7 takeaways as Celtics lose second straight, Magic avenge insult from Eddie House

"I’ve been playing like butt these last couple games, and I have to get better."

Celtics Magic
Magic guard Markelle Fultz battles for control of the ball against Celtics players. AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

The Celtics dropped a second-straight ugly loss to the Magic on Sunday, falling 95-92 as their previously potent offense extinguished itself once again.

Here are the takeaways.

1. With apologies to the halcyon days of November, this regression was entirely inevitable.

“You thought we were just going to shoot lights out for the whole season? S—, I wish,” Jaylen Brown told reporters after the game. “It just never goes like that.”

The Celtics couldn’t find offense on Sunday. As a team, they shot 31-for-89 from the floor (34.8 percent) and 12-for-47 from 3-point range (25.5 percent). With Jayson Tatum sidelined due to a personal issue, Brown struggled immensely — 24 points on 10-for-25 and 2-for-10 from deep, as well as five turnovers and two assists.


But Brown was hardly alone. Grant Williams and Al Horford were combined 7-for-22 and 3-for-15. Sam Hauser continued his downward slide at 1-for-4 from deep. Derrick White was 1-for-7 overall.

As a team, the Celtics have been atrocious offensively over the last two weeks — scoring just 107.8 points per 100 possessions, which is the worst number in the NBA over that stretch. In their last seven games, the Celtics are tied for the second-worst shooting percentage (43.7 percent) and the fourth-worst 3-point percentage (30.6 percent). It’s a credit to their start that they still have the NBA’s best offensive rating, but those numbers are plummeting fast.

“I think over the course of the season we shot the ball so well to start that there’s naturally going to be a decline,” Joe Mazzulla said. “We just have to maintain our confidence and our trust. We have really good shooters, so just have to stick with it.”

Mathematically, he’s right, of course. The Celtics are supremely unlikely to remain the NBA’s worst offense going forward and were also unlikely to remain the NBA’s best-ever offense for the entire season.

This is the regression that was promised. The good news for the Celtics is that their defense has spiked to No. 3 in the NBA over the last two weeks. Assuming the offense levels out, there’s still a lot to like here.


“We missed a lot of shots as a team that I know we can make,” Brown said. “But that’s why you love the game. Every game has its own story. In your head, we still have 50-plus games left to go. So what we shot 30 percent tonight against a team that we should have beat? We learn from it and we move forward and we pick each other up.”

2. A frustrated Brown also vented about traveling violations, which are up around the league. Over the last two games, Brown has been whistled for a travel four times.

“That’s something I’ve got to work on I guess,” Brown said. “They pick and choose when they emphasize the traveling call. It seems like every f—ing game that’s the person, I’m targeted.

“But if you look around the league you can pinpoint a lot of players doing the same thing. So you can’t pick and choose when you want to call stuff. But that’s something I’m going to work on.”

3. NBC Boston analyst Eddie House — who, of course, won a title with the Celtics as a microwave scorer off the bench in 2008 — incurred the wrath of Magic players prior to Friday’s game by saying the Celtics needed to blow out a bad opponent (ignoring, of course, that the Magic had won four games in a row).


“They are still garbage,” House said on NBC Sports after the game. “They are still not a good basketball team. They won’t make the playoffs. They won’t be in the play-in game.”

Prior to Sunday’s game, Paolo Banchero said the Magic heard House’s comments but didn’t focus on them.

He might be lying.

One can’t help but wonder how the current Celtics feel about a broadcaster providing fuel for their opponents’ fire — especially a team like the Magic with plenty of talent and size but not a lot of experience.

“They’re long, they’re organized, the coach over there has done a good job of getting them organized,” Brown said. “They got a lot of length, they play hard and they throw different looks at you. They’ve got a lot of 6’9″, 6’10” guys they put on the floor all at one time and it’s like an unorthodox kind of method. But so far it’s worked for them. They’ve won some games, more games than I think they’d won at this point last year, so you’ve just got to give credit to them. They’ve been a tough matchup for us this year.”

4. The Celtics had a chance to take a lead late, trailing by one with nine seconds remaining, and they started to run an intriguing action that looked like it might free Brown curling toward the basket.

Instead, however, Grant Williams threw the ball away — leaving a pass intended for Brown short.


“I think we misread the play,” Williams said. “It was supposed to be a curl for JB I think to the 3-point line and we didn’t do it.”

The Celtics fouled on the other end, and Mo Wagner hit both of his free throws.

5. Paolo Banchero was excellent once again, scoring a career-high 31 points, which included 6-for-7 shooting from 3-point range. Banchero might not shoot that well again from deep (he’s at 27.3 percent this season), but he clearly is an excellent prospect with a ton of potential. At 6-foot-10 with a ton of offensive versatility, he could be the superstar building block of a really good team if the Magic construct their roster around him correctly.

6. Robert Williams has emerged from his first two games back indignant but intact.

“Body-wise, feeling good,” Williams told reporters. “But pretty pissed off about the loss.”

The Celtics will take a healthy Williams and a loss over the alternative.

7. Jayson Tatum has been in a shooting slump of his own (32.6 percent from three on 8.6 attempts per game over his last five), but Sunday’s loss hammered home his impact. When the offense needed a basket down the stretch, the absence of Tatum felt enormous.

The Celtics are trying to be kind to themselves as they work through this tough stretch, which is probably the right move.

After all, as Smart noted, nobody else is going to be kind to them.

“You got everybody else in the world telling you what you’re doing wrong, so the guys you go to work with every day, you don’t want them on the court telling them what they did wrong,” Smart said. “Trying to praise them, telling them what they did right, to do more of it, including myself as well. It’s part of it.


“You can see it on our faces. It’s not fun. And that’s what it is. When you come out with low energy, and you press that way, you’re not going to have fun. We just have to get back to that, and just relax and play, myself included. I’ve been playing like butt these last couple games, and I have to get better.”


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