The Celtics look to sweep the season series as they visit the Orlando Magic for their third and final meeting of the season. The Celtics won 124-97 on January 15 and 112-96 on March 21, with both games being played in Boston. The Magic were a much different team in those games. Since then, Magic starters Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Al Farouq- Aminu have all been traded.
This will be Evan Fournier’s first time playing against the Magic in Orlando since he was traded to the Celtics at the trade deadline. He spent 6 and a half seasons with the Magic and will likely get a nice welcome from the fans there. Moritz Wagner spent a short amount of time with the Celtics before being released and was signed by the Magic on April 27 and has started the last 3 games for them.
The Celtics are beginning a span of 5 games on the road out of their next 7 to close out the season. The Celtics have looked good in wins over contenders like Milwaukee, Denver, Phoenix, and the Clippers. But, on the other hand, they have looked terrible in losses to tanking teams like Cleveland, Detroit, and Oklahoma City.
Orlando, like those 3 tanking teams, all are fielding a team with young and hungry players and if the Celtics come into this game thinking it will be a cake walk, they will be looking at a loss. Orlando is one of 6 teams that have already been eliminated from the playoffs. They are playing for their lottery spot now, but they have won their last 2 games over Memphis and Detroit and won’t just lay down and let the Celtics run over them.
The Celtics are 7th in the East. With Miami losing to Dallas on Tuesday, the Celtics are half a game behind them for 6th. They are 1.5 games behind Atlanta (5th) and 3 games behind 4th place New York. They are 2.5 games ahead of the Hornets who are behind them in 8th place. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 13-18 on the road.
The Celtics have 2 very important home games against the Heat and one game each against the Bulls, Cavaliers, Wolves and Knicks. Miami, along with the 2 games against Boston, has games against the Timberwolves, 76ers, Bucks and Pistons. Atlanta has games against the Rockets, Magic, Suns, Pacers and two against the Wizards. New York will play the Nuggets, Suns, Clippers, Lakers, Spurs, Charlotte and Boston.
The Magic are 14th in the East. They are half a game behind the 13th place Cavaliers and 2 games ahead of 15th place Detroit. They are 5 games behind Chicago, who are in 12th place. The Magic are 11-23 at home this season and they are 3-7 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 2 games against Memphis and Detroit and 3 of their last 4 games.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum collided at the end of their loss to the Trail Blazers on Sunday and many feared the worst. Jaylen Brown is listed as out for this game with a sprained ankle but the injury isn’t thought to be serious. Tristan Thompson is also out with a pectoral muscle strain. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker both practiced on Tuesday and are expected to play in this game. The Magic have 7 players out plus, Wendell Carter, Jr was a late addition as questionable with an eye abrasion.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Evan Fournier
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Tristan Thompson (chest) out
Jaylen Brown (ankle) out
PG: Cole Anthony
SG: Gary Harris
SF: Dwayne Bacon
PF: Moritz Wagner
C: Wendell Carter, Jr.
Michael Carter-Williams (ankle) out
James Ennis III (calf) out
Markelle Fultz (knee) out
Jonathan Isaac (knee) out
Terrence Ross (back) out
Otto Porter, Jr (foot) out
Chuma Okeke (ankle) out
Wendell Carter Jr (eye) questionable
Kemba Walker vs Cole Anthony
Anthony is averaging 12.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. He is shooting 39.7% from the field and 33.6% from beyond the arc. Kemba went through a full practice on Tuesday and should be ready to go in this one. Hopefully he can stay healthy down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Robert Williams III vs Wendell Carter, Jr
Carter is averaging 12.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game for Orlando. He is shooting 52.5% from the field and 28% from beyond the arc. He was acquired by Orlando on March 25th and has started 16 games for them.
Jayson Tatum vs Moritz Wagner
Wagner was acquired by the Magic on April 27th and has started their last 3 games, including 24 points in a win over the Grizzlies on May 1. He is averaging 10.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.0 blocks per game with Orlando. He is shooting 35.1% from the field and 33.6% from beyond the arc. Tatum and Wagner were teammates for a brief time and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wagner try to show the Celtics that they made a mistake by letting him go.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning, whether in the preseason, regular season or playoffs. The Magic are averaging 104.2 points per game. Boston is averaging 112.7 points per game. Orlando ranks 23rd with a defensive rating of 113.1. The Celtics are 16th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.8. The Celtics need to make 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 45.2 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 44.5 rebounds per game. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics need to give extra effort to beat the Magic to the boards.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. They have to play as a team and avoid iso’s and hero ball. When they move the ball and move without the ball, they are tough to beat. But, they also have to take care of the ball and avoid turning it over. They have had way too many turnovers in recent games and must be more careful with their passes and as they dribble.
Sense of Urgency - The Celtics must play with a sense of urgency. They can’t can’t start the game slowly, expecting to win the game without putting in effort. They also can’t let up halfway through the game if they are up. The Magic are playing hard, regardless of their record or the fact that they are out of the playoffs and the Celtics must play harder for 48 minutes.
Focus On the Road - The Celtics are on the road and they have to focus on the game at hand and not the 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 Jaylen Brown and Tristan Thompson can play. Jaylen had major contributions to both of the wins over Orlando in Boston and will be missed in this one. It has been hard for the Celtics as they get one player back and another one goes out. Of course, the Magic have been hit pretty hard with injuries themselves and have lost 359 player games to injury but they have a group of young and hungry players who can beat any team that doesn’t play hard against them.
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. The officiating was terrible against the Trail Blazers and it affected the Celtics focus down the stretch. 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 focus or their play.