The Boston Celtics will be glad they don’t have to see the Orlando Magic again this season. Early Monday night, the Magic raced down the track to secure a 113-98 win and move 3-1 against the team with the best record in the league. No other team has as many wins against the Celtics this season, and the Magic are the first team to win a season series against them.
There are a few reasons for the Celtics’ lack of success against the Magic this season, including being shorthanded in every meeting; All four games were missing at least one starter, and the Celtics were missing multiple starters in three of the four contests.
Health isn’t everything though, and another reason the Magic have proven themselves to be the Celtics’ kryptonites this season is Paolo Banchero. The Rookie of the Year leader has had some of his best performances against the Celtics, including a 31-point away game in the Magic win on Dec. 18, the second-highest game of his career.
That trend continued Monday as Banchero scored 23 points and five rebounds on 7-of-13 from the floor. His full arsenal of offensive skills showed in this one. He got off to a strong start, using his mobility to get Al Horford out of dribbling; he used his size and physicality to work his way up the line for nine free throws; in transition he showed his athleticism; behind the bow he hit shots on the muzzle …
…and away from dribbling.
Outside shooting was perhaps the most notable aspect of Banchero’s performance. Not just because he was 3 out of 5, but because it boosted one of the more interesting stats this season. In the four games against the Celtics, Banchero is 14 of 25 from 3-point country (56 percent); against every other team he is 40 out of 144 (27.7 percent). Banchero has been a so-so shooter all season and the Celtics have been unlucky to some degree that his best games have been played against them. At the same time, it’s to Banchero’s credit that he was willing to go up against an elite opponent time and time again.
After his 25th 20-point game, leading all rookies, Banchero is now averaging 20.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Among rookies, he is first in goals, fourth in rebounds, and third in assists; no other rookie finishes in the top five in all three categories. As a result, Banchero is now a -1200 favorite to win Rookie of the Year, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Even without more games against the Celtics, he should roll to that trophy.