The Celtics are finally back home after a 13 day, 6 game road trip on which they went 4-2. Two of the toughest games for a team to play are the final game of a long road trip and the first game back home after the trip. The Celtics won the last game on the road trip and now hopefully they can win the first game back at home.
This is the second of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first meeting between them 126-120 on October 22, on the second night of back to back games. They will meet again in Boston in 2 days on December 18. Their final meeting will be on January 23 in Orlando. The Celtics won the series 3-0 last season.
The Celtics have won the last 10 meetings between these two teams and 18 of the last 21 played in Boston. Orlando’s last win was on April 7, 2019 in Boston. The Magic will forever be linked to Celtics history since they were the last opponent to play in the old Boston Garden before it was demolished. The Magic beat the Celtics 95-92 in that game that was played on May 5, 1995.
Orlando just finished a 5 game home stand where they finished 4-1. Those 4 wins include the Clippers, the Raptors twice, and the Hawks. This is the first game of a 4 game road trip for them, with the first two game on the trip against the Celtics. The Celtics just completed a 6 game road trip and this is the first game of a 7 game home stand that will take them through the end of December.
The Celtics are 1st in the East, 1.5 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, who were blown out by the Grizzlies on Thursday night. The Celtics are 11-2 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 14-5 against Eastern Conference teams. The Magic are 13th in the East, 1.5 games out of last place. They are 1-11 on the road and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 4 games. They are 5-15 against Eastern Conference teams.
The Celtics got some good injury news on Thursday. Robert Williams, who has yet to make his season debut is expected to play in this one. Al Horford has missed the last 5 games, first for Health and Safety Protocols and then for the birth of his daughter. I’m expecting Al to return to the lineup for this one also. I’m going to guess that Al returns to the starting lineup while Timelord comes off the bench for his first game back. Danilo Gallinari remains out.
The Magic have 5 players listed as out on the injury list. Wendell Carter, Jr (foot), Gary Harris (hamstring), Chuma Okeke (knee), and Jalen Suggs (ankle) are out for this game but may possibly be back for Sunday’s game. Jonathan Isaac (knee) is also out for this game but is expected to remain out until at least December 30.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) probable
Al Horford (personal) probable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Magic Starters
PG: Markelle Fultz
SG: Franz Wagner
SF: Paolo Banchero
PF: Bol Bol
C: Moritz Wagner
2 Way Players
Gary Harris (hamstring) out
Jonathan Isaac (knee) out
Wendell Carter, Jr (foot) out
Chuma Okeke (knee) out
Jalen Suggs (ankle) out
Jaylen Brown vs Paolo Banchero
Banchero was the #1 pick in this season’s draft and is a candidate for Rookie of the Year. He is averaging 21.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. He is shooting 45.1% from the field and 25.6% from beyond the arc. This should be a fun matchup to watch.
Derrick White vs Franz Wagner
Wagner is averaging 19.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He is shooting 49.3% from the field and 34.4% from beyond the arc. I’m guessing that White will start at shooting guard but it’s possible that Mazzulla will start Grant Williams or go with the double big lineup with Robert Williams starting. In either of those cases, Jaylen Brown will start at shooting guard.
Jayson Tatum vs Bol Bol
Bol is averaging12.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 blocks per game. He is shooting 60.4% from the field and 42.6% from beyond the arc. The Celtics could also start Grant Williams or Al Horford at power forward, depending on what direction Mazzulla decides to go in.
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 always at the top of the league in defense. The Celtics have climbed to 8th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.1. The Magic are 27th with a defensive rating of 114.8. Hopefully the return of Robert Williams will lead to a more consistent defensive identity for the Celtics.
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 put the extra effort into grabbing rebounds, they usually show effort in all parts of the game.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - We saw the Celtics come out strong against the Lakers and build a 20 point lead, only to allow the Lakers to come back and surge ahead. Thankfully the Celtics were able to close out that game but it would be much better not to let up in the first place. The Celtics must come out strong and play hard until the final buzzer. The Celtics need to avoid let ups and play hard for all 48 minutes.
Don’t Underestimate the Magic - The Magic may only be 9-20 but they have won their last 4 games over some good teams: The Clippers, Raptors twice and the Hawks. The Celtics can’t come into this game and assume they can win without giving 100% effort because the Magics may surprise them and come away with a win if they do.
Home Again - The Celtics are back home after a long 6 game road trip. The first game home after a road trip is usually hard for teams because they relax somewhat being home and get too comfortable. Often young teams struggle on the road and the Magic are just 1-11 away from home. That one win was at Chicago. The Celtics need to stay focused and not relax because they are back home. Protect home court.
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. Complaining to the refs rarely does anything positive and often results in a tech or more calls against them.