The Celtics return home from their 3 game road trip to face the Orlando Magic. The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games and will hit the road once again on Saturday to visit the Indiana Pacers. This is the second of 4 games between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Boston on January 21 and in Orlando on March 16.
The Celtics won the first meeting on November 5, 104-88 in Orlando. The Celtics won the series last season 3-0. The Magic are 12-42 all time in Boston and have lost their last 13 games at the TD Garden. Historically, the Magic beat the Celtics 95-92 on May 5, 1995 in the last game played at the storied Boston Garden.
The Celtics are coming off a loss after 16 straight wins. They need to use that loss as motivation to play harder and start a new winning streak. The Celtics are 7-1 at home. The Magic are on a 6 game losing streak. They are 4-6 on the road.
The Magic were without two of their point guards in the the Celtics' November 5th win as both starting PG, Elfrid Peyton, and back up PG, DJ Augustin, were both out with injuries. The Celtics were healthy in that game other than Gordon Hayward, who is out for the season. The Celtics are once again healthy in this game other than Gordon Hayward. Marcus Morris is still on a minutes restriction following the knee injury that kept him out the beginning of the season. The Magic are without Jonathan Isaac (ankle).
The regular starting lineup for the Magic is listed here. I've included the usual starting lineup for the Celtics, with Marcus Morris starting at PF and Al Horford at center. However, Aron Baynes started at center against the Heat and Morris came off the bench. Morris' knees and matchups may dictate that he start again in this one.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Two Way Players
Probable Magic Starters
Two Way Players
Jonathan Isaac (ankle) out
Marcus Morris vs Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon is one of the reasons for the Magic's success this season. He is averaging 18.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. If Morris is out because of his knee or matchups, Al will be matched up with Gordon. Stopping the Magic will begin with stopping Gordon.
Jayson Tatum vs Evan Fournier
Fournier has had some big games against the Celtics over the past few years. He is playing very well this season, averaging 19.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.17 steals. It will be up to the Celtics' rookie to keep Fournier from having a big game in this one.
Al Horford vs Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is off to a strong start this season with 16.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Hopefully, Horford (or Baynes) will be able to slow him down in this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games, pure and simple. The Magic have a strong offense and are averaging 107.3 points per game, which is good for 13th in the league. Boston is averaging just 102.6 points per game (21st). Orlando ranks 16th with a defensive rating of 105.1. The Celtics let their defense slip against the Heat and if the Celtics want to get back into the win column, they are going to have to get back to playing tough, in your face defense once again.
Rebound - The Celtics have to crash the boards in order to give themselves extra possessions as well as to prevent the Magic from getting second chance points and fast breaks. The Magic are 23rd in the league averaging 42.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics are 4th with 47.2 rebounds per game. They allowed the Heat to out-rebound them 48-37 and if the Celtics want to win this game they have to get back to winning the rebounding battle.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team. They must be the first to loose balls and rebounds, and they have to be aggressive in driving to the basket and not always settling for jumpers. They must be aggressive on defense and set the tone for the game. They allowed the Heat to be more aggressive than they were in the last game and they can't allow other teams to play harder if they want to win.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics have to move the ball and find the open man. But in moving the ball, they have to make careful passes and not get sloppy. The Magic will make the Celtics pay if they don't take care of the ball. The ball kept stopping against the Heat and if the Celtics want to get back to winning they have to get back to moving the ball.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to get off to a good start and build a lead and then not let up until the final buzzer. They have to be ready for every Magic run and meet it with defense and then make their own runs. They have to play from opening tip till final buzzer with no let up. Letting teams build big leads and then having to climb out of big holes is not a good way to win games.
Bench Play - The Magic's reserves are averaging 52.9 points per game while the Celtics' reserves are averaging 36.3 points per game. The Magic get 14.1 points from Jonathon Simmons off the bench and the Celtics will need to slow him down in particular. The Celtics reserves simply have to play better.
Home Game - The Celtics are back home after a 3 game road trip. They are coming off a loss, which has not been a familiar position for them. They need to get a boost from the home crowd and they need to make the Garden an uncomfortable place for the visitors to play.