The Celtics were once again shorthanded, and once again, it did not matter. Despite missing starters Kemba Walker (knee), Daniel Theis (ankle), and sixth man Marcus Smart (quad), the Celtics surged to a 116-100 win over the Magic anyway.
Jaylen Brown appeared to suffer a leg injury in the final minute. The Celtics called a timeout and he limped to the locker room.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 33 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists, and Gordon Hayward added 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. The Celtics made 53.5 percent of their shots and 56.5 percent of their 3-pointers.
Observations from the game:
■ With Walker and Smart out, rookie wing Romeo Langford received his first NBA start. Conspiracy theorists might wonder if it was a last-chance attempt for Boston to showcase Langford for a potential trade in advance of the Thursday deadline. After all, Boston mostly had the same available roster against the Hawks on Monday, and Langford did not play at all. He stepped out of bounds on the first possession but did not look out of place after that. He had some strong moments defensively, like when he did well to stay in lockstep with Evan Fournier before blocking his shot on a drive. Langford finished with 6 points in 28 minutes.
■ Enes Kanter started in place of Theis, who sat out because of a sprained ankle. Kanter’s ability to finish inside and grab offensive rebounds has been apparent all year, but the defensive downgrade from Theis is obvious. The Magic looked to exploit him in pick-and-roll situations time and again. But Vucevic, who was an All-Star last season, managed just 12 points.
■ This has become a common theme in this space, but Grant Williams once again came off the bench and provided productive minutes in the first half. He hit a pair of 3-pointers, converted a putback, and had one excellent defensive stand against Magic big man Mo Bamba. Williams held his ground in the paint, and when Bamba finally tried to attack, Williams swatted his offering. Williams had 13 points and six rebounds.
■ Referee Aaron Smith left the game in the first quarter because of an injury, so the rest of the game was called with a two-man crew. That was probably the reason that there were several noticeably late calls in this game. On one Brown 3-pointer, a foul wasn’t called until after the ball had caromed off the rim. Then in the third quarter Aaron Gordon grabbed the rim with his left hand before scoring with his right. This is technically an “unsportsmanlike play” violation. Kanter and Stevens made sure the officials knew this as play headed in the other direction, and sure enough they stopped the action and made the call.
■ There was also one wild end-to-end sequence late in the third quarter when it looked like about three fouls were committed but none were called until Vincent Poirier ended the sequence with a 3-point play.
■ Hayward had 17 of his 23 points in the second half, and really had success finding his spots, including the 8-foot turnaround jumpers off of drives that have become all but impossible for defenses to stop.
■ The crowd erupted with 1.6 seconds left in the second quarter. It wasn’t because of a spectacular play or anything like that. It was just because Celtics coach Brad Stevens summoned 7-foot-6-inch center Tacko Fall to play defense as Orlando prepared for a last-second shot off an inbounds pass. The ball ended up in Magic wing Terrence Ross’s hands in the left corner, and Fall was not involved in the play.
■ Ross has caused fits for the Celtics over the year. When these teams met in Orlando two weeks ago, though, he was mostly subdued, going 3 for 14 and scoring 8 points. He equaled that mark in the first half Wednesday, going 2 for 4 from beyond the arc. Green was credited with slowing him last game, but he committed a pair of tough fouls in the third quarter that sent him to the foul line, including one on a 3-pointer.
■ The Magic are among the handful of teams that the Celtics could face in the first round of the playoffs. Despite Orlando’s success against Boston last year, it probably wouldn’t be a very long series. And there would be hardly any buzz, especially compared with potential first-round matchups against the Nets (and Kyrie Irving) or the 76ers.