The Boston Celtics made quick work of the lowly, shorthanded Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
The Magic lineup looked much different than the last time these two teams faced off on March 21 with Evan Fournier now on the C's, Aaron Gordon on the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Vucevic with the Chicago Bulls. They also were missing seven players due to injury.
Boston was able to capitalize with a 132-96 victory. Here are three quick takeaways from the win, which ties the C's with the sixth-place Miami Heat at 35-31 on the season.
Kemba Walker doesn't miss a beat
Walker was playing some of his best basketball of the season before missing time with a strained oblique. In his last three games, he tallied 26 points vs. the Golden State Warriors, 32 vs. the Phoenix Suns, then 20 against the Charlotte Hornets.
He picked up right where he left off Wednesday night.
Walker stepped up as the star in Jaylen Brown's absence. He finished with a game-high 32 points on 11 of 18 shooting.
This is the Kemba Walker the Celtics are going to need down the stretch if they're to avoid the dreaded play-in tournament. The upcoming games against the Miami Heat will be the true test, but it's absolutely encouraging to see Walker get the job done in his return from injury, regardless of the level of competition.
Evan Fournier is looking more like himself
For the second straight game, Evan Fournier looked like the player the Celtics hoped they were getting when they acquired him from the Magic at the traded deadline. The veteran forward followed up his 21-point outing vs. the Portland Trail Blazers with an 18-point performance against his former team.
Fournier's recent improvement is especially notable given his difficult bout with COVID-19. The 28-year-old admitted he hasn't felt like himself since returning to the court and has experienced post-COVID concussion-like symptoms.
And of course, it had to feel sweet to get the job done against his former team. Fournier spent six-and-a-half season with the Magic before joining Boston in March. Orlando gave him a video tribute after the first quarter of Wednesday night's game at Amway Center, and you can watch it here.
Celtics needed a blowout win
Time and time again this season, the Celtics have made things difficult on themselves by playing down to their competition. Recent losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls stand out as examples. There also have been countless games in which the C's dominated the first half only to blow their lead in the third or fourth quarter.
Wednesday's win over the Magic was a breath of fresh air in that regard.
The Celtics entered halftime with an 18-point lead and didn't look back. Even without Jaylen Brown, Tristan Thompson, and Romeo Langford, they barely broke a sweat and were able to prevent Orlando from making any sort of run. That resulted in a 36-point rout.
Now, the question is whether they can do the same against a Bulls team that beat them 102-96 on April 19. The Celtics were outscored 32-18 in the third quarter of that loss.
Tip-off for Celtics-Bulls is set for Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET.