Maybe revenge games don’t exist in the regular season or even the playoffs, but the Celtics will get a chance for a bounce back opportunity just days after getting upset by Orlando.
On Friday night, the Magic came into Boston riding a four-game win streak and upset the Celtics homecoming and the much-anticipated return of Robert Williams 117-109. The box score will tell you that poor shooting doomed Gang Green; they hit just 11-for-46 from behind the arc, continuing a slump that's followed them 3,000 miles from the west coast. In their three games in California, they were a combined 40-for-127 (31%). A deeper dive into the numbers will show that, to their credit, the Magic hit a ton of tough shots, making 21-of-41 contested shots to start the two-game mini-series. However, the eye test will tell you that Boston was bullied off their home floor. Orlando was bigger and nastier, resulting in the rare ejection of Al Horford and a technical foul by Jayson Tatum, only his second of the season.
Speaking of the Celtics MVP candidate, he's already been ruled out for Sunday's rematch for personal reasons. It'll be his second game missed of the year. And for what it's worth, Tatum is second in total minutes in the league in total minutes played.
Tatum's absence could give head coach Joe Mazzulla a chance to start the double-big front court that was so successful last season, particularly on the defensive end. Tatum won't be available, but we could see Brown slide down to the 3, White at shooting guard, and Williams and Horford in their familiar roles. Mazzulla went small on Friday to counter Orlando's size, but on Sunday, he might opt to match them inch-for-inch instead.
Many might view Friday's loss as an upset and rightfully so. At 10-20, Orlando is better off entering the Webanaya sweepstakes rather than compete for a playoff spot this season. But they're also franchise that's been gathering assets for several years and have amassed enough to say, "these are the handful of guys we're banking our future on.” Paolo Banchero is a player. Franz Wagner is a player. Cole Anthony is a player. They're not on the level of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but they want to prove that they are and on the three or four times they play the Celtics in the regular season, they'll use those games as measuring sticks.
Banchero told The Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach that Tatum has mentored the fellow Duke alum and warned him that because of his stature as a #1 pick, opposing players and teams would target him and give him their best shot. So yes, Friday night was an upset, but only in the context of wins and losses. Some games just matter more and for the Celtics, this afternoon's game is a chance to eliminate the bad taste from Friday's loss and maybe more so, put the rookie in his place.
The Celtics will tip off against the Orlando Magic at 3 pm EST. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on Sling TV.