The reeling Celtics host the Orlando Magic for a matinee game for the first of back to back games. The Celtics have lost 3 in a row and 4 of their last 5 games. The Magic beat the Nets 121-113 on Friday to snap a 9 game losing streak. They won that game in spite of 43 points from Kyrie Irving.
This is the second game between the Celtics and Magic this season. The Celtics won 124-97 in Boston on January 15 without Tatum, Walker, R. Williams, Langford and Edwards. Their January 13 game was postponed due to Covid. They will meet one more time on May 5 in Orlando.
The Celtics are 8th in the East, 8.5 games behind first place Philadelphia. They are tied with Charlotte (7th) and half a game behind New York (6th). They are 1.5 games behind the Heat (4th) and Hawks (5th) They are just 1.5 games ahead of 9th place Indiana. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 12-7 at home. They have lost their last 3 games. This game starts a week of 5 games in 7 nights.
The Magic are 14th in the East, 2 games ahead of the last place Pistons. They are 1-9 in their last 10 games and 5-14 on the road. They won their last game but lost the 9 games before that one. The Celtics are playing on the first night of back to back games. They are 6-2 on the first night of back to back games.
The Celtics will be without Romeo Langford and Tristan Thompson, both of whom are out due to the league’s health and safety protocols. For the Magic, Michael Carter-Williams (illness) and James Ennis III (calf) are both questionable. Cole Anthony (ribs), Markelle Fultz (knee), Jonathan Isaacs (knee) and Terrence Ross (knee) are all out.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Romeo Langford (covid) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Probable Magic Starters
PG: Chasson Randle
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: Aaron Gordon
PF: Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Nikola Vucevic
Cole Anthony (ribs) out
Michael Carter-Williams (illness) questionable
James Ennis III (calf) questionable
Markelle Fultz (knee) out
Jonathan Isaac (knee) out
Terrence Ross (knee) out
Daniel Theis vs Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is averaging 24.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 48% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. In their first meeting he had just 15 points. The Celtics need to stay with him inside and on the perimeter because he is dangerous both in the paint and from the outside.
Marcus Smart vs Evan Fournier
Fournier is averaging 19.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 46% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. The Celtics held him to 15 points in their first meeting and hopefully they can limit him in this game. He can put up points in a hurry if not tightly guarded.
Jaylen Brown vs Aaron Gordon
Gordon is averaging 14.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He is shooting 45% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. He is a threat both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning, whether in the preseason, regular season or playoffs. The Magic are averaging 104.7 points per game, which is 29th in the league. Boston is averaging 111.7 points per game. Orlando ranks 18th with a defensive rating of 111.8. The Celtics are 21st in the league with a defensive rating of 112.3. The Celtics need to get back to making defense a priority if they want to win this game and get back on track. They won’t win unless they get back to playing tough individual and team defense once again.
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 46.6 rebounds per game, which is 3rd in the league. The Celtics are averaging 43.9 rebounds 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 - Lately, the Celtics have come out sluggishly and gotten down double figures early. They then play hard during the second and third quarters and catch up and come close. They then fall apart in the 4th quarter to lose the game. The Celtics have to come out strong and play hard right from the beginning to the end. They have to find some consistency in their game and play hard for 48 minutes.
Be Aggressive - For the most part, the Celtics have looked disinterested for much of their recent games. They have to find the swagger and the aggressiveness they they played with for much of last season. They need to be aggressive in driving to the basket, in diving for loose balls, in playing defense, in just going all out for 48 minutes. They have to be the team that plays harder.
Play as a Team - The Celtics have lapsed into hero ball way too often this season. They need to get back to moving the ball and finding the open man. They have to trust each other and play together. Too often on both ends of the floor, it has been each man for himself and there hasn’t been the teamwork that it takes to win games.
Matinee Game - The Celtics are once again playing in a matinee game. So far, they are just 1-5 in games played in the afternoon. We have to remember that both teams are playing early and both are inconvenienced by the early start. Which team will be more focused and get the win?
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.