The Celtics continue their road trip as they visit the Orlando Magic. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 126-120 on 10/22 in Orlando. The Magic then came into Boston and beat the Celtics in consecutive games 117-109 on 12/16 and 95-92 on 12/18.
This is the first of back to back games for the Celtics. They are 6-1 overall on the first night of back to back games and they are 2-1 when the game is on the road. The Magic are playing in the first of a 2 game home stand. The Celtics are playing in the 2nd game of a 3 game road trip. They beat the Raptors on Saturday in the first game of the road trip and will play Miami on the second night of back to back games on Tuesday.
The Celtics are 1st in the East. They are 4.5 games ahead of 2nd place Philadelphia and 5.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee and 4th place Brooklyn. The Celtics are 17-7 on the road and 9-1 in their last games. They are 20-8 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won 9 straight games.
The Magic are 13th in the East. They are 3 games behind 12th place Toronto and 4.5 games behind 10th place Chicago and the final play in spot. They are 4.5 games ahead of 14th place Charlotte. They are 11-12 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 7-19 against Eastern Conference teams. They lost their last game and 4 of their last 6.
Jayson Tatum (wrist) missed the Celtics game in Toronto on Saturday, but he is not on the current injury list and should play. Robert Williams (knee) is listed as questionable but he will likely miss this game as it is the first of back to back games. He will be a game time decision. Marcus Smart (ankle) and Malcolm Brogdon (personal) are both listed as out. I am guessing that Derrick White will start at the point and that Grant Williams will fill in for Rob Williams.
For the Magic, Chuma Okeke is out with a knee injury. Jonathan Isaac is listed as questionable but is expected to make his season debut in this game. He last played on August 2, 2020 and h as been rehabbing from both ACL and hamstring surgeries. He has played in 3 G-League games for the Lakeland Magic and is likely ready to return to the Magic in this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Derrick White
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Al Horford
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) questionable
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Malcolm Brogdon (personal)
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Magic Starters
PG: Markelle Fultz
SG: Gary Harris
SF: Franz Wagner
PF: Paolo Banchero
C: Wendell Carter, Jr.
2 Way Players
Jonathan Isaac (knee) questionable
Chuma Okeke (knee) out
Grant Williams 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 20.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 43.7% from the field and 31.1% from beyond the arc. Against Boston this season, he is averaging 24.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He shot 37.7% from the field and 55% on 3’s against the Celtics.
Jayson Tatum vs Franz Wagner
Wagner is averaging 20.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He is shooting 49.2% from the field and 37.1% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season, he averaged 16.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in the 3 games. He shot 37.3% from the field and 22.2% from beyond the arc.
Al Horford vs Wendell Carter, Jr
Carter is averaging 15.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He is shooting 51.2% from the field and 35.2% from beyond the arc. He missed the two games in Boston but finished the first game in Orlando with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. He shot 46.2% from the field and 100% on 3’s. I’m guessing that Al will start at center in this game and then rest against the Heat while Rob rests against the Magic and will play against the Heat.
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 5th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.8. The Magic are 24th with a defensive rating of 114.8. Hopefully the Celtics can still play tough defense with their 2 best defenders out for this game.
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 - The Celtics have to come out strong right from the beginning and continue to to play hard until the final buzzer. The Celtics at one time won games because they played harder than their opponents but this season, including the two Magic games in Boston, the Celtics have allowed other teams to play harder than them. The Celtics need to avoid let downs and play harder than the Magic for all 48 minutes.
Don’t Underestimate the Magic - The Magic may only be 17-29 but they have won some games over some good teams including 2 wins over the Celtics . The Celtics can’t come into this game and assume they can win without giving 100% effort because the Magic may surprise them and come away with another win over them if they do.
Next Man Up - The Celtics will be without Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon for this game. They will also likely be without Robert Williams who may be out for injury management for the first of back to back games. Against the Raptors, the reserves came through to make up for the absences of Smart, White, Timelord and Tatum. They once again have to dig deep and play hard to make up for players who are out.
Road Game and Fatigue - The Celtics are playing in the second game of a 3 game road trip. 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. After playing shorthanded in a tough game against the Raptors and once again being shorthanded for this game, fatigue may set in. Hopefully the Celtics depth will be enough to get them through.
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.