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Celtics shift to Jaylen Brown as playmaker and double-big to beat Magic again 114-97

The Celtics used a different play style to get the same result as Friday with Kristaps Porzingis in the lineup, sweeping their home stand and mini series over the Magic.

By Bobby Manning@RealBobManning  Dec 17, 2023, 5:30pm EST   59 Comments / 59 New

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Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images  

BOSTON — Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford returned to Boston’s lineup after a short-handed win on Friday allowed the Celtics to figure out a different playing style. One that bothered a Magic team that previously played them tough. They scored 18 fast break points, generated nine corner threes and played small with Lamar Stevens at center.

“Just keep the foundation the same,” Joe Mazzulla said pre-game. “Ball pressure, physical activity and good shift activity on the weak side … getting out to shooters and defending without fouling … I think a lot of it has to do with the speed advantage we had getting out in transition. Also, creating the two-on-ones … I thought we did a great job being intentional about our screening, which got guys off the body, which forced switched, forced some over-helps and we were able to make the play there … the pass, pass happens when we put two on the ball … the most important thing is we stay intentional about our screening … and the physicality that we have.”

Boston returned to double-big looks and did all that while sitting Stevens and Brissett, central to that same effort. They played Neemias Queta for 16 minutes while utilizing Horford at the four. The Celtics still won going away, 114-97, by grabbing 60 rebounds, creating 17 threes with their screening and switching their offensive facilitator from Jayson Tatum to Jaylen Brown to maintain the speed from Friday’s matchup.

Banchero scored 19 points in the first quarter while Porzingis struggled to find his footing, missing a pick-and-pop three and traveling on a post-up during Boston’s first two possessions. The Celtics relied on put-backs, laying three misses back during an 8-for-22 start from the field. Boston went big midway through the quarter, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White keeping pace with Banchero. Horford grabbed the ball following Pritchard’s block on Franz Wagner and hit Jayson Tatum in stride for a layup, and Tatum’s pull-up three on the following possession allowed the Celtics to stay within 31-27 through one quarter.

Tatum picked up a third foul midway through the second, forcing Brown to lead the second unit for the final 8:07 after an 8-0 run by Tatum, Payton Pritchard and Jrue Holiday gave Boston its first lead. Neemias Queta began the quarter at center after the Celtics closed with a long Horford and Porzingis combination, staying big yet playing with pace to get Holiday a layup on the run from Brown passing back-and-forth.


The 2014 Nets-Raptors game 7 needs a deep rewind

The 2014 Nets and Raptors had a lot in common! They both have a history of terrible records. They both started the year in an embarrassing fashion. And they’re both facing elmination in the first round of the playoffs. Seeing as how it’s at each other’s hands, I don’t think they’ll be bonding anytime soon. And besides, their differences are more defining. The Nets spent lavishly to boast one of the best (in theory) rosters in the league. Their starting 5 at the beginning of the year was Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez. That’s 5 all-stars. Whereas the Raptors have a quiet payroll that supports one all-star (DeMar DeRozan), a bunch of young guys, and a point guard who was their second choice and they tried to trade away. (Kyle Lowry) To find out how these similar but different teams got this win-or-go-home battle, we have to rewind.


Then, Brown went on to score or assist on nearly every basket during a 14-4 run to take a 10-point lead. Anthony Black and Banchero had scored five straight to tie the game at 39, and Holiday stopped it with a pull-up two around a Queta screen. Brown pulled up and hit from mid-range, found Horford for three driving baseline, blew by Goga Bitadze and blocked him on the other end after hitting a pull-up three. Porzingis missed his dump-off into a long hook shot, but they connected two plays later in the pick-and-roll for a Porzingis slam.

Boston let Suggs cut back door uncontested and Banchero reached 26 points at halftime with a mid-range pull up, hitting 9-of-11, to keep the Magic within 11 after falling behind by 15. They cut within four while winning the third quarter, 24-22, with Suggs and Black steals leading to wide open layups the other way. Bitadze’s steal playing up on Brown got Suggs two free throws before Porzingis rocked the rim by chasing down White’s three attempt that he set up with a handoff for a three-point put back. Tatum hit three free throws on a corner try and Pritchard crossed-up Cole Anthony and buried a three to regain a nine-point lead into the fourth.

Brown continued his best game leading the Celtics’ offense into the fourth, stepping around Queta’s screen for a three after Jonathan Isaac cut their lead to six with a three. He added a layup and fadeaway mid range shot to stay ahead while Orlando scored on its first three possessions. Then, he hit Sam Hauser on the roll for a hesitation finish, found Tatum for a drive-and-kick three and hit two pull-up threes of his own that sent the Garden into a frenzy.

Tatum hit one more three off an in-bounds and got back on defense to block Banchero, who finished as a more modest 13-for-30 against Boston’s star wings who posted 54. They built a 21-point lead, skating past a slow start with a different play style.

“It might look a little bit different,” Mazzulla predicted. “Can you play different identities? There are speed challenges in transition, but there are also physical challenges. I expect them to double down on their physicality … we have to be ready to answer that call whether we’re small or big.”