Magic Musings: Orlando shows resolve in victory over Celtics

ORLANDO, Fla. — For the second game in a row, having only 10 players in uniform turned out to be more than enough for the Orlando Magic.

The Magic erased an early 20-point deficit against the Boston Celtics and pulled away in the closing minutes for a 103-98 victory Sunday night.

The Celtics had won five of their previous seven games to close to within two games behind Charlotte for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference. But the Magic, who got 22 points from Victor Oladipo and 21 from Tobias Harris, showed plenty of resolve in their second consecutive contest without Nikola Vucevic, their leading scorer and rebounder.

In addition to Vucevic being out because of a sore left ankle, the Magic remained without guards Willie Green, Evan Fournier and Luke Ridnour. But they held the Celtics to only 39.3 percent shooting in improving to 6-6 under interim coach James Borrego.

“Obviously it’s tough when you lose guys like that — Nik, Evan and all those guys,” said Elfrid Payton, who posted his second double-double in as many games with 19 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. “But we’ve got to continue to move forward and try to get better, and I think we’re doing a good job of that.”

With his team trailing 49-43 at halftime, Borrego chose to go with Maurice Harkless at power forward in place of Channing Frye to begin the third quarter. After being outscored in the third quarter six games in a row, the Magic took their first lead all game during an 18-6 run in which Oladipo and Elfrid Payton accounted for 15 points.

Dewayne Dedmon made his third consecutive start — second in place of Vucevic — and established career highs in points (11) and rebounds (16).

“I kind of knew I was going to play a lot after that first half,” Harkless said. “He (Borrego) rode me in the second half. I had to just consistently bring energy. Playing with these guys, it’s easy to bring energy, especially with guys like Dedmon and Elfrid flying around.”

“Nobody cared about their own individual stats,” Harris said. “Everybody wanted to do it collectively. And collectively as a unit, we got stops, we pushed the pace.”

Magic 103, Celtics 98

The Magic missed nine of their first 10 shots in a first quarter that ended with them trailing 31-17. They turned the ball over seven times while the Celtics knocked down five 3-pointers, including three from rookie Marcus Smart.

Their largest deficit was at 37-17 a little over a minute into the second quarter. Harkless never entered the game until there was 8:53 to go until halftime.

The two teams meet again Friday night in Boston.

THE TURNING POINT

Down 84-80 with less than four minutes to go, the Magic scored the next 12 points to go ahead for good. Harkless began the run with a 3-pointer, and two free throws by Payton — who was shooting only 53 percent from the line for the season — put them in front to stay.

THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

Harkless set a season high in minutes with 30 after not playing at all Friday night against the Sacramento Kings. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

STAT OF THE GAME

This is the first time all season that the Magic have won more games at home than on the road. They are now 11-21 at the Amway Center and 10-22 away from home.

WHAT’S NEXT

Tuesday night at Indiana, 7 p.m.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.