December 16, 2014

The Boston Celtics felt more like themselves after their best scoring performance in nearly a month. More importantly, they ended one of their longest skids of the season and avoided dropping back in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Celtics will try to keep heading in the right direction by continuing their home dominance against the scuffling Orlando Magic on Monday night.

The Celtics (40-30) dropped from third to sixth in the East during a season high-tying four-game losing streak and would have allowed Charlotte to pass them again if they failed to end that skid Sunday. Boston prevented that with a 120-105 victory in Philadelphia, and Isaiah Thomas led six players in double figures with 26 points.

"Our guys came out ready, came out focused," coach Brad Stevens said. "We knew it was an important game to play well. You can't always control the results, but you can control your input into it. Guys played with good purpose."

The Celtics' 120 points were their most since a 124-122 loss in Minnesota on Feb. 22, and they had averaged 99.0 in their four straight losses.

"We still had some lulls, but for the most part we got some confidence back and got close to Boston Celtics basketball," said Thomas, averaging 26.3 points in nine games this month. "Back to the winning ways as quick as you can to gain confidence and gain momentum going into the playoffs. We have to lock in these last 12 games."

Boston has scored at least 113 points while splitting its past two games against the Magic, losing 119-114 in the latest Jan. 31. The Celtics have lost four of the last six matchups - two of three this season - but have won 11 straight over Orlando at the TD Garden, a streak that dates back to the 2010 playoffs.

They handled the Magic 113-94 in Boston on Jan. 29 and will next face a team that's lost seven of nine. Orlando also dropped to 4-16 on the road since the beginning of 2016 and suffered its 13th overall loss by five points or fewer this season with a 105-100 defeat to Toronto on Sunday.

Those close losses are one reason why Orlando (29-40) is 12th in the East and 6 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.

"It actually drives me crazy when I think about it, but it's too late now, we can't change anything," forward Evan Fournier said after the opener to a four-game trip.

Marcus Smart matched a career high with 26 points in the latest game against Orlando. He had 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting Sunday after averaging 6.1 points on 27.3 percent in his previous seven contests.

Thomas had 23 points in the most recent meeting with the Magic but was held to 14 in the home victory in January.

The Magic's Victor Oladipo is averaging 28.5 points on 58.7 percent shooting in his last four games after scoring 21 on Sunday. He's been held to 11 points on a combined 7-of-19 shooting in his last two games against Boston.

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