BOSTON – The warning signs that were there all preseason foreshadowed a breakdown that was all too real for the Celtics Monday night. 


 


Defensive lapses, disjointed offense overly reliant on 3-pointers and an overall lack of cohesion marked the exhibition slate that coaches and players all agreed was well south of subpar. The belief was that a few more weeks of familiarity would make all the difference once the games counted. [...]

BOSTON – The warning signs that were there all preseason foreshadowed a breakdown that was all too real for the Celtics Monday night. 

 

Defensive lapses, disjointed offense overly reliant on 3-pointers and an overall lack of cohesion marked the exhibition slate that coaches and players all agreed was well south of subpar. The belief was that a few more weeks of familiarity would make all the difference once the games counted.

 

 

But after a couple of spirited efforts out of the chute the Celtics returned to the sluggish preseason pace the past two games with it biting them big-time in a 93-90 loss to the Orlando Magic Monday night. 

 

Down five with less than a minute to go, Al Horford’s drive pulled Boston within 91-88 with 46.7 seconds on the clock before Kyrie Irving got into the lane for a one-point game with 14.2 seconds remaining.

  

The Celtics took seven seconds to foul Evan Fournier before he went to the line and hit both free throws for a three-point game with 7.8 seconds on the clock. Irving and Gordon Hayward then missed open 3-pointers to force overtime in the final seconds of the loss.

 

 

 

Irving scored 22 points with eight rebounds and five assists, Al Horford scored 15 points and Hayward added 11. But poor shooting from the Celtics overall (41 percent) – and especially on 3-pointers (22.5 percent) – made for a painful night of basketball on the parquet.

 

 

 

Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 24 points for the Magic, while Jonathan Isaac had 18 points and 12 rebounds.

 

 

 

Down as many as 13, the Celtics got back within one early in the fourth when Daniel Theis finished a nice feed from Jayson Tatum. But missed 3-pointers thwarted a series of chances to tie and take the lead as the Magic pushed the gap to 81-75 with 6:20 left in the fourth.

 

 

 

Irving muscled in a drive out of a timeout for a four-point game, but D.J. Augustin responded with a 3-pointer and 84-77 game with 5:02 to play. Horford made it a five-point game before a bizarre bounce of a batted rebound put Orlando back up seven.

 

 

 

Horford’s free throws had the Celtics within 86-81 with 3:20 remaining before Isaac got loose out of the pause for a seven-point game. Irving cut the gap to five with 1:46 to play. Augustin answered with a free throws when Irving’s 3-pointer made it an 89-86 game with 1:11 to go.

 

 

 

But Isaac answered with a 19-footer for a five-point gap into a timeout with 52.7 seconds on the clock.

 

 

 

If it’s possible to have a trap game in the second week of the season this was a top candidate as the unheralded Magic took the parquet with the Celtics coming off a physical effort against the Toronto Raptors Friday and a tight victory under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks on Saturday.

 

 

 

The starters certainly played like they were sleeping on the Magic in the first quarter as they missed their first six shots and went down 26-14 before Brad Stevens yanked the entire unit with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

 

 

 

The Boston bench helped reverse the momentum late in the first quarter and into the second before the starters returned to trade baskets into halftime. The Celtics were within three twice on an Irving basket and Tatum spin move to the rim, but the Magic went back up eight late in the half before an Irving 3-pointer and Tatum jumper made it 48-45 at the half.

 

 

 

But the start of the second half was a similar story for the starters – with Marcus Morris replacing Hayward, who remains on a 25-minute restriction – as the Magic went back up as many as 13 with 2:58 left in the third.

 

 

 

Hayward came off the bench and hit Marcus Smart for a 3-pointer and 10-point game with 2:32 on the clock before Irving got to the rim for an eight-point game with 2:06 to play. An Irving basket had Boston down 75-67 with 48.6 ticks left before Hayward’s 3-point made it a five-point game through three.