The Boston Celtics had been so composed recently in late-game situations, it was a bit surprising to see them come so unglued on Sunday evening.
The Celtics kicked away a 20-point first-half lead, then watched the Orlando Magic score 12 consecutive points during a key two-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter while dropping a 103-98 decision at the Amway Center.
Boston sizzled from beyond the arc at the start of the game and pushed their lead as high as 20 early in the second quarter. That lead was down to six by halftime and the Magic had surged ahead by late in the third frame.
Even still, Boston was up four with less than four minutes to play, then completely fell apart. Mo Harkless' 3-pointer with 3:32 to go ignited a 12-0 run that culminated with a Harkless slam that put Orlando out front 92-84 with 1:34 to play.
The loss overshadowed a big night for Brandon Bass, who put up 19 points and 17 rebounds (10 on the offensive glass) against his former team. Marcus Smart added 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists for Boston before being ejected late for a flagrant-2 foul. Isaiah Thomas had 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting over 30 minutes off the bench.
• Gigi Time! Recently acquired Gigi Datome got some second-half run and provided an unexpected (and much-needed, at that point) spark to Boston's offense. Datome put up 10 points in under 10 minutes, canning a pair of 3-pointers and adding a baseline dunk. The only thing that could stop him was the shot clock, which negated a Dirk Nowitzki-like one-foot fadeaway. Alas, Boston couldn't catch fire from the spark.
• Smart gets early exit: Smart got tagged with a (questionable) flagrant-2 and was ejected from the game for an elbow to the head of fellow rookie Payton while trying to drive at the hoop with 28 seconds to play. Smart held the ball high and seemed to draw inadvertent contact with Payton, but got whistled for an offensive foul that was upgraded to flagrant-2 upon video review. Thomas got tagged with a flagrant-1 for a foul in transition soon after.
• Loose balls: The Celtics shot 39.3 percent overall despite connecting on 44.1 percent of 3-point attempts. ... Boston turned the ball over 16 times for 27 Orlando points, a departure from their recent surehanded play. ... The Magic dominated in points in the paint, 52-26. ... Phil Pressey, Shavlik Randolph and Gerald Wallace were healthy DNPs for Boston.
• What it means: This was a bad loss for Boston, particularly after a big win on Friday in New Orleans. The Celtics fall to 25-36 and take a step back in the hunt for a playoff berth. The Magic improve to 21-43. The Celtics close out a three-game road with the second night of a back-to-back on Monday in Miami. The Heat are one of the teams in front of Boston in the quest for a final playoff spot.