Orlando Magic (26-14, 11-9 away) @ Boston Celtics (30-9, 18-3 home)
Time: 8:00 PM EST Venue: TD Garden
Officials: Dan Crawford, Michael Smith, James Williams
TV: TNT, CSNNE Radio: WEEI
The Line: Orlando has won the past 3 regular season matchups between the teams at
TD Garden, but the last time the Celtics and Magic met in Boston was game 6 of the
Eastern Conference semis last year. Orlando has won the only matchup between the
two teams so far this season.
Update: According to A. Sherrod Blakely, KG is a go (link)
The last time these two teams met, Kevin Garnett was the only bright spot for the Celtics and Shaquille O'Neal was a non-factor. Well, tonight doesn't look like those two things will be much different, as Kevin Garnett's heralded return (after numerous delays) looks like it will be this evening, while Shaquille O'Neal, coming off a 23 point, 5 block, 33 minutes played (a season high) performance against Charlotte, is questionable for tonight because of some kind of strain in his worlds' strongest man abductor muscle.
The difference might well be in 'The Rondo' though. While Nate Robinson logged 43 minutes on Christmas against the Magic, he went 2-15 from the field, and only made one of seven attempts from beyond the arc. Rajon Rondo over the past 3 games Rondo is averaging 12.7 points and 12.6 assists, playing an average of 35 minutes (which is a solid number for Rondo to be playing), and the biggest bonus to that is he's been shooting 63% from the field during that time.
Also benefiting the Celtics is the fact that they're coming off a day of rest after a Bobcats' game on Saturday when they could only suit up 10 players. In games after 1 day of rest or more, the Celtics are 24-5.
The Magic are looking to get back on track however, and should be just as hungry as the Celtics, if not more. The Magic were on a 9 game winning streak (their longest of the season), until they dropped two straight close games (1 overtime loss, 1 single point loss) to the Hornets and Grizzlies last week. They just beat the T-Wolves by 9 in Minnesota. They've been on the road for the last 4 games, and a win tonight would make the road trip either a net success or a net failure, at 3-2 or 2-3. Look for both teams to play hard and take the game personally, as odds are good they'll meet in the playoffs if they both continue to win.
Probable Starting Lineups
Injuries And Stuff: None
Match-Up Of The Night: Whoever V Dwight Howard
Last game against the Magic Dwight Howard scored only 6 points, grabbed 11 boards, and recorded 5 fouls in 33 minutes. Those are all on the poorer side of his averages. Now, the Celtics still managed to lose by 9 points, but the take-home message here should not be that Dwight Howard doing poorly does not mean that the Magic will lose. The Celtics scored only 78 points on Orlando in that game, true enough. But Orlando's 86 points were still 13 points below their season average (which is identical to the Celtics, at 99.5). The Celtics did not lose that game because they failed to defend the Magic, they lost it because they shot 35% from the field and 25% from the 3.
Defensively, the Celtics did okay against the Magic, and if they can match that tonight they'll be okay. Any defensive plan against the Magic starts with limiting Dwight Howard's second chance points, and not giving up decent position in the post on defense. Preferably, Shaq would be doing that, but if Baby and Semih Erden need to step up (still no official word on whether or not Shaq will play), so be it.
Keys To The Game For The Good Guys:
1) Don't Forget Your Bassomatic!!- Brandon Bass went OFF against the Celtics on Christmas (37 mins, 8-15 shooting, 9 boards, 21 points). He cemented his place in the starting lineup, and has been integrated into the Magic's game plan. However, recently his production has dropped, and so has his playing time. If Glen Davis and Luke Harangody need to play most of the minutes against Bass, he'll have a decent shot at getting back above 20 points tonight for the first time since the Boston game. Heck, even in the Boston game he scored those 20 points on KG. The honest answer is that anybody would rather take 6 points from Dwight Howard and 21 from Brandon Bass than 28 points from Howard and 10 from Bass, but you have to think that at some point stopping him should be a mission of personal importance to KG, and this being KG's first game back, I expect him to eat Bass up. Pureed.
2) Hedo Turkoglu, Shapeshifter, Illusionist, Party Boy, Turkish!- Hedo Turkoglu started off white hot for Orlando after the trade from Phoenix. He looked like he'd reclaimed the over-hyped magic of his 08-09 campaign with Orlando. Recently though he's been 'regressing'. Turkoglu managed to average around 13 points and 6.6 assists during Orlando's winning streak. In the past 3 games though Hedo has managed around only 8 points and 5 assists, despite no real change in minutes.
Paul Pierce needs to do a better job defending Turkoglu, and continue to do a good job scoring on the Turkish Tantrum. That means no easy looks from outside for Hedo, and pressuring him on every possession. Turkoglu does not spontaneously combust during games, he needs to get in a rhythm, dominate the ball, get his confidence up. Paul Pierce needs to make sure this doesn't happen.
3) Last, But Not Least, Limit The 3's and F-T's.- The Celtics are going to foul you. That's built into their defense. They are aggressive, and because of that they rarely get to the line more than their opponent during a game. While that statistic regularly causes Tommy Heinsohn to berate the referees, it is a fact that the team can usually manage, because it coincides with more contests shots, and passes, which means more misses and turnovers, which means more wins for the C's.
The place where the Celtics get into trouble is when their fouls don't count. Nobody really minds when there is a hard foul on a lay-up that prevents an easy make. But loose ball fouls, moving pick fouls, reaching fouls deep in the back court, these are all mistakes that result in earlier and avoidable free throws.
Also, the Celtics need to keep Orlando from getting hot from the outside. Aside from Jameer Nelson, the Magic are not really that quick. The Celtics can afford to play up on Hedo, Redick, Richardson, and Arenas and make sure they don't get any easy looks. Orlando is a team that needs outside shooting. With all the attention that Dwight Howard and now Brandon Bass get down low, if outside shots aren't falling, Orlando simply won't be scoring points.
The Celtics need to make like impossible behind the 3pt line for Hedo Turkoglu, JJ Redick, Jason Richardson, and Jameer Nelson.