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BOSTON (AP) The way things went on the road for the Orlando Magic last season, one of the final two 3-point attempts by Boston probably would have gone in.
But it’s a new season and the ball bounced the right way in the closing seconds for Orlando.
Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 12 rebounds while the Magic survived two 3-point attempts by Boston in the final seconds to beat the Celtics 93-90 on Monday night.
“We definitely held our breath,” Vucevic said of the second 3-point attempt. “Once it hit the rim and I looked at the clock, it was almost over and I was like: ‘alright we’re good.'”
Jonathan Isaac added 18 points and 12 boards for the Magic (2-2), who went just 8-33 on the road last season, losing 25 of their last 28.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics (2-2) with 22 points. Al Horford had 15 and Gordon Hayward 11. Irving and Hayward each missed a 3 in the final seconds.
“It had a chance for sure,” Hayward said. “It was a good look. Kind of the story of the night, we had a bunch of good looks and just didn’t knock them down.”
The Celtics, who never led in the game, trailed by at least five points from the midway point of the final quarter until Jaylen Brown nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner, closing it to 89-86 with 71 seconds left.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Boston Celtics are in control of their own destiny. Sunday’s matchup with the Orlando Magic at TD Garden is pretty cut and dry. Win, and the Celtics clinch home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. If Boston falls to Orlando, however, they can turn to scoreboard watching. If the Indiana Pacers lose to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, that would also clinch home-court for the Celtics in round one. Orlando currently sits as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 40-40. A win on Sunday would clinch the franchise’s first playoff berth in six seasons. A Charlotte Hornets loss on Sunday afternoon would also clinch a berth for the Magic before their game at TD Garden tips off.
Horford and Irving then had consecutive baskets 32 seconds apart, slicing it to 91-90 with 14.2 seconds to play.
With Boston forced to foul Evan Fournier after Orlando inbounded the ball after a timeout, he stepped to the line and made both free throws with 7.8 seconds left.
Irving then missed his 3 from the right corner, and after Horford grabbed the rebound and fed it out – Hayward’s rimmed out just before the buzzer sounded.
“I was beating myself up that Horford got that rebound,” Isaac said. “I was trying my best to box him out. I was like ‘No don’t let them end the game like this or don’t let them come back.'”
Orlando had pulled ahead by 13 points twice late in the third quarter before Boston closed the period by scoring 10 of the final 12 points to slice it to 75-70 at the break.
Red Sox star Mookie Betts walked into the arena early in the second quarter and watched from a courtside seat across from Boston’s bench. Later in the quarter, the Celtics moved him to a seat right next to their bench.
Robert Williams, the Celtics’ first-round pick in this year’s NBA draft, made his debut, playing 3 ½ minutes in the third quarter without getting anything on his stat line.
Both teams were ice cold from beyond the arc. The Celtics missed 31 of 40 and the Magic 25 of 35.
“Sometimes when you don’t make it early, you can feel the tension,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.
Magic: C Timofey Mozgov was inactive for the fourth straight game with a sore right knee. . Vucevic was 11 of 18 from the floor and Isaac 8 of 12.
Celtics: C Aaron Baynes missed the game with a strained right hamstring. … Stevens turned 42-years-old on Wednesday. … Marcus Morris started the second half after Hayward picked up three fouls in the first two quarters. . Brown hit just 2 of 9 attempts from the floor and Jayson Tatum was 3 of 12.
Magic: Host Portland on Thursday.
Celtics: At Oklahoma City on Thursday. They beat the Thunder in both meetings last season.
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