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Celtics and Magic Clash on Christmas Day

Boston Celtics (22-5) at Orlando Magic (22-7)

Friday, December 25, 2009


TV: ABC; Radio: 850 AM WEEI

Venue: Amway Arena

The Boston Celtics head for Florida on Christmas day to do battle with the Orlando Magic.

The Celtics took a hit on Wednesday, when they learned that captain and leading scorer Paul Pierce would miss the next two weeks with an infection in his right knee. On the positive side, Kevin Garnett will play in today's game after sitting out Tuesday's contest against the Indiana Pacers with a right thigh bruise. Nevertheless, the void left by Pierce will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fill. Look for guys like Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine to try and step in and help sure up the gap left by Pierce's absence. It is still unclear as to who will start in Pierce's place, but it looks like it's between Allen and Scalabrine.

In other injury news for the Celtics, the Boston Herald is reporting that forward Glen Davis' injured right thumb is all but healed and he could make a return to the lineup today. If Davis does return, that could mean forward Bill Walker will not dress for today's game, despite him being called up from the D-League on Wednesday.

While the Celtics just lost one of their best players, the Magic have recently gotten one of theirs back. All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson, who missed extended time with a torn meniscus in his left knee, returned to the Magic lineup against the Jazz on Monday and was back in the starting lineup for Orlando against the Rockets on Wednesday.

These two squads have already met once this season and the Magic got the better of the Celtics in a November 20 matchup in Boston. Orlando defeated Boston, 83-78, behind 26 points from Vince Carter. While today's game might have been built up as a revenge game for Boston, with Pierce out, some would argue that today's matchup is not a fair test between these two teams since the C's aren't at full strength. Nevertheless, the Celtics would do themselves a great favor by taking down an elite Magic squad without their captain in order to build a sense of confidence as they kick off their latest four-game road trip.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Magic: Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard

Health Check: For the Celtics, forward Paul Pierce (knee infection) and guard Marquis Daniels (thumb) are out. Forward Glen Davis (thumb) is questionable.

For the Magic, forward Matt Barnes (hand) and center Adonal Foyle (knee) are listed as day-to-day.

Keep It In Mind: Back on November 20, the Magic shot 10-22 from three-point nation.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Ray Allen scored 23 points against the Pacers on Tuesday.

For the Magic, five players scored in double figures in their victory over Houston on Wednesday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Brian Scalabrine went 0-5 from the field and finished with just two points against the Pacers on Tuesday.

For the Magic, Mickael Pietrus was the only Orlando starter who didn't score in double figures against Houston on Wednesday.

Key Matchup: Rasheed Wallace vs. Dwight Howard

Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett vs. Rashard Lewis

Skinny: Looking back on the first meeting between these two teams, the Celtics actually played very well against the Magic. They out-rebounded Orlando, 43-42, had one more assist (20-19) and had eight fewer turnovers. The Celtics held Dwight Howard in check from a scoring stand point (nine points, 15 rebounds, three blocks), but could not contain the Magic's three-point shooters. The Magic's 10-22 mark from three-point nation proved to be the difference in the first matchup between these teams.

With Pierce out, it's unlikely the Celtics will be able to replace his scoring, but they can make a more consolidated effort on the defensive end, which is what they will probably have to do throughout Pierce's absence. Regardless of who starts for this team today, the C's have to once again make a concerted effort on the boards, keep the Magic from easy buckets in transition and limit their three-point attempts.

The other four typical starters will have to shoulder more of a load with Pierce out and keep an eye on Rajon Rondo in particular. It wouldn't be outlandish to think Rondo will really step his game up throughout this stretch, particularly on the offensive side. The Celtics saw how tough it was to make adjustments on the defensive end on Tuesday without Garnett in the lineup and now they'll see what the offense looks like without Pierce in the fold.

Finally, Rasheed Wallace played Howard almost flawlessly in the fourth quarter of the first matchup between these teams. He did an excellent job of bodying Howard up in the paint before jumping him on the entry pass and tipping the ball away. Furthermore, Wallace cemented his performance by scoring a variety of buckets down low, and would be wise to employ a similar strategy today.

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