The Celtics had their most puzzling loss of the season to the Magic

They’ve lost three games in a row for the first time this season. The Celtics have come back from huge deficits before, but they just couldn’t get it done against the Magic on Sunday, getting throttled on their home floor. They fell behind by as many as 19 points going into the fourth quarter. The Celtics managed to cut the lead down to seven points in the final quarter, but they couldn’t pull ahead.
This is the third loss in a row for the Celtics, and the first time they’ve lost three games in a row all season long. We’re in the middle of January, so this is hardly concerning for Boston. But it does raise the question of why are the Celtics slowing down? On Sunday, it was their offense.
The Celtics just haven’t been able to score well
Without 40 points from Kyrie Irving , this one would’ve been much worse. The Celtics had an offensive rating of 99.8 throughout the game and were outscored 32-12 in the third quarter.
Despite how suffocating their defense can be, it doesn’t matter if they can’t generate enough offense to carry them through games. It was so bad Irving only sat for two minutes in the second half.
When Celtics besides Irving tried to create for each other, it was a mess.

And Al Horford was fairly inefficient as a scorer. He shot 4-of-11 from the field and was stood up by Bismack Biyombo and Khem Birch throughout the game.

He had six assists, but the Celtics need him to be more than a facilitator when their jump shots aren’t falling. They missed a ton of open threes and shot just 29.6 percent from deep in the game. When that happens, it’s hard for them to win games — even if their defense is working.
They didn’t defend well, either
The Celtics have tough matchups inside over the last few games, going against the likes of Anthony Davis , DeMarcus Cousins , Joel Embiid , and Ben Simmons. Struggling to defend the paint against them is understandable.
However, they allowed way too many open lanes and easy drives from the perimeter to the Magic. Aaron Gordon straight up abused them in the third quarter.

. @Double0AG and the @OrlandoMagic are having their way in the paint against the Celtics . — NBA TV (@NBATV) January 21, 2018

They also didn’t hustle like they normally do. It’s fine for Evan Fournier to get this ball, but that’s no excuse not to close out.

GAME TIME @EvanFourmizz gets us started in Boston. : @FOXSportsFL — Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) January 21, 2018

They did the same thing here on this corner three attempt. The shooter is already in his motion, and there’s no one running at him.

I'm not an NBA coach, but I'd choose to defend this a little bit differently. — John Karalis (@RedsArmy_John) January 21, 2018

These are the little effort plays and details the Celtics are normally on top of. Against the Magic, they weren’t.
Still, we shouldn’t be concerned about them
They’ve still got the best record in the East and are the best team playing in the conference right now. They’ve slipped up a bit over the last three games, but this isn’t the first time they’ve done that this season, and it won’t be the last.
This was a bad all-around game for the Celtics, but one where their mistakes are easily correctable. They didn’t pay attention to detail defensively, and they didn’t hit open looks from the outside. Those things will eventually reverse, and they’ll be just fine once again.

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