Jaylen Brown finally back in business
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown returned on Sunday after missing three games with back spasms and had 13 points in 26 minutes in the 116-108 loss to the Magic.
He hit two big 3-pointers during Boston’s fourth-quarter comeback that ultimately fell short.
“I thought he made great plays and when you’ve missed a week or 10 days or whatever he’s missed, I think seeing a couple of those threes go in was a really good thing,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought Kyrie [Irving] did a really good job finding him on one, maybe both. But I thought it was encouraging what Jaylen did.
“We need him to be a great defender for us when we enter the playoffs, and everything else will take care of itself.”
The Celtics clinched homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs before they even took the court against the Magic on Sunday night.
By dint of the Nets’ win over the Pacers, Indiana can no longer catch Boston for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics entered Sunday night still having an outside shot at passing the 76ers and claiming the No. 3 seed, but those hopes were dashed by their loss to the Magic, who clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
Orlando, the No. 7 seed in the East, will draw a first-round matchup against the second-seeded Toronto Raptors. The Celtics, meanwhile, will host the fifth-seeded Pacers.
“Everybody plays all year to try to be as high a seed as they can,” Stevens said before the game, “and, the bottom line is, in Boston you always have one goal no matter what your outlook is, right? And that goal is to be the last team standing, and regardless, we’re going to have to go on the road to do it, whether that is in the first round, second round, third round, whatever the case may be.
“So, at the end of the day, we’re going to have to play well on the road, we’re going to have to play well at home, and every single game is tough.”
It could also be argued that the Celtics are in a better position by claiming the No. 4 seed instead of the No. 3. That set them up with a first-round series against an Indiana team that has been sputtering since All-Star Victor Oladipo’s leg injury on Jan. 23, and the Celtics just defeated the Pacers twice, including a 20-point romp in Indianapolis.
Also, that would potentially set up a second-round matchup against the Bucks, who might still be without starting shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon, who is out with a plantar fascia tear. Milwaukee, which lost to the Celtics in the first round of last season’s playoffs, is probably a better matchup for the Celtics than the Raptors are.
Stevens said before Sunday’s game the Pacers’ result would not affect his approach.
“I just think we’re in good shape,” he said. “Like, as far as the guys that needed the most time [off], over the course of time, have gotten it, organically. They’ve gotten it through injuries and through nicks and bruises, or in [Al Horford’s] case, a couple weeks off earlier in the season with the knee. In [Gordon Hayward’s] case, unfortunately, the ankle and the concussion.
“In Kyrie’s case, all kinds of different little things, but nothing major, and I think that all those guys are in good shape, as well as our other guys.”
Terry Rozier left Friday’s game against the Pacers at halftime because of an illness and was hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids, but he returned Sunday and had 7 points in 21 minute . . . Hayward’s streak of 15 consecutive made shots was snapped in the second quarter.