The Celtics already have their first back to back set of the season after playing the Heat in Miami on Friday night. The Orlando Magic are also playing in their first back to back set, having played the Hawks in Atlanta on Friday night. This is the first of 4 games between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Orlando on January 23 and twice in Boston on December 16 and December 18
The Celtics won the series 3-0 last season, winning two games in Orlando and one in Boston. The Celtics have won their last 8 games against the Magic. The Magic will forever be linked to Celtics history since they were the last opponent to play in the old Boston Garden. They the Celtics 95-92 in that game played on May 5, 1995.
The Celtics are 73-50 all time against the Magic in regular season play. They are 25-35 all time in games played in Orlando. The Celtics won their first game on Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers in their home opener. The Magic lost their first game 109-113 at Detroit. This will be the Magic’s home opener as their first two games were on the road. The
Celtics won their second game on Friday night, beating the Heat in Miami 111-104. The Magic lost their second game on Friday night, losing to the Hawks 108-98. In the past, the Celtics have underestimated some teams and have lost to some tams they should have beaten. The Celtics should not underestimate this Magic team even though they are 0-2 and the Celtics swept them last season. The Magic have some good players and if the Celtics let down their guard, they could come away with a loss in a game they should win.
Al Horford will miss the second of back to back games with lower back soreness. I’m guessing that Noah Vonleh will get the start but it’s just a guess. Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari both remain out for the Celtics. Cole Anthony (illness) missed the first game but came off the bench in the second game. I’m guessing he will go back to starting in this one. Jalen Suggs injured his ankle on Friday and is listed as out for this one. Markelle Fultz (toe), Gary Harris (knee), Jonathan Isaac (hamstring) and Moe Wagner (ankle) are out.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Noah Vonleh
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Al Horford (back) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Magic Starters
PG: Cole Anthony
SG: Terrance Ross
SF: Franz Wagner
PF: Paolo Banchero
C: Wendell Carter, Jr
2 Way Players
Gary Harris (knee) out
Markelle Fultz (toe) out
Jonathan Isaac (hamstring) out
Moritz Wagner (ankle) out
Jalen Suggs (ankle) out
Jayson Tatum vs Paolo Banchero
Banchero was the #1 pick in this season’s draft and is a candidate for Rookie of the Year. In his first game, he finished with 27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks, playing against Bojan Bogdanovic in Detroit. He shot 61% from the field and did not attempt a 3 point shot. He followed that up with 20 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocks against the Hawks. This should be a fun matchup to watch.
Jaylen Brown vs Franz Wagner
Wagner started the season with 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists against the Pistons. He shot 44% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. He finished the second game with 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jaylen Brown looks poised to have a big year on both ends of the court and should be a good matchup for Wagner.
Marcus Smart vs Cole Anthony
Suggs started the Magic’s first game when Cole Anthony was a late scratch with an illness. Anthony returned for the second game but came off the bench, finishing with 25 points, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He shot 66.7% from the field and 80% from beyond the arc. I expect him to return to the starting lineup for this game.
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 are putting more of an emphasis on increased pace and offense, which is a good thing, but they can’t give up their defensive identity. The Celtics will need to make defense a priority if they hope to contend for a championship this year.
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. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and if the Celtics don’t put the extra effort into grabbing rebounds, they usually show effort in all parts of the game.
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. Last season, we again saw the Celtics outworking teams and they need to continue to be the team that is more aggressive and that works harder if they want to continue to win. They can’t let up and allow teams that are injured or not as good play harder than them because they could end up losing a game they should win.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics still have a tendency to go through periods where they turn the ball over too many times. They had just 11 turnovers against the 76ers but against the Heat, they had 19 turnovers and several turnovers late almost cost them the game. They have to keep moving the ball but have to make more careful passes and they have to be more careful when handling the ball.
Road Game and Fatigue - The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back road games. Orlando is playing in the second of back to back games also and also had to travel after their Friday night game. They need to focus on the game and not on the distractions of travel and playing in an unfamiliar arena in front of hostile fans. The Celtics’ depth could give them an advantage here.
Officiating - Officiating can always be an X-Factor. In some games, you don’t even notice the referees and in other games, they seem to make the game all about them. Some crews call the game tight and others let the teams play. Some crews favor one of the teams while others call it fairly. No matter how the game is called, the Celtics must adjust to the way the game is being called and not allow the officiating to take away from their focus.