiting to see whether he will still be a part of the team for the rest of the year but if he is, Steve Clifford needs more from him.

G/F. Orlando Magic. EVAN FOURNIER. C.

The Orlando Magic are hugely dependent on Evan Fournier’s ability to knock down threes because of a lack of shooting on the roster. But he simply did not do that enough against the Boston Celtics. Fournier finished with a respectable 16 points but made just 6 of his 19 attempts and only two of his eight threes. When Fournier has a night like that, Orlando’s chances of winning decrease dramatically. Especially without Terrence Ross coming off the bench.

Much of his struggles also occurred on the defensive end of the court. Evan Fournier was regularly given the difficult task of guarding Jaylen Brown and, like Aaron Gordon, struggled massively when fighting over screens. Brown got away from him time after time and while Fournier should have been given more help, the shooting guard did not do enough to try and slow him down.

. G/F. Orlando Magic. JAMES ENNIS. A

On his return to action, James Ennis provided some really strong minutes off the bench and made some big plays at pivotal times. He made five of his six attempts and three of his four threes, finishing with 18 points thanks also to five made free throws. He drew fouls really well, including from beyond the arc, and provided some much-needed energy to a team that was lacking it for a lot of the game.

He played a huge part in cutting the lead early in the fourth, drawing a foul from three and then making a shot from deep to provide a small hope of a comeback which was quickly squashed by the Boston Celtics.

A. . 21-21. 6th East. BOSTON CELTICS

Much has been said about the Boston Celtics’ shortcomings this season. But with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in this sort of form, the Celtics have to be considered as a team that can finish in the top six and make a run in the postseason. Brown was immense, showing incredible confidence to shoot from deep, while Tatum’s ability to make hugely difficult shots gives the Celtics an important edge.

Much of the team’s future success will depend on whether they can continue to shoot at a high rate, but the level of defense played against the Orlando Magic will also provide huge encouragement going forward.

Orlando is very limited offensively but Boston did exactly what the team needed to do, pressuring Nikola Vucevic in the paint and getting out to the perimeter to close down the likes of Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon. It still feels like Boston might be missing a piece to make them a serious contender, but this was a very confident win for Brad Stevens’ team.

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The Magic are now 14-28 and 14th in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Chicago Bulls by 5.5 games for the final spot in the play-in tournament. The Orlando Magic open up a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.