Celtics vs. Magic takeaways: Orlando spoils Robert Williams’ return


Celtics-Magic takeaways: Orlando spoils Robert Williams’ return originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Robert Williams’ return was a bright spot, but Boston Celtics fans didn’t have much else to cheer about Friday night.

The C’s were outclassed by the lowly Orlando Magic in their first game back at TD Garden, 117-109. It was only the second road win of the season for the Magic, though it marked their fifth consecutive victory overall.

Boston got out to a 10-point lead before going cold late in the first quarter. Orlando went on a run to go up 19 in the third quarter and while the C’s were able to cut the deficit to seven, they couldn’t complete the comeback in the fourth.

The Celtics shot just 11-for-46 (23.9 percent) from 3-point range in the loss. Al Horford quickly hit his first two 3s of the night in his return, but the veteran big man was later ejected for a Flagrant 2 after hitting Magic center Mo Wagner in the groin area.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the C’s with 31 and 26 points, respectively. Wagner led Orlando with 25 points while rookie Paolo Banchero chipped in 20. Cole Anthony added 14 off the bench.

Here are our takeaways from the Celtics’ third loss in their last four games, which brings them to 22-8 on the season. They’ll have a chance to split the series with the Magic on Sunday.

Robert Williams shakes off the rust

Time Lord made his long-awaited return to the TD Garden parquet after missing the first 29 games of the season due to knee surgery. Celtics fans welcomed him back with a massive ovation as he checked into the game in the first quarter.

Shortly after entering the game, Williams gave the TD Garden crowd another reason to go wild by finishing off an alley-oop for his first points of the campaign.

He provided a much-needed spark in the third with a dunk to follow up Jaylen Brown’s monster jam.

Williams also notched a big block on 7-foot-2 Magic center Bol Bol. While he showed flashes of what’s to come if he can stay healthy, he was a bit rusty in his first action of the season.

Within his first four minutes, Williams committed three personal fouls. We’ll chalk that up to the 25-year-old being a bit too excited to be back on the court. All in all, it was an encouraging return as he finished 4-for-4 (all dunks) with nine points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. The most important thing of all, he moved well and looked to be at full strength.

Supporting cast struggles

It was an off night for pretty much every Celtic not named Jayson Tatum, and even Tatum hit a rough patch in the second half. He had zero field goals in the third quarter and only three in the fourth.

Still, Tatum was the least of the Celtics’ problems. His 31-point effort wasn’t enough to carry the load as virtually the entire supporting cast couldn’t find its groove. The bench (Malcolm Brogdon, Grant Williams, and Sam Hauser) combined to 2-for-14 from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart was 1-for-7 from long range.

Brown’s 26-point outing was overshadowed by his seven turnovers. He turned the ball over four times in Tuesday’s overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics will hope its an anomaly as Brown had only five turnovers in his previous five games combined.

The Mo Wagner revenge game

You may have forgotten about the Mo Wagner era in Boston. That’s because it only lasted nine games during the 2020-21 season, but it definitely happened.

Wagner returned to TD Garden to show C’s fans a side of him they didn’t see during his brief stint in Boston. He played a major role in the Celtics’ demise, contributing a season-high 25 points while shooting 9-of-12 from the floor. He also tallied eight rebounds in his 23 minutes.

File that under “things we didn’t see coming.” The Celtics will need to find a way to limit the 6-foot-11 center in Sunday’s rematch.

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