Celtics' starters answer Brad Stevens' call in encouraging win


The Boston Celtics are off the schneid.

The Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak Sunday at TD Garden, defeating the Orlando Magic 112-96 to get back to .500 (21-21) on the season.

A scorching Jaylen Brown led the way for Boston with 34 points on 10 3-pointers, while Jayson Tatum added 23 points and Marcus Smart dished out a team-high eight assists.

Highlights: Brown, C's down Magic with red-hot 3-point shooting

Let's get into three takeaways from Sunday's game, which featured some positive developments for the first time in a while.

1. We're having fun again!

We'll get into Xs and Os shortly. But the most encouraging sign from Sunday's game was that the Celtics enjoyed playing it.

In the wake of Brad Stevens' call-out Friday night, the C's came out with much better energy and body language against Orlando. Even after the Magic dropped 31 points in the first quarter, Boston stayed committed to team-first basketball and looked, in Stevens' words, "more engaged in each other."

It's easy to put on smiling faces against the fourth-worst team in basketball, and the Celtics put forth a similar effort against the lowly Houston Rockets before losing their next three.

But hopefully Sunday's game reminded this group what can happen when it plays with energy and enthusiasm and doesn't take its opponents for granted.

Brown summed it up best in his postgame interview with NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg:

"Winter's over. Spring is here. So let's leave all the negativity in the winter."


2. Jaylen Brown and the starters take matters into their own hands.

Scoring depth is a major issue for the Celtics. But the starting five made sure that that didn't matter Sunday. 

Boston's starters put the team on their back against Orlando, scoring 75 of the Celtics' first 80 points. Brown led the way with a career-high 10 3-pointers (one shy of a team record) and all five starters reached double figures while connecting on 20 of the team's 23 deep balls. (also one shy of a team record).

Start to finish

Percent of Boston's points scored by the starting five

We usually wouldn't celebrate such unbalanced scoring, especially against a bottom-dweller like Orlando.

But this was a "win at all costs" game for the Celtics after losing three straight, and the starting five rose to the challenge by playing connected basketball on both ends of the floor.

3. ... But we need to talk about that bench.

The Celtics had a 20-point lead late in the third quarter appeared to be cruising to victory. But when the second unit came in, the Magic promptly went on a run to cut the deficit to single digits.

That forced Stevens to re-insert his starters, which led to a scary moment for Kemba Walker in the fourth quarter.

Walker appeared to be OK, but the point is that he and the Celtics' starters shouldn't have been in the game at that point.

Reserves like Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Semi Ojeleye and even Robert Williams (four points in 14 minutes) need to be able to maintain leads and give their starters some much-needed rest.

Reserve judgement

Shooting percentage of Celtics' reserves (7 for 19)

All five starters with the exception of Tatum (29 minutes) played over 30 minutes on the first leg of a back-to-back, as Boston travels to Memphis on Monday. Not ideal.