PREVIEW: Orlando Magic aim to add to Boston Celtics’ woes in matinee tilt

Mar 19, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) drives down the court in the second quarter against Brooklyn Nets forward Bruce Brown (1) at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off snapping a nine-game losing streak, the Orlando Magic will look to extend the Celtics’ skid on Sunday afternoon when the teams meet in Boston.

The Celtics dropped their third straight game and fourth in the past five on Friday with a 107-96 setback to the Sacramento Kings. The loss left Boston on the wrong end of a season sweep to Sacramento for the first time in 14 years, and dropped the Celtics a game below .500.

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“Teams are fragile things, and guys are trying, and they’re all really good guys trying,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “But sometimes even when you’re giving good effort or you have a group of possessions that go pretty well, five guys engaged does a lot, and we just haven’t had that recently.”

The Celtics came into Friday’s game off setbacksto NBA-best Utah and Cleveland, which had dropped four in a row before posting a 117-110 win over Boston.

Orlando just ended its nine-game slide on Friday with a 121-113 defeat of Brooklyn. The Nets were winners of six straight heading into the matchup, but 38 points from Aaron Gordon and a 22-point, 14-rebound and eight-assist showing from Nikola Vucevic countered Kyrie Irving’s 43-point effort.

“That was just a great all-around game for our team,” Gordon said. “We showed what we can be defensively and offensively.”

The Magic had not scored in triple digits in the three games prior to Friday’s win, which included an anemic 77-point showing March 12 against San Antonio. At 104.7 points per game, Orlando ended games through Friday ranked No. 29 of 30 in the NBA in scoring.

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The Magic fell short of 100 points in their last meeting with the Celtics, a 124-97 blowout. That encounter was on Jan. 15, and Boston has held an opponent below the century mark just twice since then.

The Celtics’ defensive point-per-game yield of 111.2 is up almost four from a season ago, when they ranked second in the NBA in scoring defense.

The 107 points it allowed Friday was the lowest total in Boston’s past five losses, with its struggles against Sacramento coming primarily on offense.

The Celtics shot just 42.9 percent from the floor and only mustered seven free-throw attempts. Jaylen Brown’s 19 points led Boston in the loss.

Brown said he is striving to set the tone for the Celtics.

“It’s been a challenge for me. I accepted that challenge at the beginning of the year. So ultimately, I’ve got to do a better job at being a leader,” he said.

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Brown is averaging 24.4 points per game, second on the team to Jayson Tatum (25.0).

The Celtics come into Sunday’s matchup with Tristan Thompson and Romeo Langford out due to COVID-19 safety protocols.

Orlando played Friday without Michael Carter-Williams (illness), James Ennis (calf), Terrence Ross (knee) and Cole Anthony (ribs).

–Field Level Media