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Shorthanded Celtics take on Orlando Magic

The Celtics and Magic meet for the 4th and final time this season.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics begin a 2 game road trip with a stop in Orlando to take on the Magic. This is the 4th and final meeting between these two teams this season. They will complete their road trip on Sunday vs the Pelicans. The Celtics won the series 3-0 last season vs the Magic. They are 2-1 so far this season.

The Celtics won the first game in Orlando 104-88 on November 5. They also won the second game in Boston 118-103 on November 24. They then lost the 3rd game against the Magic in Boston 103-95 on January 21 in spite of 40 points by Kyrie Irving. The Celtics got just 8 points off of their bench in that game allowing the Magic to snap a 14 game losing streak in Boston.

Orlando is 47-62 all time vs the Boston Celtics and 34-19 all time against them in Orlando. These two teams will forever be linked in Celtics history. The Magic beat the Celtics 95-92 on May 5, 1995, in the very last game played in the old Boston Garden before the Celtics moved to the TD Garden and the old Garden was demolished.

The Celtics are coming off 2 straight losses and they are 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 13-9 on the road. The Celtics are 2nd in the East and now 5 games behind Toronto. They are 6.5 games ahead of Indiana and 7 games ahead of Cleveland. The Magic are coming off a win over the Bucks and are 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are 14-18 at home. They have won just 7 games on the road, one of which was over the Celtics. They are 1 game ahead of Atlanta for the worst record in the East.

Al Horford is expected to return to the Celtics lineup in this game after missing two games with an illness. Kyrie Irving traveled with the team but is not expected to play in this one but may play Sunday against the Pelicans. Marcus Smart (thumb), Daniel Theis (knee), Jaylen Brown (concussion), and Gordon Hayward (ankle) remain out. Jabari Bird is questionable with back spasms.

The Magic traded Elfrid Payton, who had 22 points and 6 rebounds in the Magic’s win in January.

Evan Fournier, who always played well against the Celtics is out with a knee injury. Terrence Ross is also out with a knee injury. Aaron Gordon, arguably the Magic’s best player has not passed the league’s concussion protocol and is out.

The Magic’s starters above are from the Magic’s game notes. The Celtics starters are a guess based on the players that Brad Stevens started in the last game and the fact that Al Horford is expected to return in this game.

Celtics Reserves
Shane Larkin
Semi Ojeleye
Abdel Nader
Guerschon Yabusele
Kadeem Allen

Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) doubtful
Marcus Smart (thumb) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Al Horford (probable)
Jaylen Brown (concussion) out
Jabari Bird (back) questionable

Two Way Players
Kadeem Allen
Jabari Bird

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Magic Reserves
Arron Afflalo
Khem Birch
Bismack Biyombo
Wes Iwundu
Shelvin Mack
Rodney Purvis
Marreese Speighhts
Rashad Vaughn

Two Way Players
Jamel Artis

Evan Fournier (knee) out
Terrence Ross (knee) out
Aaron Gordon (concussion) out

Head Coach
Frank Vogel

Key Matchups

Aron Baynes vs Nikola Vucevic
With Payton gone and Fournier and Gordon expected to miss the game, Vucevic is probably the Magic’s best player. He is averaging 17.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 blocks. He is averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds against the Celtics this season. Slowing down Vucevic will go a long way towards slowing down the Magic.

Jayson Tatum vs Jonathon Simmons
Simmons has played well off the bench for the Magic in two of the games against the Celtics this season, averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds. Jayson will need to keep him from scoring and also off the boards.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games, pure and simple. The Magic are averaging 105 points per game, which is good for 18th in the league. Boston is averaging just 104.7 points per game which is just behind Orlando at 19th. Orlando ranks 27th with a defensive rating of 108.8. The Celtics are still tops in the league with a defensive rating of 101.5. Tough defense will win this game.

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 27th in the league averaging 41.0 rebounds per game. The Celtics are 8th with 44.3 rebounds per game. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics need to give extra effort to beat the Magic to the boards.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team, especially with all the injuries. 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 built a 20 point lead against the Wizards by taking the ball inside and going strong to the hoop before they reverted to shooting mostly 3’s again. They must be aggressive on defense and set the tone for the game. When they allow other teams to work harder than them, it doesn’t usually end well.

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 Magic are averaging 13 fast break points per game and so the Celtics have to keep them from getting steals to start their fast breaks.

Don’t Underestimate the Magic - The Celtics were surprised by the Magic in their last game in Boston and they underestimated them somewhat and allowed the Magic to get a 103-95 win on the Celtics home court in spite of 40 points by Kyrie. The Celtics won’t have Kyrie this time and so every player has to give their best in this game in spite of the Magic’s record. The Magic just beat the Bucks and so the Celtics shouldn’t let up and expect the Magic to tank.

Focus On the Road - The Celtics are on the road and they have to focus on the game at hand and not the hostile crowd or the other distractions that a team faces when on the road. They need to be able to block all that out and focus on playing basketball. The Celtics have been forced to play several rookies big minutes and young players especially have to maintain their focus to avoid the pitfalls of road games.

Next Man Up - The Celtics should get Al Horford back for this game, but there are still several key players out and so the remaining Celtics have to play harder and fill in for the points and rebounds and defense of the players who are out.

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