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Reserves help Boston Celtics roll past Orlando Magic

By
Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics' bench has been a strength from the start of this NBA season.

But Friday night might have been the best game yet.

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"I thought they were great," coach Brad Stevens said after his top four reserves combined for 60 points, 18 rebounds, 15 assists and five steals in a 113-94 blowout of the sagging Orlando Magic.

The win was Boston's fifth straight and its eighth in the last 10 games.

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"Each of those guys is doing a lot right now and really trying to play to their strengths," Stevens said. "It's been good."

Guards Marcus Smart and Evan Turner and forwards Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko went a combined 21 of 32 from the floor, including 7 of 10 from 3-point range.

Smart and Olynyk each scored 16 points, Turner posted 15 points and eight assists and Jerebko had a season-high 13 points (4 of 4 from the floor, 3 of 3 from 3-point range) as seven players scored in double figures. Jerebko also matched his season high with 10 rebounds.

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Boston easily won in the opener of a home-and-home set that ends Sunday night at Orlando.

"We're coming together well," Olynyk said. "This last little bit we have played pretty well together ... just playing and getting used to each other and playing together and really covering our roles."

It's early, but the win moved the sizzling Celtics into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Boston (27-21) also scored 100 or more points for the 11th straight game -- doing that for the first time since 1995-96.

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The Magic lost their eighth in a row and their 12th in the last 13 games.

"I don't know," Orlando guard Victor Oladipo said when asked what's wrong with the team. "We got to figure something out, we got to do it faster or it's just going to keep going south."

Boston blew open a semi-close game with a 22-4 tear that ended with a 15-0 run in the first 5:32 of the fourth quarter.

Forward Jae Crowder finished with 15 points, newly named All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas had 14 points and 11 assists and forward Jared Sullinger contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds.

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Big man Nikola Vucevich led six Magic players in double figures with 14 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds as his streak of double-doubles ended at six games.

Forward Aaron Gordon had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Magic (20-25).

The Celtics, who avenged a 19-point loss at Orlando on Nov. 29, showed a video tribute during a first-quarter timeout saluting Thomas making the All-Star team. Thomas, who had just scored his first basket of the game, then had a hand in 10 straight points, scoring four and contributing three assists.

The Thomas-led run put the Celtics ahead 19-14 and they never trailed after that.

Jerebko, who came in averaging 3.6 points per game, scored eight straight Boston points at one point in the second quarter.

"I think his 10 rebounds is something, too, that's really a good thing moving forward," Stevens said. "He's active; he feels comfortable. I think he's pretty set in how he's going to impact us."

Smart said, "We have a big test coming up Sunday playing the same team again, especially after beating them here, on their home court. They are hungry for a win."

NOTES: Boston G Isaiah Thomas, one of the smallest players in the league at 5 feet 9, should not have any trouble staying motivated after making his first All-Star team. "I asked myself yesterday, 'What can they say now?' But they'll find something," he said Friday. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, "I think he's earned it ... I'm excited about the fact that he's being recognized." Stevens said an excited Thomas called him with the news. "It was fun to hear his enthusiasm, hear his excitement in that moment," Stevens said. ... Despite his team's losing streak, Magic coach Scott Skiles said earlier Friday, "We're only five games out of having home-court advantage and we're only three out of the playoffs." ... The Magic signed G Keith Appling to a second 10-day contract. ... Orlando big man Jason Smith, who suffered a stinger Tuesday night and skipped Friday's shootaround, played 11 minutes in Friday's game. ... Boston's 104.6-point season scoring average is a franchise best since 1991-92 (106.1).

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