Celtics suffer cold shooting night in Williams return, lose to Magic 117-109

The Wagner brothers combined for 44 points, Paolo Banchero had 20 and Cole Anthony added 14 off the bench, leading the Magic to a 117-109 victory over the celts. Boston started strong, but after losing the lead late in the first quarter, they never got it back.

The Celtics returned to Boston after a 4-2 road trip. They open a seven-game homestand with two in a row against the Magic, who sit at the bottom of the standings but have now extended their winning streak to five games.

With Robert Williams scheduled to make his season debut, Al Horford’s return after a five-game absence was predictably overlooked. But he made his presence felt right away, hitting his first two 3-pointers as Boston jumped out to an early 14-4 lead. Williams checked in at the 7:03 mark and, within two minutes, had this alley-oop:

An A+ reaction from the bench in that second replay in slow motion. Despite this injection of energy, the Celtics were sloppy with the ball, collecting six turnovers in the first quarter. Banchero hit a 3-pointer before the buzzer, his 12th point of the quarter, as the Magic led 32-28. They grabbed 6 offensive boards and made 9 free throws in the opening frame.

On the first play of the second quarter, Rob emphatically blocked Mo Bamba:

The knee didn’t seem to bother him there. Tatum scored 8 straight points, but Orlando’s Cole Anthony and Franz Wagner were difficult on offense, and the Celtics were unable to regain the lead. This retro Terrence Ross hook shot would have made Tommy Heinsohn proud:

Following a 3-pointer by Jaylen Brown and a transition layup by Malcolm Brogdon, the Celtics cut the lead to 54-52 with two minutes remaining in the half. But Orlando quickly went on an 8-2 run and led 62-54 at halftime.

Tatum scored 20, Malcolm Brogdon added 12 off the bench and Smart had 7 assists. The Magic’s length bothered the Celtics throughout the first half, holding them to 7-for-25 from beyond the arc. The great Mo Wagner scored 13 and grabbed three of Orlando’s 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, and everyone who played scored.

Less than two minutes into the third quarter, and after much deliberation in the replay booth, Horford received an uncharacteristic flagrant-2 call after hitting Mo Wagner below the belt. After some inconsistent referee possessions, Tatum was fouled and Orlando went up 75-56.

It was an excruciatingly slow and disjointed three minutes of basketball, but a running back from Smart followed by a spike layup from Luke Kornet breathed some life into the understandably listless TD Garden. Around the six-minute mark, Jaylen and Timelord had back-to-back dunks that snapped the crowd out of their hibernation state. Jaylen’s was one of the loudest of the season, and he did it on top of the 7’2” Bol Bol:

With 11 seconds left in the period, the referees (again, after much deliberation) upgraded Bamba’s common foul to flagrant-1. Grant Williams’ two free throws cut Orlando’s lead to 88-81 entering the final frame. Despite shooting under 40 percent, the Celtics still had the game within reach.

Anthony converted Orlando’s first three field goals in the fourth quarter. His bravery and shooting ability remind me of a certain little guy who used to wear green. Markelle Fultz hit back-to-back jumpers to give Orlando a 108-96 lead at the 3:55 mark. The Celtics made some last-minute buckets to cut the lead to 7, but it was too little, too late, and the Magic won 117-109.

Boston made 28 free throws but shot a terrible 23.9 percent from three. Tatum finished with 31 and Brown 25. Mo Wagner led Orlando with 25 points, and Bamba was a +15 with 8 points and 5 offensive rebounds off the bench.

The Celtics have a chance at revenge, as they play the Magic again this Sunday at 3:00.

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