Brad Stevens’ decision to split ballhandling duties between Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley answers a simple need.

For starters, he needs Bradley to play more off the ball. And for their offensive health, the Celtics have no other choice. Crawford and Bradley, with 27 combined points, in addition to five assists from the former and eight rebounds from the latter, rewarded the coach’s faith last night.

Both drove the Celtics to a 91-89 victory over Orlando for the first winning streak of the Stevens era.
Bradley, with two straight three-point plays in the fourth quarter and two huge defensive boards, put on perhaps his best defensive performance of the season as well. Crawford has simply never been better defensively in a Celtics uniform.

Stevens’ orders were also answered in another way. The Celtics coach stressed the importance of “winning plays” before the game, and his two guards took the lead.

Crawford’s dive on a loose ball after Bradley poked it away from the Magic’s Victor Oladipo with 4:09 left was paramount. Crawford cradled the ball and called for a timeout with his team attempting to protect an 82-77 lead.

The Celtics didn’t convert on the next possession, which ended with a Kelly Olynyk miss that, in turn, led to a Jameer Nelson 3-pointer.

But the energy is what counted for Stevens.

“I think the most excited I’ve been since I moved to Boston was when Jordan dove on that loose ball,” said the Celtics coach, who watched that energy spread.

Bradley, in the process of scoring back-to-back three-point plays, converted the second after stealing Oladipo’s inbounds pass and dunking over the Magic rookie.

Brandon Bass’ two free throws with 10.5 seconds left were made possible by the ability of Bass and Olynyk to withstand some swarming Orlando traps.