Celtics seek strong start to 2022 against visiting Magic

NBA Basketball

A strong performance against one of the NBA’s best teams gave the Boston Celtics cause for celebration heading into the new year.

Boston will look to carry momentum from its win over Phoenix into its first game of 2022 as the Celtics host the Orlando Magic on Sunday night.

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart scored 24 points apiece to pace Boston in its 123-108 home victory over Phoenix on Friday. Josh Richardson scored 19 points, Romeo Langford added 16 and Grant Williams had 15 in a game Boston led by as many as 30 points.

Robert Williams III contributed his first career triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Williams also blocked five shots in his dominant outing.

It was a bounce-back shooting performance for the Celtics, who shot 10 of 27 from 3-point range (37 percent) one game after going just 4 of 42 from long range in a 91-82 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last Wednesday.

The win snapped a three-game skid and capped a disappointing month of December — during which the team posted a 6-9 record — on a high note.

“It’s a great win; Celtics basketball,” Brown said. “We came out, played with some pace, played with some intensity on both sides of the ball.”

Boston was without Brown’s co-star, Jayson Tatum, for a third consecutive game while in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Celtics reserves Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom, Aaron Nesmith and Bruno Fernando also missed the game in COVID protocol.

Orlando is coming off back-to-back defeats versus defending champion Milwaukee and four straight losses overall.

The Magic were not competitive in either of their home setbacks against the Bucks, falling 127-110 last Tuesday before falling 136-118 on Thursday.

Rookie Franz Wagner’s play was a bright spot for Orlando in the two losses, scoring a season-high 38 points in Tuesday’s game and finishing with a team-high 20 on Thursday.

On Thursday, the Magic led 80-79 with 3:44 remaining in the third quarter before the Bucks seized control and out scored the hosts 57-38 the rest of the way. Moritz Wagner added 19 points off the bench and Gary Harris added 17 for Orlando.

“We’ve just got to continue to set our bar high and continue to compete night in and night out, like we did (on Thursday),” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said.

On Friday, the Magic added guard Tim Frazier and forward Freddie Gillespie on 10-day contracts via the NBA’s hardship exception.

On Saturday, Orlando placed guard Markelle Fultz — who was already sidelined and working his way back from a knee injury — into the COVID protocol.

Magic guard Cole Anthony (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday’s game in Boston. Mychal Mulder (COVID protocol) and center Mo Bamba (conditioning) are both questionable.

Boston won the first meeting of the season at Orlando, 92-79, on Nov. 3. Brown led all scorers with 28 points for the Celtics while Anthony and Wendell Carter Jr. had 13 points apiece to pace the Magic.

–Field Level Media

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