BOSTON – There would be no 30-point thumping by the Boston Celtics of the Orlando Magic, as was the case in each of their previous two meetings this season.
The only thing the Celtics truly wanted from this game, was a win. And that is essentially all Boston came away with as they somehow managed to squeak out a 117-116 win.
Orlando’s Elfrid Payton drove into the lane with a couple ticks on the game clock, but his shot was off the mark and was rebounded by Al Horford as time expired. Boston (49-27) remains atop the Eastern Conference with the win.
Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 35 points while Jae Crowder chipped in with 18. Jaylen Brown, who was starting in place of Avery Bradley (stomach flu), had 12 points.
This was a tightly contested game, but one in which Orlando led most of the night.
But the Celtics hung in there, making all the plays when it mattered most to get a much-needed, hard-earned victory. Trailing 86-83 in the third, Boston went on a 9-2 run capped off by a pair of Crowder free throws to lead 92-88 and wound up taking a 92-90 lead into the fourth quarter.
Boston usually has Thomas start the fourth quarter on the bench and enter the game after a few minutes. But head coach Brad Stevens, sensing his team needed a bit of an offensive spark at the start of the fourth, began the fourth with Thomas in the game.
It’s well-documented how well the Celtics have played with Thomas on the floor, and that would indeed be the case in the fourth as Thomas guided Boston to a 7-2 start which put them ahead 99-92.
But the Magic responded with a 13-6 spurt capped off by a Jodie Meeks 3-pointer that tied the game at 105.
Thomas soon put Boston back on top with a pair of free throws at the 7:02 mark to make it a 107-105 game in favor of the Celtics.
Orlando regained the lead with a pair of free throws by Aaron Gordon who was having a career night for the Magic. Gordon finished with a team-high 32 points.