The Celtics head out on the road once again as they begin a 3 game road trip beginning in Orlando against the Magic. They will play back to back games, heading to Miami after this game and then on to Dallas to close out the road trip. The Celtics are 2—2 on the road while the Magic are 0-2 at home and, like the Celtics, are still looking for their first home win.
The Celtics and Magic played twice in the preseason. The Celtics won the first game 98-97 in Boston with all players available. They lost the second game in Orlando 102-103. Jaylen Brown and Al Horford both missed that game due to being in quarantine for covid. The Celtics won the series 3-0 last season. The Celtics are 70-50 all time against the Magic and 23-35 all time in Orlando. The Magic beat the Celtics in the last ever game in the old Boston Garden on May 5, 1995.
The Celtics are coming into this game with a lot of questions. The Celtics had a 19 point lead over the Bulls in the 3rd quarter on Friday. Then, they seemed to go away from everything that got them the lead. They allowed the Bulls to outscore them 39-11 in the 4th quarter. They missed 18 shots and did not get even one defensive rebound in the final quarter.
After the game, Marcus Smart talked about the need for Jaylen and Jayson to move the ball more and become better play makers. Neither Jaylen nor Jayson spoke after the game and so we don’t know how that was received by the Celtics’ two stars or if the chemistry on the team is fragile. We can only hope that the team looked at a lot of tape of Friday’s game and see what not to do in this one.
On the other hand, the Magic outscored the Timberwolves 43-19 in the 4th quarter of their game on Friday to pull out a 115-97 win on the road in Minneapolis. This was practically the mirror image of the Celtics’ Friday game with the Magic coming out strong in the 4th quarter, out-playing their opponent, and getting a win. They come into this game with momentum while the Celtics come in on a 3 game slide and with plenty of questions.
For the second straight game, the Celtics have a clean injury list and should be at full strength. The Magic are short handed as they have been pretty much all season. Michael Carter-Williams is still recovering from a ligament tear in his ankle and is out. Markelle Fultz is rehabbing from an ACL tear in January 2021. Jonathan Isaac is also out after tearing his ACL in August of 2020. E’Twaun Moore is out with a knee injury. Gary Harris is questionable with an ankle injury and should be a game time decision.
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Probable Magic Starters
PG: Jalen Suggs
SG: Cole Anthony
SF: Franz Wagner
PF: Wendell Carter, Jr
C: Mo Bamba
Michael Carter-Williams (ankle) out
Markelle Fultz (knee) out
Jonathan Isaac (knee) out
E’Twaun Moore (knee) out
Gary Harris (ankle) questionable
Jaylen Brown vs Cole Anthony
Cole Anthony is leading the Magic with 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He is shooting 44.6% from the field and 44.8% from beyond the arc. He scored 31 points on Friday against the Timberwolves and is capable of having a big game. The Celtics will definitely need to pay special attention to him on defense. Hopefully Jaylen will come into this game and play the right way and play hard and have a good game.
Jayson Tatum vs Franz Wagner
Wagner has been playing well for the Magic. He is averaging 15.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.13 steals per game. He is shooting 50.5% from the field and 46.3% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 28 point game against the Wolves on Friday. Once again, the Celtics need to pay attention to him on defense as he is capable of having a big game if not defended well.
Al Horford vs Wendell Carter, Jr
Carter is averaging 12.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He is shooting 52.6% from beyond the arc and 38.5% from beyond the arc. He can get hot if the Celtics don’t cover him on defense. Al Horford has been one of the bright spots for the Celtics and hopefully he continues to play well.
Keys to the Game
Defense - I can’t say it enough, but defense is always the key to winning. If you look at the best teams in the league, they are at the top of the league in defense. The Celtics have not been helping on defense and their transition defense needs to be much better. The Celtics are 27th with a defensive rating of 110.3 while the Magic are 30th with a defensive rating of 113.2. The Celtics will need to make defense a priority if they hope to get back on track and win games.
Rebound - Rebounding is also crucial if a team wants to win games. You can’t score if you don’t have the ball and the best way to get the ball is to grab rebounds and give themselves extra possessions. In the Celtics’ collapse against the Bulls they didn’t get a single defensive rebound in the 4th quarter and they were out-rebounded 50-38 for the game. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and if the Celtics don’t put the extra effort into grabbing rebounds, they lack effort in all parts of the game.
Move the Ball - We don’t know how Marcus Smart’s comments were received by the rest of the team, but he did make a good point. The Celtics are best when the ball is moving and not sticking with one player. The Celtics struggle when the ball sticks and they over-dribble and one player tries to do too much. The Celtics need to move the ball and move without the ball to give themselves the best chance at good shots.
Play 48 Minutes - This plagued the Celtics last season and is once again a problem this season. Too often they start strong and then stop doing what was working for them and they give up leads and fall behind. Or, they start slow and then have to play hard to try to catch up and often run out of gas before the end of the game because it took too much effort to come from behind. The Celtics must come out strong and play hard until the final buzzer. They can’t play half way and expect to win. Other teams are too good this season.
Play Hard and Be Aggressive - At one time under Brad Stevens, the Celtics won games because they played harder then their opponents, even though they didn’t have as much talent. Teams are now beating the Celtics because they play harder even though the Celtics should have more talent. The Celtics must get back to being aggressive for 48 minutes and to being the team that plays harder than their opponents.
Focus and Consistency - The Celtics have not been hitting their shots consistently. They will hit every shot for part of the game and then down the stretch, they can’t hit anything. They were 2-26 from three against the Wizards. They missed 18 shots in the 4th quarter against the Bulls and were 0-8 from beyond the arc. A lot of their offensive struggles can be chalked up to a lack of focus. They are not taking good shots and aren’t focused on hitting their shots. They have to consistently hit their shots and they have to stay focused on playing as a team.
Road Game - The Celtics are playing in the first of 3 road games. They won both of their games on their last road trip and hopefully can rally to win on this road trip. They need to focus on the game and not on the distractions of travel and staying in hotels and playing in an unfamiliar arena and with hostile fans.
Officiating - The officials are calling the games differently this year and offensive players aren’t getting a lot of calls they have in the past. It is frustrating players like Jayson Tatum, Trae Young, and James Harden. Jayson needs to stop complaining about every non-call and just play on and concentrate on playing his game and not worry about the officials. It has to irritate officials when a player complains after every foul and every non-call and he may get more calls if the doesn’t complain as much.