The Celtics resume play after a 3 game hiatus due to Health and Safety Protocols that left the Celtics without enough healthy players to meet the league minimum. The Magic come to town after having Wednesday’s game against the Celtics cancelled. The Celtics last played on January 8 when they beat the Wizards 116-107. The Magic last played on Monday when they lost to the Bucks 121-99. The Celtics have won 4 straight while the Magic have lost their last 3 games.
Orlando will face the Nets in Brooklyn on Saturday. The Celtics don’t play again until Sunday when they host the Knicks. The Celtics swept the Nets last season including a 109-98 in January, a 116-100 win in February and a 122-119 win in the bubble. Wednesday’s game between these two teams was postponed and I imagine that they will also play at least one more in the second half of the season.
The Celtics will have 12 players available for this game. Tristan Thompson and Grant Williams are scheduled to return. Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis and Javonte Green were all listed as questionable but are expected to be available. Carsen Edwards, Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams, Romeo Langford and Kemba Walker are all listed as out.
For the Magic, Mo Bamba (covid), Michael Carter-Williams (foot), Evan Fournier (back), Al-Farouq Aminu (knee), Chuma Okeke (knee), Markelle Fultz (knee), and Jonathan Isaac (knee) are all listed as out. I’m not sure about the starters but I guessed that Semi will start at small forward and Brown and Theis will slip back into their normal starting spots.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Semi Ojeleye
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Robert Williams (covid) out
Jayson Tatum (covid) out
Carsen Edwards (covid) out
Probable Magic Starters
PG: Cole Anthony
SG: Dwayne Bacon
SF: James Ennis III
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Vucevic
Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) out
Chuma Okeke (knee) out
Markelle Fultz (knee) out
Jonathan Isaacs (knee) out
Michael Carter-Williams (foot) out
Evan Fournier (back) out
Mo Bamba (covid) out
Tristan Thompson vs Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is leading the Magic with 19.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals. Hopefully Tristan Thompson returns for this one and he will need to stay with Vucevic in the paint as well as on the perimeter as he is shooting 34% from beyond the arc.
Daniel Theis vs Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon is capable of putting up a lot of points if he isn’t defended well. He is averaging 14.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He is a threat to drive to the basket more than hitting a 3 pointer. Theis will need to stay in front of him and not allow him to get to the rim.
Marcus Smart vs Cole Anthony
Anthony is averaging 9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. With players returning from quarantine I expect Marcus Smart to start at the point and to keep Anthony in check.
Keys to the Game
- Defense is always a key to winning, whether in the preseason, regular season or playoffs. The Magic are averaging 106.1 points per game, which is 27th in the league. Boston is averaging 113.0 points per game (12th). Orlando ranks 16th with a defensive rating of 109.7. The Celtics are 19th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.4. The Celtics need to get back to making defense a priority if they want to win this game and be contenders this season.
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 46.8 rebounds per game. The Celtics are averaging 45.52 rebounds per game. The Magic are 13th in the league with 13.4 2nd chance points per game. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics need to give extra effort to beat the Magic to the boards.
Play hard for 48 Minutes - The Celtics can’t come out and play sluggishly and get behind as they have in some games. 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 and not allow the Magic to go on a run in the 3rd or 4th quarter. No let up from start to finish.
Next Man Up - The Celtics will get at least 2 players back in the lineup and maybe more. But they will still be missing several key players. Everyone must play their hardest to fill in the gaps and make up for the players who are still out. Each player has to play his role and there is no room for slacking off.
Who is Playing? - Both teams have key players out and both teams have a possibility of getting some of those players back. It goes without saying that the Celtics would be much tougher if Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis and Javonte Green can all play. It will be much harder to win if they have just 8 players available.
Rest vs Rust - The Celtics have been off for a full week and unable to practice for much of that time. They will be well rested, but will they come out rusty? The Magic on the other hand, played on Monday and has been off 4 days but have been able to practice during that time. Will the layoff help or hurt the Celtics?
Officiating - Officiating always has the potential to be an x-factor. Whether the officials call the game tight or let them play without a lot of calls, the Celtics need to adjust to the way the game is being called and not lose focus if bad calls go against them.