Frank Vogel employed an unusual starting lineup Sunday night to combat the Boston Celtics’ lethal pick-and-roll combination of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford.
With Elfrid Payton still out with a hamstring injury, Vogel started Jonathon Simmons at point guard instead of Shelvin Mack.
Simmons is a natural swingman, so he’s not ideally suited to run an offense. That said, Simmons is the Magic’s best perimeter defender. At 6-feet-6, Simmons was the Magic’s best bet to slow down Irving and disrupt the pick-and-roll combination of Irving and Horford.
Circumstances foiled Vogel’s plan and contributed to the Magic’s 104-88 loss.
Simmons picked up two fouls within the game’s first 4 minutes, 25 seconds. That foul trouble forced Vogel to sub out Simmons for Mack. On the ensuing play, Irving scored on a driving layup with Mack defending.
Simmons played just 21 minutes because of his foul trouble. In that time, he scored 14 points with one assist.
“When you’re shorthanded at one position and you have a plan to your guy, Simms, at [point guard] for pretty big minutes and he’s in foul trouble the whole night, obviously it changes things a lot,” Vogel said.
Vogel made no other changes to the starting lineup, which included Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic.
Payton returned to full-contact practice on Saturday, but he still missed his eighth consecutive game Sunday.
Team officials want Payton to heal fully before he plays again.
The schedule should help the Magic, who won’t play again until they host the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
“Elfrid Payton looked really good in practice [Saturday],” Vogel said. “The hamstring was still a little tight afterwards — enough to give us some concern not to push through it just yet. We’ve got a tough stretch coming up where we’ve got eight of 10 on the road and we have two days behind this game to make sure it’s fully behind him. So we’re going to give him one more game.”
D.J. Augustin missed his second consecutive game because of a strained left hamstring.
Irving finished with just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting and five assists.
Happy for Mack
Mack knows Celtics coach Brad Stevens well.
Stevens coached Mack at Butler University. Together, their Bulldogs finished as the NCAA Tournament runner-up in 2010 and again in 2011.
“Shelvin’s a special guy to me, obviously,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy [for whom] it wasn’t easy early in the league. He’s not a guy that you would’ve said was a for-sure NBA player coming out of high school. In fact, you probably would’ve said, ‘I’d be surprised [if he reaches the NBA].’ But the amount of work that he put in and how committed he is to the game is why he’s where he’s at, and he’s really transformed himself into a point [guard]. When he was playing for us [at Butler], he was playing mostly off the ball and [was] scoring because we needed him to score. But he’s a great competitor. He’s a really good guy. And I’m happy for him that he’s here.”
• A moment of silence was held before the national anthem to honor the victims of Sunday morning’s mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
• Gordon led the Magic in points (18) and rebounds (12).
• Vucevic finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and a team-high seven assists. The double-double was the 200th of Vucevic’s career.