The Celtics are coming off two strong wins over the Nets and Raptors and now face the Orlando Magic for their 6th seeding game. The Celtics are 3-2 in the seeding games so far while the Magic are 2-3 and have lost their last 3 games to the Pacers, Raptors and the 76ers after winning their first two against the Nets and the Kings. The Magic are 7-29 against teams over .500.
The Celtics remain in 3rd place, 3.5 games behind 2nd place Toronto and 3 games ahead of 4th place Miami. Indiana (5th) and Philadelphia (6th) are both 1 game behind Miami. The Celtics are likely locked into 3rd, but 4th, 5th, and 6th have a chance to shift over the last 3 or 4 games. The Magic are in 8th place, 1.5 games behind the Nets. They are 7.5 games ahead of 9th place and so are sure to be either the 7th or 8th seed.
This is the 3rd meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics are 2-0 so far this season against the Magic. The Celtics won 109-98 in Orlando on January 24. They over came a 16 point first half lead in that one to get the win. Jaylen and Jayson both missed that game. The Celtics also won 116-100 in Boston on February 5. They were without Kemba and Marcus for that game. This will be the first game that the Magic are facing a healthy Celtics team.
The Magic are without Al Farouq-Aminu, who is out with a knee injury and is not with the team in Orlando. Jonathan Isaac tore his ACL in their game against the Kings and is out for the rest of the season and the playoffs. Aaron Gordon injured his hamstring and is questionable. If he can’t play, Gary Clark or Wes Iwundu is likely to start in his place. Michael Carter-Williams is also questionable with a foot injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Probable Magic Starters
Melvin Frazier, Jr
Michael Carter-Williams (foot) questionable
Aaron Gordon (hamstring) questionable
Jonathan Isaac (knee) out
Al Farouq-Aminu (knee) out- NWT
Daniel Theis vs Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is leading the Magic with 19.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He is shooting 47.7% from the field and 33.5% 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 Gordon possibly out for this game.
Jaylen Brown vs Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier is playing very well for the Magic. He is averaging 18.5 points, 2.6, 3.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 39.9% beyond the arc. He has put up big games against the Celtics in the past, including 30 points in the January 24th game. Jaylen needs to keep him off of the 3 point line where he can be very dangerous.
Marcus Smart vs Terrence Ross
This is a key bench matchup. Ross is averaging 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists for the season. But over the past 10 games he has averaged 18.2 points and has hit 3.5 three pointers per game. He is shooting 40.4% from the field and 35.4% from beyond the arc. Marcus needs to slow him down along with matching his contributions off the bench.
Player to Watch
Markelle Fultz was the presumptive top pick in the 2017 draft when the Celtics had the number one pick. The Celtics wanted Jayson Tatum, however and turned that number one pick into the third pick and a first round pick from Sacramento. The Celtics then used the third pick to take Jayson Tatum. Tatum has become an all star and a key player for the Celtics. Fultz, on the other hand, has struggled with injury and was traded from the 76ers to the Magic and is still struggling to find his place in the league.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games, pure and simple. We saw how dominant the Celtics can be when they play tough lock down team defense in the past two games. The Magic are averaging 106.9 points per game, which is 25th in the league. Boston is averaging 113.8 points per game 9th). Orlando ranks 12th with a defensive rating of 109.0. The Celtics are back to 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 106.6. The Celtics need to continue to make defense a priority if they want to continue winning.
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 44.5 rebounds per game. The Celtics are averaging 45.9 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. The Magic will certainly play hard to avenge their 2 previous losses to the Celtics and to try to get to the 7th seed. The Celtics need to be ready for them and play even harder.
Move the Ball - When the Celtics move the ball, good things happen. They finally showed great ball movement against the Raptors and it was a beautiful thing to behold. When they over dribble and play hero ball, it doesn’t usually end well. They need to share the ball and find the best shot. They have to be careful with their passes, however, as the Magic average 16.9points off turnovers per game and if the Celtics get sloppy the Magic will make them pay.
Play hard for 48 Minutes - The Celtics can’t come out and play sluggishly and get behind as they have in some games. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Celtics had to overcome a 16 point first half deficit to get the win. The Celtics 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. The Magic are playing to improve their seeding and so the Celtics can’t afford to slack off.
Consistency - The Celtics have been up and down all season long. Now that it is crunch time, the Celtics have to work for more consistency and bring their best on both sides of the court every game. Will they let up because the Magic is a below .500 team or will they keep their foot on the gas and dominate once again?
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. We have seen some very questionable calls so far in these seeding games. Hopefully the officials call it fairly and let both teams play.