The shorthanded Celtics convincingly won their fourth straight game on Friday night, routing the Magic 128-111 at TD Garden.
Boston was without four players including three of their top bigs (Al Horford, Luke Kornet, Kristaps Porzingis) for the matchup against a Magic team with plenty of size. With just one true center available, Joe Mazzulla opted to start Lamar Stevens at center. With Boston playing small for the majority of the night, the team ramped up their defensive pressure, forcing 20 turnovers from the Magic that led to plenty of easy opportunities.
Jayson Tatum led the way for a balanced Celtics scoring attack with 30 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while Payton Pritchard tied his season-high with 21 points off the bench while Derrick White (19 points) and Jaylen Brown (18 points) chipped in with efficient nights.
Jalen Suggs had a team-high 19 points for Orlando in the loss. The Celtics improved to 13-0 on the year at TD Garden with the victory. They will face the Magic in a rematch on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden with likely a far healthier roster.
Here are four Celtic takeaways from Friday’s win:
Celtics All-Stars take control: Without the team’s top three bigs, it was going to take a superb effort from Boston’s stars to overcome a number of key absences. Tatum and Brown were up to the task, particularly with how the attacked a stout Magic defense. The duo combined for 32 first half points and nearly all of that damage came inside the arc as they went 13-of-15 from 2-point range against an Orlando defense that didn’t have an answer for either player on the wing. On the heels of an ugly loss for the Celtics in November from an offensive perspective, Tatum and Brown reasserted their will in this one, looking far and away like the best two players on the court. The duo finished with 48 points combined while both shooting over 50 percent from the field.
Payton Pritchard comes alive from deep: The reserve point guard has started December in a bit of a slump (31 percent from field, 26 percent from 3) but he broke out of his funk at the perfect time for Boston with a season-best 21 points. The 25-year-old made six of his seven attempts from 3-point range, putting up 11 points in the first half alone, turning the tide for the hosts after a brutal start to the game from beyond the arc. It was the first double digit scoring performance for Pritchard since Dec. 1. The strong shooting performance also heightened a stark home/road shooting split for Pritchard on the year. He’s knocking down just 21 percent of his 3s on the road and over 45 percent in the friendly confines of the TD Garden.
Deep bench steps up to the challenge: With four rotation players out including three bigs, Joe Mazzulla rolled out a lot of lineups we will probably never see again this season. All 10 active Celtics saw minutes though and Boston got plenty of encouraging performances from their deep reserves. Lamar Stevens held his own in a spot start at center while Neemias Queta playing solid defense off the bench despite dealing with foul trouble. Oshae Brissett also delivered his best performance of the year, providing offensive energy with 11 points off the bench, including a couple of nifty finishes inside. The overall effort from the group should give Joe Mazzulla confidence to turn to these guys more when injuries pile up.
The Celtics really wanted this one: The Celtics played it smart with some strategic absences in the frontcourt (Horford, Porzingis) but it was evident from the opening tip that the Magic had Boston’s full attention. After two home losses to Orlando last year and an embarrassing loss last month to the Magic, the hosts showed a high level of respect in this one. The hosts moved the ball unselfishly and disrupted the Magic’s offense forcing nearly 20 turnovers that led to countless easy opportunities in transition. While the Magic have impressed in the first two months of the year by surprisingly rising towards the top of the East, Boston played harder and smarter than a young Magic squad, an impressive feat given their absences and the fact this was the end of a three games in four days stretch.