ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) It was far from pretty. It still counted as a victory – finally – for the Orlando Magic.
The Magic rallied from 14 points down, then had to hold on for dear life in the final minute before securing a 119-114 win over the Boston Celtics that snapped an eight-game losing streak.
“We didn’t close it out in a professional manner,” Magic coach Scott Skiles said, “but we needed any win we could get.”
Orlando used an 18-2 run late in the fourth quarter to go ahead 113-102 with under a minute to play, but then missed four free throws and allowed Boston to cut the deficit to 117-114 with 14.6 seconds remaining – before closing out only its second win in January.
“When you scramble and hustle and play hard, usually good things happen,” Skiles said. “We’ve struggled so much recently that I’m just happy for the guys to battle and get one coming from behind.”
Evan Fournier led Orlando with 24 points and Aaron Gordon scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Rookie Mario Hezonja scored 17 points, Tobias Harris had 16 and Nikola Vucevic had 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Magic.
Orlando had lost 12 of its last 13 going into the game and looked headed for another defeat when its defense and perimeter shooting came alive. The Magic shot 56.8 percent and limited Boston to just 40 percent in the second half.
The Magic were down 95-90 when Harris started the game-deciding rally with a traditional three-point play. Fournier and Hezonja followed with three straight 3-pointers against a relaxed Boston defense and, suddenly, the Magic were up 108-97.
“I thought we played really porous defense in the fourth quarter,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “We didn’t challenge the right guys, we let their perimeter guys get really comfortable and they took advantage of it.”
Marcus Smart led Boston with 26 points. Isaiah Thomas scored 23 points and Avery Bradley had 22. The Celtics started the game off hitting seven of 12 3-pointers in the first period, but went only 9 of 34 from beyond the arc the rest of the game.
The Celtics trailed 113-102 with a minute left, but had one last run left in them. The Magic opened the door by missing four free throws. Smart nailed a 3-pointer and was fouled by Victor Oladipo. He made the free throw to finish off a four-point play and cut the deficit to 117-114 with 14.6 seconds to play.
“I wasn’t even trying to make the basket to be honest with you,” Smart said. “I was just trying to get fouled. I got both.”
However, Vucevic stopped the rally with two free throws and blocked Kelly Olynyk’s 3-point attempt with 6 seconds to play to preserve the win for Orlando.
“It was a great win, but we should have closed the game better,” Fournier said. “It seems like we like it when it’s harder, but we definitely have to close games better.”
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