BOSTON — The Orlando Magic entered Monday ranked second in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense. They had limited opponents to 40.3 percent shooting. Impressive.
That seems like a distant memory now.
The Boston Celtics shredded the Magic's defense Monday night and routed the Magic 120-105 at TD Garden. The Celtics sank 60.0 percent of their shot attempts, the highest field-goal percentage by any team against Orlando this season.
"It was pretty much all game long," Magic swingman Arron Afflalo said. "I don't really feel like we were truly in the game at any point just simply because we couldn't get stops. To win on the road, you have to get stops. That's the only way."
Afflalo scored 18 points, gathered four rebounds and distributed seven assists, while Nik Vucevic added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Those performances weren't enough.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley enjoyed one of the best shooting nights of his career, connecting on 10 of his 15 attempts, and finished with a game-high 24 points. His backcourt mate, Jordan Crawford, added 16 points and distributed 10 assists without a turnover.
"We did a poor job tonight," Magic small forward Maurice Harkless said. "They made a lot of shots, so you've got to give them credit, too. We just couldn't find a way to stop them."
The defeat extended the Magic's regular-season losing streak against the Celtics to 10 games.
Orlando hasn't beaten Boston since Dec. 25, 2010, and hasn't beaten Boston at TD Garden since Feb. 7, 2010.
On Monday, the Magic's defense struggled early.
In the game's initial minutes, Bradley hit jumpers from 17, 19 and 22 feet, which were lower-percentage shots the Magic wanted him to take.
"I don't like it when teams don't cooperate, and he just didn't cooperate," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said, tongue-in-cheek.
Bradley's jumpers might have opened space for the Celtics down low. Boston scored a staggering 16 points in the paint in the first quarter and exited the period shooting 68.4 percent from the field.
Things didn't get much better for the Magic (3-5).
They've lost three consecutive games, beginning with Friday night's narrow defeat to the Celtics at Amway Center.
"I think Brad should send me a fruit basket," Vaughn joked, referring to Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
"Ever since the second quarter of our game at our place, things have gone kind of in opposite directions. His team is playing extremely well, and we haven't played as well."
With all of their struggles on defense, the Magic had few easy scoring opportunities on offense.
Vaughn wanted his players to generate fastbreak chances whenever possible, but all of Boston's made baskets and trips to the free-throw line made it difficult for Orlando to run. The Magic didn't score a fastbreak bucket until the third quarter and finished with just four points on the break.
The Celtics (4-4) had no problems running.
They turned 19 Magic turnovers into 22 points.
"We got a lot of players that like to run the floor," Crawford said. "So, we're not playing to my strengths. We're playing to the team's strengths."
The announced crowd of 18,624 fans inside TD Garden screamed themselves hoarse, but even a few of them started to leave the arena with five minutes to go.
They missed seeing Bradley make another 20-foot jumper.
"There's really no tricks to it," Afflalo said. "You have to play defense in this game. If you don't play defense as a team, you won't win. So, when we were playing well in tight games or games that we won, we were playing exceptionally well on defense."
For one night at least, those superb performances seemed like distant memories.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun