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Magic get the better of Celtics again

Orlando's Paolo Banchero attempts a basket against Al Horford in the Magic's 95-92 NBA victory over the Boston Celtics. ©AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) - Orlando rookie Paolo Banchero got off to a hot start on the way to 31 points on Sunday as the surging Magic beat the Boston Celtics for the second time in three days.

Banchero, who scored 22 points in the first half, connected on six of his three-point attempts and when he slowed, Admiral Schofield picked up the slack, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to help Orlando hang on.

The Magic, whose 5-20 start to the season included a nine-game losing streak, have now won six straight.

Their second consecutive win in Boston meant the Celtics, who fell to 22-9, slipped a hair behind the 21-8 Milwaukee Bucks atop the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics were without their leading scorer, Jayson Tatum, who missed the game for personal reasons.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 24 points, Marcus Smart added 15 and Grant Williams chipped in 14.

After struggling to find shots in the first half, the Celtics put together a 16-6 scoring run in the third and took a 71-68 lead into the fourth quarter.

Boston trailed by one in the final minute when Grant Williams couldn't get an inbounds pass to Brown and Orlando scored again.Williams then missed a three-pointer as time expired.

"We just weren't as organized as we need to be," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of the Celtics' miscues at the end.

He said, however, there was no need to panic, despite the fact that the Celtics have lost four of their last five games.Their 92 points was a season low, one less than the 93 Boston scored in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.

"We have to continue to work, we have to continue to build consistency and habits," he said."Our guys are doing a lot of good things."

Banchero, the top pick in the June draft, said Orlando's recent focus on defense paid off down the stretch on Sunday.

"It's what we've been harping on the last couple of weeks, our defensive intensity," the 20-year-old said."It showed right there on those last two possessions.We were locked in."

The game was the first of seven, the programme wrapping up with the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Washington Wizards.

The Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed source, was among several US media outlets reporting that Lakers star Anthony Davis is expected to miss "a significant amount of time" with a right foot injury he suffered in the first half of a win against Denver on Friday.

His loss is a blow for a Lakers team currently 12th in the West.Davis is averaging 27.4 points per game and opened December on an offensive tear that included a 44-point performance against the Milwaukee Bucks followed by a 55-point outburst against the Wizards.

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