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Celtics 109, Magic 98

Kemba Walker stars, but Javonte Green shines in victory

Javonte Green dunks over Orlando’s Aaron Gordon during the second half Friday.John Raoux/Associated press/Associated Press

ORLANDO — On Friday morning, after it became clear the Celtics would probably be without young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, coach Brad Stevens sought out Javonte Green, who is older than both of them at 26, but still an NBA rookie.

Boston signed Green last summer in part because of his ability to blanket opposing wings, and the Magic had a wing in Terrence Ross who would require some blanketing.

Last season, Ross came off the bench and topped the 25-point mark twice against Boston. Both were Orlando wins. If that happened again, with all the notable absences, the Celtics probably would have lost.


So Green hunkered down with some assistant coaches and studied video of Ross. And, just as importantly, he started preparing for his biggest opportunity of the season.

Yes, Kemba Walker had 37 points and Gordon Hayward had 22 points and 14 rebounds, but those performances have become expected. They needed help, and there was Green. He played a career-high 28 minutes, helped hold Ross to 3 of 14 shooting, and then added 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals in Boston’s 109-98 win, its third in a row.

“He spent all day watching extra and preparing extra, and that’s what you have to do,” Stevens said. “So hats off to him. He’s the one we singled out in the locker room [after the game], because that’s what good teams do. They have guys that take those little things about the game and try to help you win.”

Green was offered just one Division 1 scholarship, he was not drafted after graduating from Radford, and he had spent the last four years playing overseas before parlaying a summer league chance into a real NBA contract. Now he is emerging as a dependable option when absences call for it.


“It always hits me that I’m an NBA player,” Green said. “Sometimes I feel it’s a dream come true, so I have to soak it in, everything around me.”

Without Tatum (groin), Brown (ankle), and backup center Enes Kanter (hip), it was clear the Celtics would need lifts from uncommon sources — although Walker had one of those powerful bursts that make it seem as if his presence would suffice.

One day after being named an All-Star starter, the point guard erupted for 19 points in the second quarter, helping Boston chip away at a 16-point deficit and pull within 57-53 at halftime.

“I thought he gave us everything he had in the first half to be in the game,” Stevens said, “and we were worried that he wouldn’t have much left.”

In the third quarter, Magic coach Steve Clifford (who coached Walker in Charlotte), adjusted his schemes a bit and blitzed Walker from different angles with more defenders. In a sense, it worked.

Walker attempted just one shot in the period and did not score. But the most important part of that quarter — and the game — took place after the six-minute mark, with Boston trailing 69-64 and Walker headed to the bench.

Stevens planned to give him just a two- or three-minute rest. Then the players on the court unloaded a critical 18-4 run that allowed Walker’s break to extend as the lead swelled. That flurry included a pair of powerful dunks by Green, including a double-clutch on a fast break that brought his teammate out of their chairs.


“You just get excited about guys getting the opportunity,” Walker said. “Those guys haven’t played much during this year. We had guys go down and you see guys like Javonte come in and just make huge plays. Defensively, he was great. His energy was great, as usual.”

Hayward was a steadying presence while Walker sat, too. The forward’s play has been somewhat inconsistent this year, but he appears to be building on another hot streak that the Celtics hope will last.

“I think it’s one of the reasons why I’m a part of this team,” Hayward said. “I can do a lot of different things. When asked to do whatever it is, I try to do my best at it. So if that’s scoring on a different night, if that’s facilitating, if that’s playing defense, rebounding, or make winning plays, I try to do the best for us.”

The Celtics’ recent funk in which they lost six of eight games now seems to have faded. Many of those losses came when the team was shorthanded, and, for Stevens, one of the most encouraging parts of Friday’s win was that his team overcame those absences this time.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.