The Orlando Magic didn’t need extra motivation ahead of their 95-92 Sunday win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden — but it was delivered to them anyway.
The Magic entered Sunday riding a season-best five-game win streak following their 117-109 Friday road win over the Celtics.
Former Celtics guard Eddie House downplayed the Magic’s Sunday victory during an appearance on NBC Boston Friday, saying:
“They got 10 wins [at the time]. They’re still garbage. They’re still not a good basketball team. They won’t make the playoffs. They won’t be in the play-in. The way the game unfolded was [the Celtics] came out complacent thinking they were head and shoulders better. Yeah, we are heads and shoulders better — the Celtics are heads and shoulders better.
“At the same time, there are proud professionals on the other side. I’m not talking about individually [that] they’re not good players, but as a team. We’re almost to Christmas. We’ve had a nice-sized sample to know exactly what you are.”
Magic rookie forward Paolo Banchero, who scored 31 points on a career-high 6-of-7 shooting on 3s to go with 6 rebounds and 3 assists in Sunday’s win, said those comments motivated the Magic.
“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t see that,” Banchero said. “It definitely lit a fire under some of the guys and the team in general. We just want to earn the respect of the league. It’s clear that a lot of people still don’t respect us. We’re just going to have to go out, game by game, and lock in, and eventually, it’ll be earned. Until then, we’re going to have to keep proving people wrong.”
Multiple Magic players, including Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. and Markelle Fultz, tweeted the video of former Magic guard Rafer Alston slapping House in the back of the head during Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals — a series the Magic won 4-3.
Banchero added that House’s comments were “just the thing we needed to see” coming off Friday’s win and playing them again Sunday for in the “baseball-style” series — when two teams play consecutive games at the same venue with no travel in between.
“We just laughed,” Banchero said. “We took it and used it as fuel to the fire. Instant motivation. Sometimes you might be satisfied with that first win or be happy you won one game out of two, but seeing that clip kind of gave us that extra boost to come out here in this second game and do the same thing.”
During a Sunday postgame appearance on NBC Boston, House gave the Magic credit for their second consecutive victory over the Celtics while also taking a shot at Magic fans.
“Let’s give credit to the Orlando Magic,” House said. “They played hard. This was their Game 7s back-to-back. I’m getting hit up on Twitter, on Instagram by all of their fans like they just won the NBA championship.
“Hey Orlando Magic fans, remember, you guys have the fifth-worse record in the league. When I was growing up there was a Mickey Mouse club — they’re in the goofy club because they’re so hyped over the two wins. No matter what, with those two wins, you’re still the fifth-worst team in the NBA. And we’re still at the top of the NBA. I had to shoot my shot at them. At the end of the day, it’s all good.”
Banchero hopes the Magic’s win streak will help them earn more respect around the league.
The Magic (11-20) will play the Hawks (15-15) in Atlanta Monday on the second night of the road back-to-back before completing the road trip with a matchup against the Rockets in Houston Wednesday.
After starting the season 5-20, the Magic are just 2½ games behind the Toronto Raptors (13-17) for the 10th spot in the East Conference standings — the final spot for the postseason play-in tournament.
“We’re playing well right now,” Banchero said. “We’re all clicking. Everyone trusts each other. Every sub that comes in, every guy that’s on the court is trusted. That’s just been showing these last 6-7 games.”