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Aaron Nesmith scores 23 points to lead the Celtics, who lose to the Magic on a Jeff Dowtins shot in the final seconds

Aaron Nesmith scores 23 points to lead the Celtics, who lose to the Magic on a Jeff Dowtins shot in the final seconds

Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum sat near the edge of the court during a timeout in the Celtics preseason game against the Magic on Wednesday afternoon. Smart tapped Tatums chest. Tatum grind from behind his mask.

The game resumed, and the players returned to the bench, where theyd spent the entire night.

Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroder, both players, sat out to rest. Al Horford and Jaylen Brown, on the other hand, remained in Boston after testing positive for COVID-19. While the absences reduced a chance for the top players to establish rapport, they did provide opportunities elsewhere, as others made their pitches to be in the regular rotation, or just on the final roster.

Second-year wing Aaron Nesmith had 23 points in just 26 minutes, but the Magic escaped with a 103-102 victory when former Rhode Island star Jeff Dowtin drilled swivel-footer with 0.02 seconds to go. All three of the Celtics preseason games have been halted in the final moments, and this was the team's first defeat.

We had a lot of different lineups out there tonight and I loved what I saw, particularly from the young guys stepping up in different roles, coach Ime Udoka stated. We have a flair for the dramatic and want to play in these close matches, as I mentioned two games ago. They hit a tough shot, but overall we played hard, played together, were aggressive defensively, and shared the ball. They did what we asked of them.

Payton Pritchard scored 10 points in the first half before suffering a nose injury in second quarter. Pritchard's nose is likely to be broken, according to Udoka, and he will return to Boston on Thursday and miss Friday'' 'Preseason Finale against the Heat'.

With 42.7 seconds left, Theo Pinson put the Celtics 102-101 ahead with a pair of free throws. Garrison Mathews 3-pointer from the left corner was an airball after a Robin Lopez miss.

Dowtin went into a tough fadeaway with time running out, but he drained it. The Magic decided not to call timeout, and the Celtics held their scattering play fairly well, forcing Dowlin into an aggressive fadea with the clock running down. Boston could only win on a tip-in, and after completing resumption the sideline inbounds pass was brushed away.

Observations from the game:

Robert Williams didnt have much success from the perimeter in Bostons preseason opener last week, and afterward Udoka stated that the Celtics prefer to see him work closer to the rim, where he can usually dunk on opponents heads. But, this is preseason, and Williams hit a pair of mid-range jumpers in the first half on Wednesday.

Williams was Bostons only regular starter who played in the game, but he clearly didnt think. He displayed a lot of poise and determination in several instances, such as when he attempted slashing wildly after stealing in the backcourt in thrashing the ball in third quarter.

The Celtics are still considering their options for their final two roster spots, and in the first quarter three hopefuls were on the court at once: Jabari Parker, Mathews, & Ryan Arcidiacono. Parker, who played 10 games for the Celtics last season after signing in April, was the standout. He scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first half, as well as a nice steal.

Jabari is obviously a veteran who has been around for ages, Udoka said. Jabari, Al, Josh, Dennis, whoever it may be, we all know what we're dealing with. Hes a sparkplug that comes off the bench, plays multiple positions, and defends multiple spots. A guy that we feel on a night like tonight with guys out can give instant offense, and he did that.

Pritchard often looked like the best player on the floor in the first half, when he had 10 points, 4 assists, and 2 assists before being injured. Hes been a consistent presence since the summer, and he looks in good hands to take resemblance to Udoka at the start of this year. Pritchard is a dangerous shooter, but the preseason has given him pause to demonstrate his ability to run 'a team and protect opposing point guards, according to Udoka.

Udoka said, We want him to learn and learn the position, and we always warn him about making plays not only for yourself, but also for others.

Nesmith caught the ball at the top of the key, drove to his right and stopped suddenly, before faking a pass that left two defenders wondering where the puck was headed. Nesmiths hand never ran out, as he turned and hit a tough fadeaway jumper.

The second-year wings game has rapidly advanced and he has shown that a spot-up shooter is more than just. His offensive game appeared to be refined on Wednesday.

The game is definitely easier to read, and its slowing down, Nesmith stated, and it will continue to slow down in the coming years and games.

Al Horfords eligibility for the Celtics season opener remains uncertain, but Jaylen Brown should be back soon.

Bruno Fernando, a center, may also be in the running for one of the final two spots, but it wasnt the best sign for him that he sat out the entire first half despite all of his notable absences. Pinson, who is on a training camp deal, played in the second quarter, but Fernando, whose contract is guaranteed this season, didn't. Fernando checked in for the first time midway through the third and had a nice blocked shot in the fourth.

Magic guard Gary Harris dribbled near the bench with about six seconds left on the shot clock in the second quarter, starting a 3, 2, 1 chant. He fired a shot that missed, and Bostons players seemed to enjoy it.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbaek@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamhimmelsbach.

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