ORLANDO, Fla. — The Boston Celtics are prepared to go through growing pains this season as they learn to adapt to life without franchise stalwarts Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Coach Brad Stevens is ready for a long process, but will take a few wins like Friday night along the way.
Brandon Bass had 16 points, including a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to help the Celtics fight back from an early hole and hang on for a 91-89 victory over the Orlando Magic.
“We talked before about making winning plays in winning time, and we did. That was neat,” Stevens said afterward. “Overall, I’m very pleased with the result, but we still have a lot to work on. We’re not that much different than if we wouldn’t have won the game.”
Trailing by three, the Magic had a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but Arron Afflalo’s jumper came from a half-step inside the 3-point line.
The victory was the Celtics’ second straight and extends their winning streak over Orlando to nine games. They will try to make it three straight Saturday at defending champion Miami.
Avery Bradley added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Celtics.
Boston survived a 36 percent shooting night from the field and 2-of-14 performance from beyond the arc.
After taking an early lead, Orlando let the Celtics back into the game by committing a season-high 20 turnovers that led to 25 points on the other end.
Afflalo led the Magic, who had their three-game winning streak ended, with 23 points. Nik Vucevic finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds but was mostly bottled up by Boston’s defense.
Bradley stripped Victor Oladipo at midcourt and sprinted ahead for a dunk and eventual three-point play to put the Celtics up 81-77 with under six minutes to play.
Afflalo knocked down a 3-pointer and was fouled by Bradley with 1:38 left. He completed the four-point play to pull the Magic within 86-84.
Kelly Olynyk responded with a jumper on Boston’s next possession. Afflalo answered with a three-point play, but Bass was fouled and made both free throws for a 90-87 lead.
“We stuck together when we were missing shots, a lot of easy shots,” Celtics guard Jordan Crawford said. But everybody stuck together as a team.”