BOSTON — Coach Jacque Vaughn played a video as tipoff approached Friday night.
Not of the Orlando Magic's opponent, the Boston Celtics.
But of Bruce Lee, the martial arts master.
"Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup," Lee once said in a famous interview. "You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes a teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."
Vaughn wanted to convey the importance of adaptation — that the Magic could adapt to the absences of injured starters Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo. Yet Vaughn and his players didn't expect that Jameer Nelson would suffer a badly bruised left forearm late in the second quarter and wouldn't return to the game.
The Magic already were struggling on offense with Nelson on the court. When he left, their limited chance to win evaporated, just like water, and they lost to the Celtics 97-84 at TD Garden.
"I think we competed pretty hard," guard J.J. Redick said, "and offensively we couldn't really get anything going. At times we were relying on just getting stops and eventually we just really, really cooled off. Having Jameer out there would've obviously helped us offensively."
The Magic lost their eighth consecutive game and for the 19th time over their last 21 games.
Nelson suffered his injury with about 1:40 remaining in the first half. He put up a floater, and Boston's Paul Pierce went up to grab the rebound. Nelson went for the strip as Pierce descended, and Pierce's elbow collided into Nelson's left arm.
Nelson doubled over in pain, sat on the bench for the rest of the half and ultimately received X-rays. The images showed no fractures.
"It's part of basketball, and we'll continue to deal with it," Vaughn said after the game. "It means other guys have to fill in and fill roles, and we'll keep at it."
Nelson sat in the locker room after the game, a compression sleeve covering his forearm to keep the swelling down. It's unclear whether he'll play when the Magic complete this back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks tonight in Wisconsin.
"It's tough," Nelson said. "You go through this in the course of a season. You just have to keep fighting and stick together and stay positive about everything."
The Magic (14-32) have little to be positive about these days, with Davis likely out for the season because of a fractured left foot and Afflalo missing his third consecutive game with a strained left calf.
The team made just 38 percent of its shots, which takes into account a horrid 3-for-19 night from 3-point range.
But Orlando still trailed only 57-54 midway through the third quarter.
Boston then closed the period on a 15-5 run.
"We held it down on defense, but that's part of basketball," power forward Andrew Nicholson said. "They started to make shots, and we just did our best out there, really. We just kept fighting."
The Celtics (23-23) also were missing two injured starters — point guard Rajon Rondo and power forward Jared Sullinger.
The Magic's lone bright spot was their youngsters' performance in the game's closing minutes.
Rookie big man Kyle O'Quinn came off the bench to score Orlando's final nine points, and he and his teammates turned a 21-point deficit into a 13-point loss.
Nik Vucevic and Redick, resting for tonight's game in Milwaukee, watched from the bench.
"I think you have to just remain positive," Redick said. "You have to keep perspective and you have to continue to play to win. It's an uphill battle right now given the losing streak, the injuries. It's an uphill battle, but you have to remain positive and play hard. We're going to keep doing that."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times