The Celtics visit the Magic for the first of 4 meetings between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Orlando on April 10 and they will play in Boston on February 5 and April 3. They played one game in the preseason with the Celtics coming out on top 100-75 in that game. Orlando won the series 3-0 last season.
The Celtics are 4th in the East, half a game behind 3rd place Toronto and 1.5 games behind the 2nd place Heat, who the Celtics will face next week. They are 2 games ahead of 5th place Indiana. The Magic are in 7th place, 1.5 games behind 6th place Philadelphia. The Celtics are 11-9 on the road and 4-6 in their last 10 games. The Magic are 13-9 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games.
The Celtics are looking to win their 3rd straight game after blowing out the Lakers and Grizzlies in their last 2 games. The Magic have lost 3 of 4 since beating the Lakers on January 15th. They are hoping to avoid losing their second straight. The Celtics are looking to break their 3 game road losing streak. Orlando has won 4 of the last 5 against the Celtics.
The Celtics are once again struggling with injuries after just one game (vs Lakers) with their top rotation guys healthy. Jaylen Brown missed Wednesday’s game with a sprained ankle and is questionable for this game although he said that he plans to play. Jayson Tatum left the game on Wednesday with a groin injury and has been declared out for this game.
Enes Kanter also left Wednesday’s game with a foot injury. The foot apparently is ok as he has been declared out for this game with a hip issue. He is expected to miss at least this game and Sunday and will be re-evaluated on Monday. Robert Williams is still out with the hip injury. For the Magic, Al Farouq-Aminu is out with a torn meniscus in his knee. DJ Augustin is out with bone irritation in his knee and Jonathan Isaac is out with a bone contusion in his knee.
Both Jaylen and Jayson traveled with the team to Orlando. Jayson has been declared out for this game. Jaylen plans to try to play but the final determination will be after warmups. I’m guessing that Marcus will start once again and Jaylen and Gordon will move up one spot but Brad may decide to go in another direction. Tacko Fall has been recalled from the Red Claws for depth. He should receive a warm welcome and lots of Tacko chants in Orlando where he played his college ball.
Probable Celtics Starters
Romeo Langford (g-league assignment) out
Robert Williams (hip) out
Jaylen Brown (thumb) questionable
Enes Kanter (hip) out
Jayson Tatum (groin) out
Two Way Players
Probable Magic Starters
Melvin Frazier, Jr
Al Farouq Aminu (knee) out
DJ Augustin (knee) out
Jonathan Isaac (knee) out
Two Way Players
Daniel Theis vs Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is leading the Magic with 19.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. He is shooting 49.8% from the field and 36.9% from beyond the arc. Theis needs to stick with him since he can score both inside and out. This matchup becomes even more important with Kanter out for this game.
Marcus Smart vs Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier is playing very well for the Magic. He is averaging 18.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 47.2% from the field and 40.6% beyond the arc. He has put up big games against the Celtics in the past and whether it is Jaylen or Marcus who is covering him, they need to keep him off of the 3 point line where he can be very dangerous.
Gordon Hayward vs Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon is averaging 13.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He is shooting 42.4% from the field and 29.3% from beyond the arc. He is not a big threat to shoot 3’s but if left wide open, he will shoot them and likely make them. He is very strong in the paint and whether Brad has Hayward start at PF or if he moves Semi or Grant into the starting lineup in place of Tatum, they need to work to keep him out of the paint.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games, pure and simple. The Magic are averaging 104.0 points per game, which is 29th in the league. Boston is averaging 112.5 points per game. Orlando ranks 7th with a defensive rating of 106.0. The Celtics 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 105.3. The Celtics have been playing tough defense in their last two games and they need to continue to make defense a priority if they want to 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 averaging 45.0 rebounds per game. The Celtics are averaging 45.7 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. 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. When they allow other teams to work harder than them, it doesn’t usually end well and when they play harder and are more aggressive, they usually get the win.
Move the Ball - When the Celtics move the ball, good things happen. When they over dribble and play hero ball, it doesn’t usually end well. Against the Grizzlies, the Celtics had 32 assists on 45 made baskets. Against the Lakers they had 31 assists on 52 made baskets. They need to share the ball and find the best shot. They have to be careful with their passes, however, as the Magic average 17.2 points off turnovers per game.
Play hard for 48 Minutes - The Celtics can’t come out and play sluggishly and get behind as they have in some games. They have to come out strong and play hard right from the beginning. They also have to continue to play hard right up until the final buzzer. No let up from start to finish.
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 Celtics basketball. The Magic will get a boost from the home crowd and the Celtics need to counter that with focus and hard work.
Injuries - It goes without saying that the game would be easier if both Jayson and Jaylen can play. With Jayson out, it becomes a bit harder. Hopefully Jaylen will continue to feel good and be able to play in this game. They are already playing short handed without Kanter and it has to be next man up mentality for every player out there.
Officiating - Officiating is always in x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently and the Celtics have to adapt to how the game is being called and not allow bad calls and no calls to take away their focus. Hopefully the officials call it fairly and let both teams play. However, expect the Magic to get some home cooking and so the Celtics can’t let that affect their play.